I've always thought that Thanksgiving was created for cooks. The holiday doesn't call for extensive gift-wrapping or elaborate house bedecking; all of your energy can be focused on preparing the meal. Days or even weeks can be spent rolling pie dough, freezing stocks and sauces and making little paper booties for the drumsticks. Right?
Wrong. These days everyone has a fully booked schedule. Thanksgiving morning finds too many of my friends sleepy-eyed at 5 A.M., attempting to defrost a 20-pound bird in a too small sink full of cold water and wondering if anyone would really miss the sweet potatoes. The prospect of mixing, boiling and roasting multiple dishes makes putting a meal on the table before midnight seem impossible. Sleep late! My Italian-inspired menu for eight includes dishes based on high-quality prepared ingredients, like a quick antipasto platter, or made with a minimum of components, like brussels sprouts with pancetta--and it's ready in less than four hours. If two people work on the dinner, you can even watch the parade.
NANCY VERDE BARR is the author of We Called It Macaroni (Knopf). She is currently working on Simply Italian, also to be published by Knopf.