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A Procrastinator's Guide to Thanksgiving

From 30+ years of assembling crowd-pleasing Thanksgiving recipes for each November issue, F&W knows all too well that everyone has their own approach to the holiday. Whether you're a planner or a procrastinator, this guide has you covered.

While Thanksgiving is arguably the country’s most delicious holiday going, there’s no getting around the fact that the meal requires some time at the stove. Some people like to get all their cooking done well ahead, others prefer to wait till the last minute. And some like a little of both: a hearty dose of advanced preparation mixed with a bit of a mad dash the day before.

To suit everyone’s cooking styles, here are 30+ of F&W’s favorite fall-friendly dishes that run the prep-time gamut. A creamy-rich porcini pate can be quickly whizzed in the food processor right before serving, while a vegetable casserole of roasted fennel with a crunchy herbed bread crumb topping can go straight from the freezer to the oven. The recipes are conveniently grouped into four slideshows, depending on how much advanced planning is desired: one day, three days, a full week—or, totally last minute, the day of.

Procrastinator’s Thanksgiving Guide: 20-Minute Recipes to Make the Day of

Celery Salad with Walnuts, Dates and Pecorino
Photo © Frances Janisch.

Last-Minute Salad:
Celery Salad with Walnuts, Dates and Pecorino

This impressive cool-weather salad is an extraordinarily addictive mix of sweet, crunchy and salty ingredients.

Chorizo-Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon
Photo © Tina Rupp.

Last-Minute Hors d’Oeuvre:
Chorizo-Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon

This timeless tapa from Spanish cookbook author Penelope Casas has everything going for it—it’s sweet, smoky and savory, all in one bite.

Yukon Golds with Shallot Butter
Photo © Lucy Schaeffer.

Last-Minute Side Dish:
Yukon Golds with Shallot Butter

The bulk of time needed for this recipe is dedicated to boiling the potatoes. After that, the dish comes together very quickly. Even better: the shallot butter can be made a week ahead of time, making last-minute preparation a snap.

Procrastinator’s Thanksgiving Guide: Recipes to Make the Day Before

Porcini and Pecan Pâtè
Photo © Sabra Krock.

Porcini and Pecan Pâtè

Proving that vegetables can be as satisfying as meat, chef Sean Baker serves this mushroom pâtè on the vegan “charcuterie” plate at his Berkeley restaurant, Gather. This starter is sure to please both vegetarian and meat-eating Thanksgiving guests.

Smoky Chorizo Stuffing
Photo © Con Poulos.

Smoky Chorizo Stuffing

Rather than traditional sausage stuffing, chef George Mendes of NYC’s Aldea serves a smoky version using chorizo and hot pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika).

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Toasted Marshmallow
Photo © David Malosh.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Toasted Marshmallow

In this clever version of candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows, Grace Parisi mashes sweet potatoes with deeply flavorful grade B maple syrup and butter before stuffing them back into their skins and baking them a second time.

Procrastinator’s Thanksgiving Guide: Recipes to Make 3 Days Ahead

Thai Red-Curry Squash Soup
Photo © Con Poulos.

Thai Red-Curry Squash Soup

Joanne Chang switches up the flavors of Thanksgiving’s classic squash soup with a host of Asian ingredients, including curry paste, ginger and coconut milk.

Caraway Parker House Rolls
Photo © Burcu Avsar.

Caraway Parker House Rolls

The Parker House Hotel in Boston claimed to have invented these famously buttery pull-apart rolls. To create their unique shape, Grace Parisi forms the dough into rounds, folds them in half, arranges in a dish and bakes. Using a metal pan gives the edges of the rolls a nice crust while the inside stays puffy and moist. Bread flour makes the rolls pleasantly chewy, but all-purpose flour works well too.

Maple-Apple Upside-Down Cake
Photo © Con Poulos.

Maple-Apple Upside-Down Cake

This is one of the best upside-down cakes ever—the maple syrup infuses both the apples and the cake, making the dessert taste like a stack of apple pancakes.

Procrastinator’s Thanksgiving Guide: Recipes to Make a Week Ahead

Gargantuan Gougères
Photo © Lucy Schaeffer.

Gargantuan Gougères

Guests at Bar Boulud are greeted with these golden French cheese puffs, with grated Gruyère cheese and the mild Basque pepper Piment d’Espelette. Almost twice the size of ordinary gougères, they’re a bit like crispy, cheesy, slightly spicy popovers.

Savory Ricotta-Squash Tart
Photo © Quentin Bacon.

Savory Ricotta-Squash Tart

Instead of appearing in a soup, squash gets cut into rings, caramelized and baked in a tart that can be served with a salad as a starter, or as an unusual side dish.

Crunchy Baked Fennel
Photo © Frances Janisch.

Crunchy Baked Fennel

Sweet roasted slices of fennel topped with herbed bread crumbs make for a fabulous freezer-to-oven side dish.

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