I attempted a one-pan version of my family's Thanksgiving meal in my tiny NYC apartment kitchen.
After a longer-than-expected cooking time, the meal was a crowd-pleaser.
The easy method decreased dirty dishes but fundamentally changed the Thanksgiving experience.
In my family, Thanksgiving means a table of 30 people and a minimum of 16 unique dishes — not including appetizers, the homemade tortellini soup first course, or dessert.
After seeing a recipe on Food Network, I decided to scale down the holiday meal for my tiny New York City apartment kitchen, which I share with three roommates. While scaling down, I challenged myself to honor the spirit of my family's traditions.
Here's how I cooked turkey, stuffing, biscuits, green-bean casserole, and sweet-potato casserole in one pan.
I started cooking the night before after five trips to the store.
I purchased a large banquet tray at a dollar store and put a great deal of trust in an Instacart shopper for several key ingredients, including the turkey breasts.
Then I located the right kind of stuffing at a third store and stopped at a fourth to shop for the precautionary charcuterie I planned to serve in case the meal didn't work out.
Once all the shopping was done, I could actually get started on my prep work.
I'm sure you could make a completely passable same-day stuffing, but that prospect had my family group chat horrified (the word "blasphemous" was put into play). With the help of a phone-a-friend call to my sister, I prepared our traditional side dish the night before and stowed it in the fridge.
I quickly realized I'd forgotten a key ingredient (eggs), but I decided to remedy that later.
Before I could get to the main event, I had to do some prep work for my side dishes.
The next morning, I woke up in a panic that I wouldn't have enough chicken broth. After putting several sticks of butter out to soften, I completed my sixth grocery run.
According to my spreadsheet schedule, my sweet potatoes for the marshmallow-topped casserole were set to start roasting at 3:30 p.m.
That's also when I spread the stuffing over half my pan (adding the egg I forgot) and made herb butter for the turkey.
I moved on to dressing the turkey breasts.
The cold meat made the butter seize up in a way I'd never seen before, but nevertheless, the turkey breasts got dressed.
I knew that once the oven timer began, my stress levels would rise, so I worked on my remaining side, green-bean casserole.
At 5:30 p.m., I put the turkey in and crossed my fingers.
To kick off the one-pan portion of this cooking sprint, I had to give my dressed and "stuffed" turkey 30 minutes of solo roasting time.
Then I added the other components to the pan.
After 30 minutes, I added canned biscuits to create walls in the pan and loaded in the green beans and sweet potatoes. I shoved everything back into the oven, setting my sights on the gravy I'd heavily debated making.
It didn't seem imperative without a full turkey or white potatoes — and it didn't technically satisfy the one-pan rule — but I didn't want anyone to be disappointed if it wasn't on the table.
I sat down with my guests after my initial temperature check, returning to the oven every 10 to 15 minutes. It ended up taking an hour longer to cook than expected, and all the while, the fear of dry turkey was lurking.
Eventually, the elements were all cooked and dinner was served.
Everyone complimented each of the offerings, and there was plenty to go around.
My family's stuffing recipe was well-loved as ever, and the turkey was moist enough that the gravy went mostly untouched.
The whole process made me think about the mental load of holiday cooking.
I really wanted to honor my family's traditions and share them with my friends, but that required inquiring about recipes that only exist in relatives' memories, identifying what ingredients and tools I already had, locating things I'd need from a variety of stores, worrying over having enough, predicting the potential taste variations of my guests, and purchasing the other dinner-party supplies (candles and flowers).
Plus, I definitely took on the emotional responsibility of creating a Thanksgiving experience.
I gained a lot of respect for the family members who take on the even bigger version of this meal every year.
I wouldn't recommend the method for everyone, but it's certainly a good option.
The flavors, textures, and aromas of the meal were there, but it felt like my Thanksgiving dinner was wearing a Halloween costume (not just because I was cooking in October).
In trying to encapsulate my family's detailed meal, I realized that the actual food feels secondary to our multicourse, mismatched-chair, every-dish-in-the-house traditions.
For cooks trying to limit their dishwashing and prepare a manageable quantity of food for a small crowd, a one-pan Thanksgiving is a great option. But it can affect the holiday experience, depending on what it means to you.
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