Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner menu ideas – This year, do yourself a favor with blessedly simple recipes that deliver on flavor while still allowing you time to, say, sneak a nip of bourbon with grandpa (don’t forget the glassware and whiskey stones!). Woven placemats look elegant yet fuss-free. Roll out a runner, light some candlesticks, and add a bouquet to complete the quick and easy table setting.
Thanksgiving in my family isn’t exactly predictable. A child of divorce, I alternate between my parents from year to year; hosts change frequently, and with them the guests around the table, the group dynamic, the quality of conversation. But a few things are guaranteed, no matter where I am or who I’m with: There will be turkey; there will be stuffing; there will be cranberry sauce, gravy, potatoes, and pie.
These aren’t really dishes we eat year-round (or, in my case, on virtually any day other than Thanksgiving), so striking that balance of familiar and delicious is paramount. From the best caramelized sweet potatoes you’ve ever tasted to a classic fluffy and moist sausage stuffing to a super-creamy pumpkin pie, here’s how to do it right.
Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner menu ideas
1. Squash Soup
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.Place the quartered squash onto a half sheet pan, brush the flesh of the squash with a little butter and season with 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the white pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until the flesh is soft and tender.
Scoop the flesh from the skin into a 6-quart pot. Add the broth, honey and ginger. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree the mixture until smooth*. Stir in the heavy cream and return to a low simmer. Season with the remaining salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.
2. Turkey with Stuffing
Special equipment: 1 re-usable organic cotton produce bag*
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the turkey into a deep, high-sided bowl on its end with the stuffing end up. Set aside.
Heat the chicken broth in the microwave in a large microwave-proof container. Place mushrooms in a glass bowl and pour heated broth over them. Cover and allow to sit for 35 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl toss the onion, celery, and green pepper with the oil and salt. Place the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast for 35 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, spread the cubed bread over the vegetables, return to the oven, and continue cooking.
Drain mushrooms, reserving 1 cup of liquid. Chop the mushrooms and place in a large
microwave-proof bowl with the vegetables and bread, reserved chicken stock, cherries, pecans, eggs, sage, parsley and black pepper. Stir well in order to break up pieces of bread. Use your hands to combine, if necessary. Heat the stuffing in a microwave on high power for 6 minutes.
While the stuffing is heating, rub the bird with oil. Working quickly, place the stuffing into the cavity of the turkey to avoid losing heat. Place the turkey into a roasting pan, on a rack, and season with salt and pepper. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven. Roast for 45 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and cook for another 60 to 75 minutes or until the bird reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. Serve immediately.
*The bag is optional. Once the stuffing is made, you can place the stuffing into the bag and then place the bag into the cavity of the turkey.
3. Velvety Mashed Potatoes
Warm the cream with the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts; set aside.Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to boil then add 1 teaspoon of salt and reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are very tender.
Drain. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or a ricer into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the warm cream and butter mixture until the cream is absorbed and the mixture is smooth. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper and finish them off by stirring in 1/4 cup olive oil and sprinkling with chives, if using.
4. Green Bean Casserole
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a big pinch of salt and the green beans. Cook for about 5 minutes, the beans should still be crisp, they will be cooked more in the oven. Drain them and set aside. Butter a baking dish large enough to hold the green beans with 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Tear the bread into 2-inch pieces, put them into a bowl, and add 1 tablespoon chives, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Stir well to coat and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake just until the bread just starts to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid, about 10 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream, add the remaining thyme and chives, and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the green beans and stir well. Put the green bean mixture into the prepared baking dish, top with the croutons, and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan. Bake until everything is hot and bubbling, about 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Glazed Carrots
Cut the carrots in thirds crosswise. Then cut each piece lengthwise into halves or fourths, depending on the width of the carrots. This should create spears that have at least one flat side.Add the oil to a cast-iron skillet and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place the carrots in the oil cut-sides down and cook without turning until tender, about 6 minutes. The cut sides will be very, very dark. Some may even call it burnt. Don’t worry, it’ll taste great!
Add the honey, togarashi and 1/4 cup of water to the skillet and stir up all the carrots. Cook, stirring constantly, until most of the water has cooked off and the carrots are coated. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the chopped parsley. (This will add a fresh flavor and it looks really pretty.)
Serve right away to your impressed and amazed friends!
6. Cranberry Sauce
In a medium pot, combine the cranberries, sugar and water. Stir to blend. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and add the cinnamon stick, allspice and nutmeg.
Stir to blend and simmer for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Some of the cranberries will burst and some will remain whole. Add the orange juice and zest, stir and allow to cool before serving.
7. Cast-Iron Skillet Cornbread
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.Add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil to a 6-inch cast-iron skillet. Put the skillet in the oven and allow to heat until very hot, 6 to 8 minutes.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl with a whisk. In a different bowl, combine the almond milk, applesauce, sorghum, egg and the remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Fold to combine.
Carefully remove the hot cast-iron skillet from the oven and pour in the batter. Return the skillet to the oven and bake until golden with a crisp crust, 25 minutes.
8. Pumpkin Pie
Brulee for mini-pies:
Brulee for mini-pies:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust: Combine the gingersnaps, brown sugar, and ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the cookies are fine crumbs. Drizzle the butter into the crumb mixture. Pulse 8 to 10 times to combine.
Press the gingersnap mixture into the bottom, up the sides, and just over the lip of a 9-inch glass pie dish. Place on a half sheet pan and bake the crust for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool crust at least 10 minutes before filling.
For the filling: Bring the pumpkin puree to a simmer over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the half-and-half, nutmeg, and salt. Stir and return the mixture to a simmer. Remove the pumpkin mixture from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
Whisk the brown sugar, eggs, and yolk until smooth in a large bowl. Add the pumpkin mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour the prepared filling into the warm pie crust and bake on the same half sheet pan until the center jiggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for at least 2 to 3 hours before slicing. Pie can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Pie is best the day after it is made.
For mini-pies: Evenly divide the crust mixture between 5 (5-inch) pie tins and bake on a half sheet pan for 5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before evenly dividing the filling between the pans. Bake until the center juggles slightly but the sides of the filling are set, 25 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for 2 hours. Spread 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar on the top of each pie. Melt the sugar using a torch to form a crispy top. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice a small piece of skin off the one side of the pumpkin so when laid on its side, the pumpkin will lay flat without rolling. Remove the stem and split the pumpkin in half from top to bottom, using a large cleaver and a mallet. Scoop out the seeds and fiber with a large metal spoon or ice cream scoop. Cut the fibers with kitchen shears if necessary. Reserve seeds for another use.
Sprinkle the flesh with kosher salt and lay the halves, flesh side down, on a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan. Roast until a paring knife can be easily inserted and removed from the pumpkin, 30 to 45 minutes. Test in several places to ensure doneness.
Remove the half sheet pan to a cooling rack and cool the pumpkin for 1 hour. Using a large spoon, remove the roasted flesh of the pumpkin from the skin to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the flesh is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months