“Over the last 10 years, a different Madison Public Library Foundation staff member has shared a favorite Thanksgiving recipe each year. We’ve put this collection together so you can find them all in one place as you plan your meal. We wish everyone a safe holiday!

2022: Brined and Grilled Turkey

“One year, our family decided to grill our turkey. We have perfected it over the years by brining the turkey, too. You can use a gas or charcoal grill but need to try to keep the heat consistent. It takes less time than you think to grill the turkey, but letting a turkey rest is never a bad idea. It also leaves the oven free to make all the wonderful side dishes.”

– Jenni Jeffress, Executive Director

Brine ingredients:
8 cups apple cider
1⁄3 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
2 large shallots, quartered
Handful of parsley
Handful of sage leaves
Handful of thyme sprigs

For turkey: 2 oranges, sliced
1-2 large onions, quartered

Heat all ingredients in a large pot until salt and sugar dissolve. Let cool.
Place turkey in a cooler or 5 gallon paint bucket. Pour in brine. Brine turkey in a cool location, like the garage or porch, for a minimum of 24 hours before cooking. You can add ice if needed to keep turkey cool.

Grilled Turkey:
Rinse turkey and let it come to room temperature; dry it off, or allow it to air dry. Place turkey on rack over roasting pan. Fill cavity of turkey with cut oranges and quartered onions. Rub soft or melted butter over turkey, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on grill with temp at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. Put 1 cup water in the base of the pan and refill when dry to support a moist turkey.

Turn down grill and aim to keep it between 325–350 degrees. Turn every 30 minutes to promote even browning. Cook until internal temperature reaches 160–165 degrees. Let turkey rest, covered in foil, for a minimum of 30 minutes, but it̕s better if you let it rest for an hour before carving.


2021: Easy Sausage & Herb Stuffing

“A longtime family favorite for the holidays, this easy sausage and herb stuffing uses store-bought stuffing cubes, eliminating the step of slicing and drying out the bread.”

— Kate Herron, Operations Manager

Servings: 8 –10
Total prep time: 35–40 minutes
8 cups (400 g) store-bought unseasoned stuffing cubes
1 stick (1⁄2 cup) unsalted butter

1 1⁄2 cups diced yellow onion (from 1 large or 2 small onions)
1 cup diced celery (from 3 large celery stalks)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (or link sausage with the casings removed — see note below)
2 3⁄4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1⁄4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter.

Place the stuffing cubes in a large mixing bowl.

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter. Add the onions and celery; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the vegetables to the stuffing cubes. (Don’t wash the pan, but scrape out every last bit of vegetables, otherwise they will burn in the next step.)

In the same pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for 8–10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a metal spatula while cooking (the largest pieces should be no greater than 1⁄4 inch). Add the browned sausage and fat to the bread cubes and vegetables.

Add the chicken broth, egg, rosemary, sage, parsley, salt and pepper to the bread cube mixture, and mix until the bread is soft and moistened. Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish and bake for 65–75 minutes, uncovered, until deeply golden and crisp on top.

Note: If you can’t find bulk sausage, simply buy regular sausage and remove the casings.

Make-ahead, freezer-friendly instructions: The stuffing can be assembled up to a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to bake; follow the baking instructions in the recipe. It can also can be frozen after baking, tightly
covered, for up to three months. When you’re ready to serve it, defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Reheat it, covered with foil, in a 325° F oven until hot.


2020: Turkey Gravy from Jennifer Segal’s Once Upon a Chef website, adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

˝There’s no way around it: Thanksgiving 2020 will look different for everyone. While my mother typically works away to create the perfect feast, this year, dinner is in my court. The only thing I can be certain of is that we all deserve a little extra gravy on our plates. Enjoy & be well. ̋

— Tracy Phillippi, Foundation Manager

Servings: Makes about 3 cups
Total prep time: 20 minutes

1 stick unsalted butter

1-1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onions (from 2 small onions)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Defatted turkey drippings plus chicken broth to make 2 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon cognac or brandy

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, sage, rosemary or parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, and cook until very soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for two to three minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the turkey drippings/chicken broth and cognac, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until thickened. Stir in the cream and fresh herbs, and season to taste with salt and pepper. (I usually add at least 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, but it depends how salty your broth is.) Transfer gravy to bowl or gravy boat and serve.

If you make the gravy ahead of time, it may thicken up; you can thin it to the desired consistency with water or chicken broth.


