Ben Fink, courtesy Fine Cooking magazine

The Menu


Thanksgiving dinner is tricky: You’ve got to please everybody with traditional favorites, but you still want the food to be special. That’s why Cook the Vineyard is excited to present an entire menu of classic recipes – each with a delicious twist – from chef Michael Brisson, owner of l’étoile restaurant in Edgartown.

There’s a fun story behind this menu — a bit too long to tell here — but it’s enough to say that the creation of the menu arose from a chance meeting between a young editor at Fine Cooking magazine (the same person who is now your editor of Cook the Vineyard, Susie Middleton) and chef Michael many years ago. Now, thanks to Fine Cooking, we’re able to share all of the recipes and the handy timeline with you on Cook the Vineyard.

The timeline was Michael’s idea, when first asked to create the menu.   

“Cooking a huge menu midweek translates into a lot of work,” he said. “That’s why, to create a menu that’s both elegant and do-able, I tackled the project the way I would at my restaurant.”

“My kitchen is quite small, and I have to be really organized. I start by making a list of the ingredients I’ll need, and then I make a work list for each of the dishes, prioritizing it by how far in advance each of the steps can be done,” he explained.

The timeline is truly valuable if you want to create the whole menu, which is challenging (that’s why it’s delicious) but also do-able. But when Cook the Vineyard spoke with Michael recently, he emphasized that he wanted to be sure folks know they do not have to do this whole menu in order to enjoy these recipes! You can pick and choose what you want or ask friends and family to make one or two of the recipes. “Do whatever works for you,” Michael insisted. “You don’t have to stuff the turkey, either, if you don’t want to.” All the stuffing (dressing!) can be baked in a dish.

That said, we think Michael’s Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy recipe (and cooking under a paper bag technique) is one of the best turkey recipes we’ve ever used. Worth a read, even if you don’t follow it to the T!

We also think that everyone, from your pickiest family members to your most sophisticated guests, will enjoy this menu. Happy Thanksgiving!


Menu Timeline

Start early to make life easier — and the food taste better — on Thanksgiving Day.


Two weeks ahead 

• Order a fresh turkey.
• Make and freeze the herb butter for the soup and turkey.
• Make and freeze the Spiced Pecans.
• Make and freeze the soup.

One week ahead

• Make the cranberry compote (leave out the scallions for now).
• Make the roux for the gravy.
• Make the Beach Plum dressing.
• Organize equipment and serving dishes

Two Days Ahead

• Pick up turkey.
• Move soup from the freezer to the fridge to defrost.
• Wash and store the greens for the salad.
• Make the topping for the crisp.
• Prep bread for the stuffing.

One Day Ahead 

• Assemble the stuffing (leave out eggs and extra liquid for now).
• Make and bake the crisp.
• Chill the wine.
• Set the table.

5-1/2 hours before dinner 

• Remove the turkey from the fridge and the herb butter from the freezer.
• Mix the eggs and liquids with the stuffing.
• Stuff and truss the turkey.
• Put extra stuffing in the baking dish and refrigerate.

5 hours before dinner

• Put the turkey (with the neck) in the oven and cover with the brown bag.
• Mix scallions into the cranberry compote, put in serving dish.
• Peel the potatoes and cover with water.
• Take the roux from the fridge to bring to room temperature.

4 hours before dinner 

• Remove the turkey neck from the oven.
• Make the broth reduction for the gravy.

3 hours before dinner

• Take the extra stuffing out of the fridge.
• Cook and whip potatoes; keep warm.
• Remove the plum dressing from the refrigerator.

2-1/2 hours before dinner 

• Put the extra stuffing in the oven.
• Baste the turkey and add extra liquids to the pan.

1-1/2 hours before dinner 

• Remove the brown bag from the turkey; check the temperature.
• Drain and reserve the pan liquids; finish the gravy.
• Remove the foil from the extra stuffing in the oven.

1 hour before dinner

• Reheat the soup.
• Check the turkey temperature; keep cooking if needed.
• Remove the pan of stuffing from the oven (make sure it’s at 160°F or higher).
• Put out the extra Spiced Pecans for nibbling.

1/2 hour before dinner

• Remove turkey from oven and let rest at least 20 minutes.
• Sauté and dress the greens; put on a platter.
• Slice and serve the turkey and other dishes.
• Lower oven temperature to 300°F just before sitting down to dinner; after dinner, reheat crisp for 20 minutes.


Ben Fink, courtesy of Fine Cooking