Turkey Talk: Bon Appetit's Barbara Fairchild

Barbara FairchildEvery Thanksgiving (I know, I know, we're not even two years old yet) we check in with food magazine editors around the country to see how they have gone about putting together their Thanksgiving issues. Leading off this year is Bon Appétit's Barbara Fairchild. The magazine features five approaches to different aspects of the Thanksgiving feast: A heritage feast; new turkey-cooking techniques (salting, not brining); stuffing five ways; make-ahead side dishes; and six pumpkin desserts.

Here are some of Fairchild's personal favorites:

Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs and Shallot-Dijon Gravy
Cauliflower and Brussels Sprout Gratin
Scalloped Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Marshmallow-Sour Cream Topping and Gingersnap Crust
Buttermilk Biscuits with Green Onions, Black Pepper, and Sea Salt

What was the Thanksgiving issue process like this year at Bon Appétit? I feel the need to do something typical but different. People want to change side dishes and desserts, but they want to see different possibilities for turkey that don't seem weird to them. Our charge is to make the recipes comfortably different comfortable.

So we came up with the idea of utilizing heritage ingredients from the past. More people are paying attention to this kind of thing. One interesting aspect of this is this meal doesn't cost a lot to get on the table. It's very wallet-friendly. Our readers love to cook, they're not necessarily to averse to spending money, but in these times let's fact it. A lot of people are more budget conscious.

We try to make our Thanksgiving issue never boring or tiring. We do manage to reinvent the feast every year. It's kind of like having a stock set of characters in a tv show, you have to do the show every week, and you have to keep the characters interesting, as an editor it's an exciting thing to do. I want to give people what they expect from us, but I also want to do something different.

Why the focus on heritage foods? Nancy Oakes' food is so earthy and fantastic and we thought it would fit in perfectly with the whole notion of heritage foods. She understands the essence of what the meal needs to be. She's so aggressive about shopping local, fresh, and going to farmers' markets. We wanted to stress the entire menu aspect of what Nancy was doing.

How do you continue to have fresh things to talk about when it comes to turkey and stuffing? I wanted to go into the core of what the meal is about, so there's more turkey and more stuffing.

Tell us about the make-ahead side dishes. We figured people might want to make their side dishes ahead of time. People want to cook well and have a beautiful meal, but they don't have the time to do it. So we show you how to make side dishes ahead of time.

What do you think about pumpkin desserts? It doesn't fit on my Thanksgiving menu, but I will make the pumpkin cheesecake later in the weekend or later in the season. That's what's great about the issue. You can make any of the dishes any time between now and the end of the year.

What do you personally love about Thanksgiving? It's being in the kitchen cooking for a lot of people. I can pull out all the stops. Thanksgiving is all about the satisfaction of being in the kitchen and the aromas coming forth from here. At my house in Los Angeles people come for the entire day, they hang out, help in the kitchen. We eat at three, and then between main course and dessert we go for a walk and engage even more. Let's face it: Thanksgiving is more about the people we see. The whole day is of a piece for me, it takes me out of what I do for a living and switches the whole thing to a hobby. The whole holiday is a wonderful escape for me.

Best part of the meal? My mom is 87, and she still insists on making the pumpkin pie every year. How cool is that?