3 Things We Learned from Watching Dorie Greenspan Create a French-Inspired Thanksgiving Menu

published Nov 9, 2021
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Credit: Bijou Karman

This year’s Thanksgiving Food Fest kicked off on Sunday, November 7, and it did so with a bang. Our pre-Thanksgiving celebration of all things Turkey Day was designed to take viewers on a culinary journey from the main course to dessert, plus, of course, all those delicious sides. Five cooks are sharing five distinct concepts for their ultimate Thanksgiving, and up first to share her recipes this season was beloved cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.

This beloved baker and part-time Parisian chose this as her theme because she found herself missing France. This is so relatable to those of us who have not been able to travel as freely for a year-and-a-half now, and is a reminder that even if we can’t travel to where our heart is, we can honor that place through our dishes and ingredients. A beautiful meal can feel like a journey in itself, and through Dorie’s artful explorations of her own food and history, we can’t help but feel like we’re taking a trip to France with her. 

Although Dorie’s all-star menu of Candied Cocktail Nuts, Paris Mushroom Soup, Goat Cheese-Black Pepper Quick Bread, a Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good, and Apple Galette were the stars of the video, she also left viewers with a few gems on how to make this year’s Thanksgiving feast easier to prep and leave a lasting impression.

1. Make a to-do list (and check things off!).

So what’s the first suggestion on her list? Staying organized and getting it done, of course. While the celebrated chef is very aware that what seems simple to her may feel pretty overwhelming to the less experienced home cook, she notes that staying organized and on top of a big holiday meal is all about — as Santa may say — making a list and checking it twice.  “It feels so good to check it off!” she said. So, pin that list up on the wall and check items off as you get to them.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Prop Styling: Andie McMahon

2. Serve the Thanksgiving meal in courses.

Another thing she suggests in the video is to eat your food in courses. While your mental image of Thanksgiving may just involve a turkey and a bunch of sides all being laid on the table at once, Dorie sees an importance in having courses at dinner. “A meal progresses in a certain way. I like the idea of a meal unfolding.” Of course, Dorie did spend a lot of time in France, where she confesses dinners tend to last forever. “You might as well bring your sleeping bag because you’re going to be there a long time and I love that.”

3. Don’t skip cocktail nibbles (but keep the bites small).

So what other advice can you expect to gain from the more than 20-minute cooking experience? Well, for one, a little lesson in how to kick your evenings off with a feel-good vibe. Dorie explained to Kitchn’s own Jesse Szewczyk that in France, there’ll be something of a cocktail hour before a meal. It’s not meant to fill you with food, but rather for you to sit with a glass of wine and start the evening on the right note. It’s about “starting the conversation that will then continue,” she explains. That sounds like a party we want to be a part of!

And for those of you wondering how Dorie would feel if you happened to tweak a few of her meals to fit your palate? Don’t worry, she’s totally fine with that. In fact, she actually encourages people to play with recipes and make it their own. “I think of it more as arts and crafts than recipes,” she shared. “It’s like a template!” 

For example, for the central recipe of the batch — which involves pumpkin — Dorie illustrates the pumpkin and the ingredients and the method, but she advises people to add what they love. Home cooks often get nervous when they change recipes, but it’s important they do adjust it to their own tastes. “I am Ms. Please Play Around,” Dorie said. “I love when people take my recipes and tweak them, or play around with them, and then say ‘oh, I made your whatever it is and I added this and my family loved it.’”