2019: Celery, Peanut & Apple Salad from Bon Appetit

˝My mom, a Thanksgiving traditionalist, was extremely concerned about this salad when I suggested it a couple years ago. Two things converted her. First, it’s a bright, crisp note on a plate full of rich food. Second, it fits perfectly into her carefully crafted cooking schedule. I can do all the chopping and get the salad in the fridge while everything else is in the oven, and then leave it until the table is ready. ̋

— Michelle Johnson, Development Officer

4 large celery stalks, peeled (I never do this) and sliced 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal
4 scallions, trimmed, sliced thin on the diagonal
2 medium apples, such as Fuji or Braeburn, halved, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
1 Fresno chile, seeds removed, sliced very thinly into rings (optional)
3+ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, divided
1/2 cup parsley leaves, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Optional: Soak celery and onions in a bowl of ice water for 20 minutes. This step makes the celery extra crisp and encourages the scallions to curl. Drain on paper towels, then transfer to a large bowl.

Add apples, chile, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, or lemon juice, if needed. Add half the peanuts, half the parsley, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil; toss to combine. Top with the remaining peanuts and parsley, and drizzle with more oil. Chill until cold before serving, at least 15 minutes.

Serves four to six people as a side salad, especially on a full Thanksgiving plate.


2018: Bourbon Cranberry Sauce, borrowed from Epicurious

“We have been cooking Thanksgiving dinner for family, friends and holiday orphans for more than a dozen years. It is rare that we ever repeat a recipe, but every year we make an exception for this deceivingly simple cranberry sauce.”

— Conor Moran, Wisconsin Book Festival Director

1 pound (about 4 cups) cranberries
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup bourbon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first three ingredients in 9 x 13 baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake until cranberries are tender and sugar is dissolved, stirring once, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and stir in bourbon. Refrigerate cranberry sauce until well chilled. (Can be prepared up to one week ahead.) Transfer to bowl and serve. Makes 3 cups.


2017: Paper Bag Apple Pie, from Sarah Jo Jeffress 

“My mom baked this family-loved pie in apple season and at Thanksgiving. The paper bag keeps the apples moist and delicious.”

— Jenni Collins, Executive Director

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Press one unbaked pie crust (store-bought or homemade) into a pie pan.

In a large bowl, mix:

6-8 large apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pour into pie shell.


1 stick of cold butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour

Mix with two knives or pastry blender until crumbly.

Sprinkle onto the top of the apples.

Place pie in large paper bag and fold it shut. Remove oven racks except lowest one. Bake for one hour.


2016: Praline Sweet Potatoes

“My dad makes this recipe every year,” she says. “After my aunt set fire to some marshmallows in the oven one Thanksgiving, our family parted ways with the sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping. We’ve been having Praline Sweet Potatoes for over a decade now, and everyone likes it better anyway. It’s the dish I look forward to most when I go home for Thanksgiving.”

– Donor Relations Manager Dayna Long

2 29-ounce cans of sweet potatoes in light syrup, drained
cup chopped pecans
cup coconut
cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put sweet potatoes in an ungreased 1/2 quart casserole dish. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Once blended, sprinkle the combination over the sweet potatoes. Bake for 35 minutes or until bubbly.


2015: New Mexican Posole

This is a family recipe shared by former Foundation Officer Francesca Rodriquez.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
Sauté onion and garlic in butter until onion is soft. Add salt.

Add to the pan:
1 link Kielbasa (or chorizo, casing removed), cut into bite-sized pieces
2 pounds pork stew meat

Saute until pork (and chorizo) is cooked through.


2 cans Original Rotel Tomatoes and Diced Green Chilies
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
10 dashes Louisiana Hot Sauce (or to taste)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 29-ounce cans hominy (undrained)

Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer until most of the liquid is gone (1-2 hours of very slow cooking). Best made the day before and reheated. Serve with garnishes of shredded cheese, diced avocado and green onions.


2014: Corn Casserole

1 15-ounce can corn, drained
1 15-ounce can creamed corn
1 box of corn muffin mix (like Jiffy brand)
1 cup sour cream
½ stick of butter, melted
1 small can of green chilies, drained or ¼ cup chopped roasted red peppers (optional)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix all ingredients except cheese in bowl. Pour contents of bowl into greased dish and bake in 350-degree oven for 45 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and add grated cheese. Return to oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. You can make this the night ahead and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.


2013: Mama D’s Molasses Crinkle Cookies

¾ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
Mix together and set aside:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger

Cream the shortening and sugar together. Add the egg(s) and molasses, and blend well. Add dry ingredients to the molasses mixture. Dough will be stiff. Roll dough into 1½ inch balls. Roll each ball in sugar and place on cookie sheet. Flatten with palm or a flat-bottomed glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 8–10 minutes. Let cookies rest on sheet for 1 minute, then cool on a rack or paper bag.