Last-Minute Thanksgiving

It’s not too late, and here’s how you can get it done in style.

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By Melissa Clark

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and the good news for procrastinators is: There’s still time to pull it all together in style! Whether you’re cooking the entire feast by yourself or bringing a dish to someone else’s house, just take a deep breath. Let’s go over your last-minute checklist. We’ve got your back with a comprehensive collection of excellent, speedy Thanksgiving recipes that rely on easy-to-find ingredients.

At the core of it all is a spatchcock turkey (above), a lifesaving recipe that I’ve used many times. It will get a golden-skinned bird on your table in about an hour. Another strategy: Instead of a whole bird, just roast your favorite turkey parts, breast or thighs. Parts can be easier to buy last minute, too, and if they’re frozen, they’ll defrost quickly.

If you’re feeding a small group, did you know you can make a lovely Thanksgiving dinner in just a few hours using one pan and one pot? Another tip for small groups: With an air-fryer, you can make audibly crunchy, mustard-slicked roasted potatoes in under 20 minutes without taking up precious oven space. Ditto with air-fryer broccoli, which cooks even faster.

We have other shortcut recipes courtesy of the great Ina Garten, including cranberry martinis, Parmesan mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. And if you’ve ever wondered exactly how those cans of jellied cranberry sauce came to be, Christina Morales reveals all in her excellent article in The Times.

Are you an invitee and want to be a superstar guest? Wirecutter has some nonfood ideas for what to bring to dinner that your host (and the other guests) will truly appreciate.

Or, if you’d like to contribute a homemade gift but weren’t assigned a dish, here’s the superstar move: Offer to make a punch. For something autumnal and boozy, there’s Rosie Schaap’s citrusy apple cider and bourbon punch; for something festive and booze-less, David Tanis’s hibiscus punch, made from hibiscus tea or even red zinger in a pinch, will fill the bill.

And it’s fine to bring a pie that’s outside the classic triumvirate of pumpkin-apple-pecan: Consider mango. We have a spectacular mango pie, which Hrishikesh Hirway’s mother, Kanta, would make at their Thanksgiving dinner every year when he was a kid. Hrishikesh was recently on CBS “Sunday Morning” talking about his Thanksgiving memories, and you can watch the segment here.

All this preparation for tomorrow can sometimes make cooks forget that they also have to eat dinner tonight. Let’s not do that. Ordering takeout is a perfectly fine and time-honored strategy for the night before Thanksgiving. But if you’d rather cook something simple, we have so many ideas, like Yasmin Fahr’s ridiculously good sheet-pan feta with broccolini, tomatoes and lemon. Or, if you have some canned beans on hand, you can throw together a pan of vegetarian skillet chili.

You do need a subscription for the recipes. Did you know that if you subscribe to New York Times Cooking, you’re now able to gift up to 10 recipes per month? It’s a perk that your subscription-less loved ones will certainly be thankful for. (Tomorrow is the last day to get a subscription at half-price, and don’t forget that you can give a New York Times Cooking subscription as a gift.) And find us on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, where you can witness the rubescent beauty that is David Tanis’s cranberry curd tart.

Have we left anything off the checklist? Are there enough forks, napkins and chairs? Oh, yes: Don’t forget to have fun. If you can do that, even if you tried to feed your guests popcorn and toast for Thanksgiving dinner, all they’ll remember is the good time.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I’ll see you on Friday.

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