Cooking. Relaxing. Friends and family. Great food. No pressure of gifts! I love Thanksgiving.

When I was a kid, my parents would host all of our aunts, uncles and cousins for Thanksgiving dinner at our house in Kingsville. It was so much fun…laughing, catching up, hearing old stories from our parents, watching football and the best part…eating! We had a traditional meal of roast turkey and sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, sauerkraut (you have to have it, no questions – this is Baltimore), gravy, soft dinner rolls and butter. Old school. So many great memories. I loved every minute of it. (And, to this day, I love Stovetop Stuffing. It just reminds me of being a kid.)

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Over the years we got together as a big family less often, cousins moved south, my five brothers had their own families and in-laws, etc. So, during much of my adult life, I’ve celebrated the holiday with different groups of friends and family and it’s actually been lots of fun. Once I went to the home of a vegetarian friend and had tofurkey – not bad at all! One year, my friends and I made pizzas using ingredients from Baltimore’s amazing Italian grocery, Trinacria. That was a Thanksgiving I will never forget!

While I do miss the old days of Thanksgiving for 30, it’s also fun to mix it up and also to start new traditions, too. For a few years, I hosted my mom at my house in Hampden or she’s hosted me at her place. As the youngest of six kids, it’s pretty darn cool to get to be in charge! I’d do the turkey, a few sides and sweet potato or pumpkin pie and mom would bring most of the sides. A few years ago, we just roasted a turkey breast and a couple of legs…and that was great for the two of us. But usually I wanted lots of leftovers, so I’d order a whole local, organic bird from Andy at Andy’s Eggs & Poultry at the Waverly Market. Thanksgiving is the one time of the year when I actually love leftovers. Nothing like hanging out in your jammies the day after Thanksgiving enjoying a plate of leftovers for lunch. It’s pretty much heaven. This year, as I have the last few years, I’m going to my mom’s apartment and she’s cooking. I’m in charge of dessert, so I will bring Charlottetown Farm‘s amazing goat’s cheese cheesecake. By far, the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. Thank you, Pam.

I have to say, I like the idea of a spatchcocking or butterflying the bird. One year, thanks to Tyler Florence, I decided to try it and here’s a clip. I happened to catch him on the Today Show and he showed how to easy it is to split it in two right down the back. This way, the turkey only takes an hour and a half or so to cook, stays very juicy and the skin is nice and really crispy. I thought, I can do that (you just need a good, solid sharp chef’s knife or kitchen shears.) And, I did it. It was delicious…and cooked in much less time. Very juicy!

Also…check out this piece from the food lab over at Serious Eats – some very helpful advice to guide you as you prepare to cook your feast. Kenji is wicked smart! And here are some recipe ideas from EpicuriousFood52 and Williams-Sonoma. Good stuff! (And, yes, I believe you should always brine your bird. Always.)