Turkey tinkerers take heart: The lovable cook nerds at Cook's Illustrated offer nontraditionalists the option of butterflying (aka spatchcocking) your turkey. If you flatten your roast, they explain, you can apply a serious glaze to the bird without it running off into the bottom of the pan. But Chow knocks it out of the park in terms of weirdness, offering up a bizarro layered Thanksgiving turkey cake, "frosted" with marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes.
Oddly enough, gravy, of all things, is getting a big push this year—maybe all those meatless and brined, barbecued turkeys are making the most basic T-day component seem trickier to make. Food52's reader-endorsed best gravy is a vegetarian mushroom thyme version, while Bon Appétit casts a spotlight on several different recipes. Meanwhile, blogger Shauna Ahern sets no-wheat folks on the path to gluten-free gravy (which can go with this recipe from Oprah's site for gluten-free stuffing).
Speaking of gluten, I've always feel that dinner rolls are an underrated Thanksgiving tradition, and I think Cook's Illustrated agrees with me. Cook's Thanksgiving guide includes several dinner roll and biscuit recipes, though you will have to pay for a subscription to get the scoop on many, including these parker house rolls. (If you don't have a subscription, dig deep in the Gourmet archives for some of Ruth Cousineau's lovely dinner roll recipes, like her pumpkin orange rolls from last year.)
For dessert, pies have always ruled the Thanksgiving table, but pie has also reached a kind of cultural ascendancy in the media this year, as Julia Moskin pointed out in the New York Times. (Her article includes a recipe for apple and green chile pie.) Martha Stewart raids her library for a tasty-looking pie slide show, which includes a pumpkin pie with chipotle chile. Bon Appétit has a pie slide show, too, and I look forward to someone explaining to her 83-year-old grandmother just how Momofuku Milk Bar's crack pie got its name. (Those seeking to avoid that conversation may choose this pear upside-down tart instead.) I should add that if you are embarking on a pie project, as I will be, you might want to read Pim Techamuanvivit's authoritative essay on pie crust, "The One Pie Dough To Rule them All," and Kate McDermott's philosophical crust recipe.
There are some pie-conoclasts out there, of course: Food and Wine tempts readers with a luscious slide show of bread puddings, and Food 52 encourages its readers to think beyond the pie with its nonpie Thanksgiving dessert contest, while Cooking Light leads its holiday dessert section with a pumpkin flan.
Thanksgiving lives in a careful balance between tradition and innovation, and it's always sage to keep some timelessness in the mix. If you're forgoing turkey this year, you might want to keep some stuffing around for nostalgia's sake; don't let a cranberry cocktail before dinner keep you from putting a little old-fashioned cranberry sauce on the buffet; and if you do choose to make the turkey cake as your centerpiece, for heaven's sake, choose a pie, not cake, for dessert.