In this non-traditional year, as we plan for Thanksgiving, the LA Times Food Section has ideas for everyone.

What You Need To Know

  • Los Angeles Times Cooking columnist is providing new ideas to shake up the traditional holiday fare

  • Mims opts out for a smooth cranberry and clementine Membrillo fruit preserve that you can treat like jam after Thanksgiving

  • When it comes to the gravy, Mims said it is best to make it ahead of time and with something you already have for free in the turkey like its neck, giblets, and its organs for better flavor and moisture

  • Mims said pies are canceled for Thanksgiving 2020

LA Times Food Writer Ben Mims has you covered.

When it comes to the main attraction — the turkey — Mims is a fan of a dry-brined turkey known as the 'Judy Bird,' which is a technique inspired by a chef named Judy Rodgers.

"I stuffed a lot of butter under the skin, so it melts send self-bathes as it cooks. Then you crust it in salt and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Then when you take it out and roast it, it is perfect in about three hours. That dry-brine does help keep in all the flavor," said Mims.

While the turkey is the main course, the sides are just as important, and some side dishes should be prepared weeks or days before Thanksgiving. Some of those sides include cranberry and Clementine Membrillo and slow-roasted yams.

"Membrillo is typically quince paste. You cook quince until they are super soft, puree them, then cook them down even more until they make this firm fruit pasty slice. I combined the Membillo with cranberries. I cooked cranberries with orange juice, zest, and sugar, and it made a beautiful smooth paste that you can treat like a jam after the holiday. My favorite way to make yams is to cover them in foil, add salt and pepper, and put them in the oven for 275 degrees for three hours. When you take them out, they just fall apart like cheesecake and have that perfectly smooth texture. I also provided two simple ways to cover the yams. The first one is a simple rosemary walnut covered in maple syrup and salt. The other one, you can do a kind of German-herb sauce I made with sour cream, buttermilk, and fresh herbs," added Mims. 

Gravy is another Thanksgiving essential, and Mims says the best sauce is made from the turkey itself.

"I take the turkey neck, giblets, and all the organs — along with store-bought chicken broth, then you thicken it with a roux, and then you're done. It's straightforward and adds a lot of flavor and moisture," Mims said.

When it is time for dessert, Mims recommends malted pecan pie, apple fritter cake, and pumpkin nemesis.

"I say, instead of making apple pie, which is so laborious to get it right, I make this apple fritter cake which has lots of chunks of apples, it gets crispy on the edges, and you cover it with this butterscotch glaze, so it is like a big donut. For the pecan pie, I use a hot water crust. You literally pour boiling water and butter over flour, which makes the dough. Then you press it into a pan like play-dough. My pumpkin nemesis is a spin on the classic chocolate cake served at the River Cafe in London. It has a flourless chocolate cake texture, but it is just pumpkin, some butter, eggs, and sugar. It's smooth, and it's the best pumpkin pie you'll have without a mediocre crust," added Mims.

Look for a special Thanksgiving food section at, including Jenn Harris' comprehensive list of local restaurants with both traditional and non-traditional holiday fare for curbside pick-up.