Make Thanksgiving easy with Melissa Clark's one-pan recipe NPR's Michel Martin speaks to New York Times columnist Melissa Clark about cutting out the stress — especially if it's your first time cooking for the holiday.

This is the one-pan recipe to make your Thanksgiving easy

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Thanksgiving is probably the most celebrated meal of the year. But for a lot of home cooks or new cooks or would-be cooks, it's also the most daunting. You know why. Even if you like to cook, it's pressure. You got to get multiple dishes in large quantities done and on the table, all at the same time, before everybody gets restless. And, sure, you can have a prepared turkey with all the trimmings delivered to your door or opt for takeout. But what if there were a way to cook your turkey and eat it too? Is there an easier approach to Thanksgiving for cooks who don't have the time or that patience? Melissa Clark to the rescue. She writes about food for The New York Times, including the column "A Good Appetite." She's written more than 40 cookbooks. Her latest is "Dinner In One: Exceptional And Easy One-Pan Meals." And believe it or not, she has a recipe for a one pan, one pot Thanksgiving dinner, which sounds amazing. Melissa Clark, thanks so much for joining us.

MELISSA CLARK: Oh, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: OK, so tell the truth. Do you get stressed about the holiday, about Thanksgiving in particular?

CLARK: I do. I do. I feel like we're supposed to get stressed about Thanksgiving. It's part of our national identity. But at this point, I feel like I know what I'm doing. I'd better know what I'm doing. And I feel like there are strategies that help me, and they can help everyone else, too, to get Thanksgiving on the table and enjoy it a little bit because, I mean, I love cooking large meals, and I do love cooking Thanksgiving, even if it does stress me out just a little bit.

MARTIN: How long in advance do you start planning?

CLARK: I start to do as many things as I can make ahead ahead. I have already done my pie crusts. They're in the freezer. I have started making things like my cranberry sauce, which can get made ahead. I've definitely ordered my turkey. If all of you haven't ordered your turkey, you should do so right now. And I've also started putting together my grocery lists. And this is really important because if I don't have it written down on a piece of paper, I'm going to forget it. So start making your lists now.

MARTIN: OK, before we talk about the way we're going to succeed here, you know I'm going to ask, has - part of the, I don't know, the lure of Thanksgiving are the dinners that went spectacularly wrong. And I just wonder - I wonder, OK, do you have any of those that you are willing to share?

CLARK: Oh. Oh, my gosh. You mean the time that we brought the turkey to the table and we realized that it wasn't actually cooked all the way through?

MARTIN: Oh, no.

CLARK: That's even happened to us. That's happened to me. So here's a...

MARTIN: And nobody ended up in the hospital, I hope.

CLARK: No, no, we just had to. We had to hack it apart and put it back in the oven. And you know what? Sometimes - I think, though, those make for the best memories, too. You know, the times when things don't go perfectly. Nobody got sick. We were all fine. You know, We just had to maybe eat dinner a little bit later. And we didn't have that Norman Rockwell moment of carving the turkey because we had to hack it apart when it was still kind of bloody inside. But then we put it back in the oven and it was good. You know, sometimes those things happen. We - here's a trick for people, though. When you take the turkey's temperature, make sure to go all the way into that thigh and not just halfway 'cause you really want to make sure you're getting an accurate temperature. This happened to my family many, many years ago, and we learned that lesson and never went back. So it's all been good since then.

MARTIN: So tell us about your one pan, one pot Thanksgiving. I mean, it sounds like even the most Thanksgiving-phobic cook could pull off.

CLARK: OK. So the idea for the one pan, one pot Thanksgiving came from the editors - my editors at The New York Times at NYT Cooking. And the idea was to play off of a sheet pan meal. I love a sheet pan meal. I didn't invent them, but I was an early adopter. And to me, the idea of just putting all of your food on one sheet pan and putting it in the oven and then letting it do its thing while you go do something else is just - it's the way I like to cook. It's a great way of getting a fast meal on the table, and it is something you can still do for Thanksgiving if you plan it really well.

