Thanksgiving dinner has been, for me, an evolution. I vividly remember sitting at holiday tables as a guest and feeling excitement about eventually serving my own Thanksgiving meal as a host. I’ve now planned many T-giving dinners, and every meal since that first one has been about perfecting my game. I've cooked too many sides and baked too many desserts for one meal – even for a holiday – all while keeping everyone’s idea of a perfect day in my crosshairs, yet feeling time and time again like I had missed the mark. What was I doing wrong? What about this meal was eluding me? Last year, I figured it out: I had spent my time trying to pack as many dishes and ingredients as possible into our menu instead of reflecting on the joy of the season. Autumn harvest time should be effervescent; a labor to be sure, but a labor of love for everyone involved.

Paring down a menu is freeing: Careful consideration transforms overdone dishes into simple perfection, and it brings out the best in every ingredient. Of course, it all begins with the main event. The right brine lays the foundation for a succulent, golden bird, and with a supporting cast of offerings that follow suit, you’ll be well on your way to the most relaxing, soul-satisfying Thanksgiving ever. I may have learned this the hard way, but last year my holiday was filled with fewer fussy dishes and a contentment that was contagious. I encourage you to do the same: Think about your holiday meal this year not in terms of spectacle, but rather the joy of the day, and let these recipes help you serve your best Thanksgiving turkey ever.

How to Truss and Carve a Turkey

Shannon Weber is the creator, author and photographer behind the award-winning blogaperiodictableblog.com, and her work has appeared on websites such as Bon Appétit, Serious Eats and America’s Test Kitchen.

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