When I was nine years old, I announced to my mother that I was going to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I went to the library and checked out some books on cooking: Escoffier, Julia Child, all of the classics. Some people ask how my mother could let me do such a thing. Her response is that she couldn’t have stopped me.
It wasn’t the best meal of my life, but it was a start. Since then I’ve made many Thanksgiving dinners. Perhaps you might even say too many. Everyone loves a traditional Thanksgiving dinner but chefs, particularly home chefs, want to use such a meal as a challenge, to both hone and show off their skills. Making the same thing year after year might taste wonderful, but it can lose its thrill. The great thing is that you can really mix things up with Thanksgiving while still serving up the basics, like we did in our Thanksgiving Stew recipe. Because everyone knows the traditional meal you are referencing, everyone will understand the twist you put on a dish.
This is why I love our carbonated cranberry recipe, which is a riff on our fizzy grapes recipe in Modernist Cuisine. Cranberry sauces come in all sorts of variations, from gelled to spicy. That’s why switching up your usual cranberry dish is a great place to start playing around with Thanksgiving dinner.
Of course, some people still want everything on their plate to be exactly as they remember Grandma serving. There’s nothing wrong with that. But knowing the science behind cooking can help you bake your bird in an oven with excellent results. Your guests don’t even have to know.
Nathan Myhrvold, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home