What to Cook This Weekend

Practicing for Thanksgiving always helps, and now is the time to start.

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By Sam Sifton

Good morning. Thanksgiving is coming and maybe that doesn’t mean much to you — you’ll head to your stepmother’s as usual, or go out to dinner at a favorite restaurant, or put together the same menu you’ve been cooking for years, for decades. The holiday’s rote.

Maybe you’ll be working. Maybe your relationship to the feast has been altered by your experience last year, when so many of us were quarantined or podded up, unable to gather in our usual crowds. Maybe you have complicated feelings about the story of the day: the origins of the holiday, the Thanksgiving myth.

That’s all understandable. We’re all trying to make sense of where we are now, and where we’re going. Me, I hope you’ll enjoy the holiday to the extent that you can: a secular feast that marks our interconnectedness, our shared history with its pain and pleasures combined.

Planning for the day helps, whether you’re cooking or not. Practicing for it matters, too — cooking something for the first time on Thanksgiving is just an invitation to stress. This weekend’s the time to start.

We’ll leave turkey and pie crusts for later and this weekend concentrate on the question of side dishes. They are a fail-safe way to broaden your menu, to offer variety, to experience what may become new food traditions without upsetting too many at your table in the process.

So roast a chicken for dinner this weekend, or broil a lot of tofu, and give a few new dishes a try on the side, as auditions (or rehearsals!) for later this month. Maybe mashed sweet potatoes with maple and brown butter (above)? Or this legitimately awesome green bean casserole? This would be a good weekend to dive into the architecture of a perfect potatoes au gratin or sweet potato casserole.

Have you tried these roasted brussels sprouts with garlic? Do you want to make a lights-out-good Southern macaroni and cheese? Perhaps five-spice roasted carrots with toasted almonds will make the cut for you, or these lovely green beans with ginger and garlic. I’m trying out this spicy caramelized squash with lemon and hazelnuts, myself. I’m hoping for the shock of the new.

There are thousands and thousands more recipes, and not just for Thanksgiving, waiting for you on New York Times Cooking. (Check out this new one for kaya toast!) You do need a subscription to access them, and to use our tools and features, it’s true. I talk about this a lot, but it’s worth repeating: Subscriptions support our work and allow it to continue. I’m very grateful for yours.

You can also check us out on Instagram and YouTube, and I hope you do. (You can find me on Twitter and Instagram.) And we are standing by to render assistance, should you run into issues along the way, either in your cooking or with our technology. Just write [email protected] and someone will get back to you. I’m less able to help, but I still read every letter sent: [email protected]

Now, it’s nothing to do with chestnut stuffing or Madeira gravy, but I’ve been reading the Library of America’s “Reporting World War II,” and it’s filled with gems not simply from the likes of A.J. Liebling, Edward R. Murrow and Ernie Pyle. Among them: Helen Lawrenson’s 1942 accounting of the merchant marine and the Battle of the Atlantic (for Harper’s); Mary Heaton Vorse’s 1943 reporting on women munitions workers in Elkton, Md. (also for Harper’s); and Deton J. Brooks Jr.’s 1943 report on low morale at a Southern army base (for the Chicago Defender).

Been digging into Andy Mill and Nicky Mill’s podcast, “Mill House,” which is about fishing but not just fishing.

Here’s Kelefa Sanneh in The New Yorker, trying to make sense of the popular and polarizing social media star Jake Paul, who is trying to reinvent himself as a professional boxer.

Finally, here’s the Acadian trio Vishtèn, “Bi Bi Box,” live on the Shed Sessions on Prince Edward Island. Enjoy that, and I will, as usual, see you on Sunday.

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