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There’s perhaps no holiday more focused on food, family and tradition — some of Damaris Phillips‘ favorite things — than Thanksgiving, which means that for this Southern at Heart host, the next few weeks leading up to America’s fall feast are especially exiting. She told FN Dish recently that she’s especially looking forward to “the Thanksgiving-adjacent episode” (airing Nov. 24 at 10:30am/9:30c) of her all-new series, which will feature classic and creative recipes to help you prepare the ultimate holiday meal.
We checked in with her to find out more about how she’ll be celebrating with her family this year. Like in most homes, there will be no shortage of comforting plates on Damaris’ Thanksgiving dinner table, and just as she’s been in the past, she’ll once again be in charge of preparing the salad. Read on below to learn Damaris’ makings of a true Southern Thanksgiving, to learn tips for turning out juicy turkey and to get advice for first-time holiday hosts.
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving these days?
Damaris Phillips: All of my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents all still get together, so we do a huge family Thanksgiving.
Will you be cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year?
DP: Everybody contributes. It’s like a potluck Thanksgiving. I usually get stuck with the salad. They are always making me make the salad. I always try and fancy it up, so they’ll be like, “Oh, she can really cook.” But it doesn’t matter, because nobody eats the salad .… My brother is always going to do the stuffing; I’m never going to get to do it. My sister is always going to do the greens and the macaroni, and nobody wants mine anyways because I always try and make it a little less terrible for you, which nobody’s into. I get desserts a lot. Like, I’m pretty good at baking, and so I get desserts, which is pretty awesome.
How do you prepare the turkey?
DP: I brine and roast and I go high, high temp and then I put it down. I also go breast-side down. White meat cooks faster than dark meat. Also, the juices will run down, so what you have is the drier, faster-cooking meat on the top and then the longer-cooking, moister meat on the bottom, so I flip those. It’s not as pretty, but it tastes better.
What are the makings of a traditional Southern Thanksgiving? What kinds of dishes just have to be there?
DP: Well, food. Way more food than you need. There are going to be at least four different types of casseroles. Unless somebody’s on a diet, and then that’s going to be the one that’s like, “We don’t need casseroles anymore.” But there’s going to be casseroles, lots and lots and lots of veggies. Tons of veggies. So I love turnips, and we always have beets .… I always do roasted veggies, so carrots, pretty mushrooms and cauliflower. So lots of those, and then rolls. We always do yeast rolls. That one I think is a must-have, where you dunk it in the butter and then you die. And then desserts. The main thing is more food than an army could eat is what I would really think. Because, inevitably, you could be planning for 10 people and then everybody is going to bring somebody that they didn’t tell you [about] .… We all do that. There will be extras.
Pies: apple, pumpkin or pecan?
DP: Pumpkin every time. I personally love mincemeat pie — or raisin pie. Those don’t get over so well, though.
What’s your advice for the first-time host?
DP: Make everything in the oven. Make more casseroles or, like, baked things than you think you should, because baking or using your oven or roasting or reheating gives you time to do other things. It’s like you’re multitasking by using your oven. The other thing is, make things ahead of time. Make things and freeze them. There are plenty of recipes nowadays that are perfectly good frozen and then reheated. All of my scones, all of my muffins, all of my rolls — everything — I make the dough, and then there’s always a step of baking, so I freeze the dough, pull it out and bake it. All of my pies, premade. I freeze everything.