Preparing Thanksgiving is stressful for just about anyone with a pulse. Even if you’re Ina Garten, successful author of 12 cookbooks and the Emmy-award winning host of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa.
“I’m running around like a crazy person so that when people arrive, it looks like I just whipped this thing up in the few minutes before they got there,” says Garten, who lives in East Hampton, New York, with her husband, Jeffrey (but you already knew that), surrounded by hydrangeas and a lush herb garden. “I can’t unwind before the meal and always find four more things to do before people arrive. It’s right up to the second.”
But Thanksgiving will look very different this year for most people, including Garten. “I have a whole set-up outside with heat lamps and sheepskin seat cushions so everyone can be toasty warm,” she says. “I just have to make sure it's not raining!”
Garten, whose latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, is out now, and Jeffrey plan to host a friend or two who are local and in their quarantine pod. And in keeping with social distancing, she plans to create small buffets for her guests rather than the typical passing of plates around.
Of course, this is Ina Garten we’re talking about—so she’s already figured out a simple and elegant way to spruce up distance dining. “It’s really important to have something that fills the table, so it doesn’t feel like we’re so far apart,” she says. “Our table will be decorated with huge votive candles, a wreath down the middle, and whatever greens are in the garden.”
To fuel herself ahead of all the cooking, organizing, decorating, and general festivities, Garten plans to start her Thanksgiving day with an oatmeal breakfast and nosh on a light lunch of soup until the big event at 6 p.m. And despite the irregularities this year, Garten and Jeffrey still plan to hold onto some traditions. “We like to go for a walk to the beach,” she says. “It’s always a gorgeous day.” The day-after traditions will remain too: “Sometimes leftovers are even better than Thanksgiving dinner.”
Here, Garten shares with Glamour her tips on how to create a very Barefoot Thanksgiving in our latest installment of Your Fave’s Faves.
The kitchen gadgets I swear by
There are two items that people don’t usually have in their kitchen that I use all the time. The first is an 18-inch ruler. A lot of people don’t have a ruler in their kitchen, so they don’t know whether a pan is 8 or 9 or 12 inches. And I always have a kitchen scale for measuring and weighing things. They’re both inexpensive, and I use them all the time.
What I wear when I’m cooking
I never wear an apron. When the cameras are off, I wear exactly the same thing I wear on the show. I basically wear two shirts—one in the summer, and one in the winter. My summer one is a blue denim top from Talbots, and the winter one is a purple corduroy shirt from Lands’ End. I can splatter whatever I’m making all over them, and then just throw them in the washing machine. I have 25 or 30 of each! And if I’m going out afterward, I’ll just throw on a cashmere scarf over it.
$64.95.00, Lands' End
My favorite places to shop for Thanksgiving
We’re really lucky here in East Hampton because there are great farms, and there’s a great butcher at Red Horse Market. One nice thing that came from the pandemic is that a lot of people have figured out how to deliver—so I order from Baldor [a specialty food store in the Bronx] and [the Italian restaurant] Misi in Brooklyn, which I just adore. Misi uses great ingredients, and in order to keep the farmers and suppliers going, they offer a big market basket that’s a big bag of ingredients, produce, fish, meat from local farms. I might do that for Thanksgiving and just make whatever is in the bag. It’s a little bit like Iron Chef—you get a bag of goodies and you have to make something out of it. Between the farms, the butcher, and Misi, I’ll put together a Thanksgiving dinner.
The tableware I love
I use tablecloths from Roman and Williams Guild, which is a housewares store in NYC’s SoHo. They have wonderful linen tablecloths and runners. They also have beautiful pottery plates that are a gorgeous stone color that are nice for dining outside. Other than that, I basically use my good silver and any kind of white plate. The plates could be from Crate & Barrel or any local store—I just like white plates.
