February 26, 2024

Last Thanksgiving, just as a jubilant Santa Claus was making his way across 34th Street on TV, I noticed something alarming in the kitchen of my childhood home. The oven I had preheated for my stuffing had not, in fact, heated.

My dad, flashlight in hand and flanked by a gaggle of panicked observers, crouched down on the floor, removed the oven drawer and began troubleshooting.

My mom and I took stock of our uncooked dishes. The turkey was safe: My family has been deep-frying our holiday bird for decades, a beloved if controversial method. But the fate of my stuffing, my mom’s sweet potato casserole and cornbread, and the rather gratuitous glazed ham my brother requests every year all hung in the balance like a bloated Snoopy parade balloon.


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At 1:38 p.m., with guests scheduled to arrive at 4, we called it: The oven was toast. We quickly devised a plan to spread out the remaining cooking across all our other appliances. The stovetop was still working, sparing us a frantic course correction on the sautéed green beans, gravy and wild rice. My parents’ new toaster oven could miraculously fit a cast-iron skillet inside, so in went the cornbread, followed by the sweet potato casserole. We’d treat the gas Weber grill like an oven, closely monitoring the lid thermometer as the stuffing and ham baked inside.

That chaotic day helped inform NYT Cooking’s Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving, an interactive planner that distills the holiday into four big decisions: how to cook the turkey, which side dishes to make, what to prepare ahead of time and how to end the meal. The guide steers you toward the perfect recipes based on the size of your party and your favorite flavors.

There is value in preparing as much as you can ahead of time. Doing so provides not just an insurance policy should your most important appliance fail; advance work is good for your sanity, which, on a holiday that can be emotionally taxing, deserves safeguarding. In the rest of this newsletter, I’ll be giving my recommendations for what you can do over the next few days.

Tomorrow: If you haven’t already gotten ahead on a chicken or vegetable stock to fortify your stuffing, gravy and soup (assuming that’s your kind of thing), the time to do so is now. You also don’t need to fuss with gravy on the day itself. Claire Saffitz’s white wine gravy and Eric Kim’s vegetarian umami gravy, bolstered with nutritional yeast, are both excellent make-ahead candidates.

Later in the evening, roast some sweet potatoes, scoop out the flesh and prep it for pie filling or a casserole (though you’ll want to hold off on topping a casserole with nuts, brown sugar or marshmallows until just before baking).

Monday: Assemble, cook and cool creamy casseroles like scalloped potatoes, which will hold up texturally, thanks to their high fat content. It’s also a fine time to make cranberry sauce, which benefits from a few days in the fridge.

Tuesday: It’s time to tackle vegetable prep. Blanch green beans for casseroles, trim your brussels sprouts to glaze with cider, and peel and prep butternut squash to glaze with ginger beer. And don’t forget to leave your stuffing bread out on a baking sheet overnight, to dry out the bread sufficiently before storing it in an airtight container.

Wednesday: Tend to delicate tasks that you might otherwise put off until the big day, like washing and drying leafy herbs and salad greens, and whisking together salad dressing. You can also make your mashed potatoes, then cool and refrigerate them. “When mashed potatoes chill, their starches firm up,” my colleague Genevieve Ko writes in her recipe, “and when reheated gently, they relax into a mash with an even silkier texture.”

  • The board of directors of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company, pushed out Sam Altman, its high-profile chief executive, accusing him of not being “consistently candid.”

  • Donald Trump can remain on Colorado’s 2024 Republican primary ballot, a judge ruled, rejecting an effort to bar him over Jan. 6.

  • Israel said it had found weapons at a school in Gaza and would let fuel into the enclave to run desalination and sewage plants.

  • More companies, including Apple and Disney, suspended advertising on X after Elon Musk, the platform’s owner, endorsed a post accusing Jews of “hatred against whites.”

  • A top House Republican launched a new push to expel Representative George Santos from Congress after an ethics report accused him of campaign fraud.

  • Rosalynn Carter entered hospice care alongside her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, at their Georgia home. She is 96 and has dementia.

📺 “Squid Game: The Challenge” (Wednesday) An anticapitalist satire in which playground contests are played for deadly stakes might not seem like an obvious fit for reality television, but Netflix has taken the “Squid Game” phenomenon and made it real. In this new 10-episode series, 456 sweat-suited candidates vie for a $4.5 million prize, playing games like Red Light, Green Light. Some small comfort: In a bold departure from the series, the losers don’t actually die.

🎬 “Wish” (Wednesday) When you wish upon a star, the song says, your dreams come true. And if you’ve been wishing for an animated movie to whisk the children off to when the tryptophan haze of Thanksgiving has passed, congratulations. This new Disney musical, voiced by the Oscar winner Ariana DeBose and Chris Pine (wait, can Chris Pine sing?), is a tale of a dreamer who opposes a sorcerer king. Alan Tudyk plays a goat.

“It never fails”: Five chefs and food-obsessed locals debate the 25 essential dishes to eat in Mexico City.

Girl meets dog: For some without partners, pet ownership is helping to fill a romantic void.

As we barrel toward the holiday season, it’s time to consider gifts for those lucky recipients on your list. Start here, with New York Times and Wirecutter editors’ ultimate gift guide, which you can easily sort by category and price. The nearly 400 gifts range from the unnecessary but amazing (tomato candle, anyone?) to the exceptionally luxe, including a beautifully built record player. And if you’re eager to get started, Wirecutter has a running list of the best early Black Friday deals. — Jason Chen

Minnesota Vikings vs. Denver Broncos: This is a matchup of two teams on hot streaks. Both started the season 1-4, only to go unbeaten over the last month.

The Broncos’ defense has been their strength. They twice held the Super Bowl champion Chiefs to fewer than 20 points. But tomorrow, the Broncos will face a pass-heavy offense led by an exciting new starting quarterback: Josh Dobbs. Dobbs, 28, has spent most of his career as a backup or practice squad player; he is also an aerospace engineer who interned for NASA. After the Vikings lost their quarterback, Kirk Cousins, to injury, they picked up Dobbs. He quickly led the team to two wins. 8:20 p.m. Eastern tomorrow on NBC.

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