Thanksgiving’s festive meal, to me, is a symbol of how Americans can celebrate our unity while still honoring our amazing diversity: Everyone makes turkey, but the way you make it, what kind of stuffing you use, and which side dishes go with it say who you are. We all celebrate as Americans, but we can put our own ethnic, religious, and regional touches on the meal, whether we serve our turkey with Vietnamese spring rolls or Armenian stuffed grape leaves, chopped liver or tortillas.
I like brined turkey—kosher turkey is already brined, so it’s easy to prepare, once you pluck off any lingering feathers. After that, I follow my 101-year-old mother’s directions, with a few Julia Child touches learned through the years.
The stuffing draws on my Jewish background. I take leftover challah, stored in the freezer, cube it and toast it. Then I add chestnuts from my German and Polish traditions, prunes, a few vegetables, and chicken or vegetable stock (depending on how many vegetarians we have at our Thanksgiving dinner). After the bird is stuffed, with leftover stuffing in a bowl to bake later, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Rubbing olive oil on the skin of the turkey and sprinkling paprika on top, I pop it in the oven and hope that there will be enough left over to serve cold for lunch the next day. After all, isn’t that the best Thanksgiving tradition?
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.