$120.00, Roman and Williams Guild
$47.6.00, Crate & Barrel
My favorite way to cook a turkey
My favorite turkey recipe is from my cookbook Make It Ahead. With this recipe, you literally make everything ahead of time, so you’re not worrying about it being ready by the time you want to serve dinner. You roast the turkey earlier in the day and slice it, and you make the gravy ahead.
I take a big ovenproof platter and make a puddle of gravy on the bottom and slice the turkey on top, and then I just wrap it and set it aside. When it’s time to serve dinner, I put it into the oven and reheat it. What’s amazing is that because the turkey has been sitting in the puddle of gravy, it stays really moist, and it’s still really hot when I put it on the buffet. I’m not trying to carve a turkey in my party clothes!
What else I’m putting on my Thanksgiving menu
I think that when people are expecting something sweet, like maple or brown sugar, it’s surprising to have a little spice, so I like to make chipotle smashed sweet potatoes. It’s delicious because the potatoes are just sweet enough with the spiciness. When I’m making a menu, I want creamy and crunchy—I want all of the textures.
I also like anything with butternut squash. This year I’m going to make the roasted butternut squash with brown butter and sage from my new book. It’s so good.
And for Thanksgiving, I always serve Morgon. It’s a light, red French wine. I’ll also buy some great bread from Carissa’s. I’m sure they’re going to have great rolls and things like that. It will be wonderful.
For dessert, I tend to like apple pie—it’s really traditional for Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll put cranberries or something else in it, but I’m planning to make an apple pie, an apple crostata, or a French apple tart.
How I do Thanksgiving leftovers
I love to make a sandwich with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce all mushed together. I mean, you have to have those sandwiches the next day! Also, when I invite people for Thanksgiving, I always send them home with leftovers.
The shoes I wear when I’m in the kitchen
Allbirds! I think they are just fantastic. For Thanksgiving dinner, I might put on a pair of slides instead, though.
The music I play in the background
I have a few playlists on Apple Music and Spotify that I end up playing all the time. There’s “A Trip to Paris” and “Women Who Rock,” that includes everything from Dolly Parton to Taylor Swift—all just great women artists. And I have another with all old-fashioned love songs that’s great for parties.
My favorite recipe from my new book, Modern Comfort
That’s a tough decision, but probably the Ultimate Beef Stew. Everybody knows beef stew, but it’s usually boring and the meat can be kind of dry. For this recipe, I borrowed short ribs from a recipe that I had done in the past and switched out the meat. I add red wine and cognac, the way you make beef bourguignon, and it ended up being a classic recipe with so much flavor. For all of my recipes, I like to take a remembered flavor and make it wow.
My favorite TV shows
West Wing was my favorite show of all time. We watch a lot of foreign series. There’s a French series called A French Village that was seven seasons and so incredibly well done, and Thicker Than Water, a Swedish series about a family that owns a hotel on an island off of Stockholm. And of course, there’s always Broadchurch, which everybody loves.
The book I loved so much, I had to listen to it too
Mrs. Obama’s book, Becoming, was spectacular. In fact, I read it and then I listened to the audio book, which she narrates. That was even better!
The podcasts I love
I always listen to The Daily, but my favorite is In the Dark. It’s an investigative journalism series that’s kind of like Serial. It’s incredibly well done. One of the cases covered in the podcast actually ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court.
The fragrance I’ve been wearing for 20 years
I’ve been wearing Frederic Malle’s Une Fleur de Cassie since 2000. Somebody gave it to me as a gift, and I’ve been wearing it ever since.
$230.00, Saks Fifth Avenue
The last thing I bought (besides food!)
We’ve been spending a lot of time at my barn, which is right next to the house, and I felt like I needed two really comfy chairs to watch TV in. I went to a midcentury modern furniture store in Sag Harbor called MONC XIII and bought the most wonderful 1950s armchairs that are covered in sheepskin. They’re the best chairs I’ve ever bought in my life.
Next, I want to buy two tickets to Paris! As soon as the pandemic is over, that’s my goal.
Caitlin Brody is the entertainment director at Condé Nast.
Originally Appeared on Glamour