So my editor said to me, you know, you love to do this with other meals. Can you somehow do this for Thanksgiving? And the answer turned out to be yes. So with one sheet pan - and then you do need one pot for the cranberry sauce and if you want to make gravy. But if you're not worried about cranberry sauce and gravy, you can do the whole thing on a sheet pan. And this is how you do it. So you start with a turkey breast. So one pan Thanksgiving meal is not something you can serve to, you know, 20 of your nearest and dearest. This is for a small, intimate Thanksgiving. You can serve 4-6 people. So just, you know, wrap your head around that first.

MARTIN: Well, 4-6 people is not small. I mean, to be able to do that without a whole ton of dishes, that's still not a bad idea. So, you know what I mean? Four to six people is not, like - is not, like, a Swanson TV dinner.

CLARK: Yeah. Exactly.

MARTIN: No disrespect to Swanson.

CLARK: And it's also - you know, it's also something that you can do - I mean, I love Thanksgiving not on Thanksgiving, especially leftovers. To have those leftovers, you know, in the middle of January is a wonderful thing. So to take that - the idea of Thanksgiving and know that you can do it any time you want is actually pretty thrilling. So for The New York Times - and you can still get the recipe. It's at NYT Cooking. You can get the one pan, one pot Thanksgiving. And so you have your turkey breast. And I wrapped it in bacon, of course, because why wouldn't you wrap a turkey breast in bacon? It adds so much flavor. And then on the same pan, I've got my brussels sprouts. And I have little roasted sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. So you have almost, like, mini, individual sweet potato casseroles. And that's on your sheet pan.

And then in the pot - the pot has to do double duty. You have to do your cranberry sauce first. And then you take that out, and then you can do your gravy. So everything in one pan and one pot. And it's - I mean, it's definitely a little bit of a cheat. But if you're a small household or you're just a couple of people and you're wondering, how am I going to do Thanksgiving and have all of the flavors that I want? - this is going to be your answer. And you can do the whole thing - I think the whole thing is under two hours. So this might be - you know, if you're looking for the last-minute solution, this might be for you.

MARTIN: And so you get all the flavors - like, you get all those traditional Thanksgiving flavors but, you know, in one pan, one pot.

CLARK: Exactly. And then when I wrote my cookbook "Dinner In One," I took that same idea, and I just - I pared it down even more. And so it's a sheet pan Thanksgiving. And the idea for this one - because you don't have the gravy or the cranberry sauce - the idea here is you're just having the turkey, the brussels sprouts and the sweet potatoes. And I simplified it so that this is really a meal that you can make in under an hour. This is your January Thanksgiving meal. Like, you want a lovely turkey, brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes in the middle of January, and then you want to make those turkey sandwiches. This recipe will get you there in an hour.

MARTIN: OK. But what about dessert?

CLARK: Oh, my gosh. Well, dessert - you know, you're just going to have to have someone bring dessert. You're going to - that's when you go buy your pie. Or maybe you've made your pie ahead of time. And that is when you want to be really careful about the crust.

MARTIN: (Laughter) OK. So before we let you go, everybody always has their first time, right? Do you have any advice for somebody embarking on that first Thanksgiving dinner which feels so big?

CLARK: Yes. It is. I mean, your first Thanksgiving dinner is a milestone, and you should treat it like a milestone. You know, this is something that - it's exciting. It is something that once you do it, it'll always be easier the second time. I mean, roast - especially if you're going to roast a turkey and it's your first turkey, just accept the fact that it is going to be - it's challenging. It is a giant bird. Even if you have a small bird, it's still - the smallest bird you can get is 10 pounds. Just acknowledge that this is a challenge. But at the same time, also think about why you're cooking this.

You're cooking this because you want to be with the people you love. You want to have them in your home. You want to feed them and give them nourishment and love. And they will love you even if you have to hack up your turkey and put it back in the oven because it didn't - you didn't cook it through. You know what? I still love my family after that. It's going to be OK unless, you know, the oven catches on fire, which won't happen with a turkey, by the way. So you're safe there. There's nothing you can do that will really hurt anybody. It's all just about sharing love and good times. So, you know, acknowledge the challenge, but also be easy on yourself. Don't judge yourself too harshly. No one else is judging you.

MARTIN: Melissa Clark is a food writer for The New York Times. Her latest cookbook is "Dinner In One: Exceptional And Easy One-Pan Meals." Melissa Clark, thank you so much for joining us.

CLARK: Oh, thanks for having me and happy Thanksgiving.

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