Several followers felt I deserved a medal (“Don’t cave! It’s a welcome respite from the ‘holiday spirit,'” wrote @laujk; “Please no Thanksgiving stuff. I haven’t bought a food magazine all month. Super boring. (especially for us Canadians,” wrote @emmawaverman.”) Ultimately, though, enough people DID want Thanksgiving content (“Embrace the festivities,” wrote @5_minutespeace; “Cave–it’s fun to see everyone’s take/ideas,” wrote @FreshTartSteph) that I decided to do a round-up of all the recipes from my blog’s archives that’d be perfect at your Thanksgiving table.
Before we get to the recipes, though, I’d like to link you to my THANKSGIVING GAME PLAN from 2007. If you follow that link, you’ll find a PDF file with a 24-page Thanksgiving Game Plan complete with full recipes, tips and ideas to help you prep, cook and serve a dinner to a very large group (16 people). If you want to see the results of that dinner, click here. Or you can watch this video of the dinner in action:
Now then, on to a bunch of recipe options pulled from the archives of my blog (and other sources)….
David Lebovitz’s Holiday Snack Mix. This is a killer combination of pretzels, nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup and cayenne pepper that’s a perfect pairing with something sparkly before dinner begins.
Radishes with Butter & Salt. Though slightly unconventional for Thanksgiving, this is just a nice thing to put out that won’t make your guests full but will give them something to snack on before the great feast begins.
Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Parmesan. If you do want to go in the other direction, stuffing your guests until they’re comatose, you could serve them these babies. Just have them sign a waiver first.
Mushroom Soup. If you want to avoid the obvious (Butternut Squash being the most prevalent Thanksgiving soup choice (though, I should say, it IS my favorite)), mushroom soup is a totally valid alternative. It’s woodsy (with a hit of rosemary) and isn’t sweet, which is a nice break from all the sweet things to come (cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, dessert.)
Sweet Potato Soup. This is a soup I made up last year and it should provide you with an easy template for improvising a similar soup of your own. And the ingredients are all things you can find almost anywhere.
The Barefoot Contessa’s Butternut Squash & Apple Soup. This is a great butternut squash soup because it has some complexity (from the curry powder) and a surprising fruitiness (from the apples.) If you’re going to make butternut squash soup this Thanksgiving, this is your recipe.
Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese on a Bed of Arugula. If I were cooking Thanksgiving this year, I’d most likely serve this salad which I blogged about two years ago (the recipe ALSO comes from The Barefoot Contessa, she’s the best.) You can actually make the pears ahead, which makes things much easier, and they offer a striking presentation when you serve them. See?
Beet Salad. True, not everyone loves beets (even our President doesn’t love beets!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your beet-hating guests the light with a wonderfully made beet salad. This link will tell you how to improvise one, though I’d change one thing: don’t use beets from a can, roast them yourselves. And if you really want to go all out, roast red beets and yellow beets separately, dress them in separate bowls and place them lovingly on the plate. You will be a hero amongst beets.
Fennel, Green Apple & Watercress Salad. This is an intense, citrusy, crunchy alternative to a more traditional Thanksgiving salad by way of Regina Schrambling. You can even cut the fennel ahead, though the apple you should save for the last minute (or it will brown).
The Turkey & The Gravy
Cider-Brined and Glazed Turkey. The two times I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, I used this recipe and both times it was a hit. The turkey is incredibly moist and takes on a beautiful color with all that sugar from the cider. And the gravy that comes along with the recipe is, too, very worthy; the Applejack Brandy gives it nuanced apple flavor that’ll leave your guests craving more.
Sausage, Cranberry and Cornbread Stuffing. Also a staple from the two years I made Thanksgiving, this stuffing is as good as stuffing gets (as far as I’m concerned). You get the buttery corn bread mixed in with meaty sausage, tart cranberries and crunchy pecans and the best part is you can make it a day ahead and bake it the next day. [Note: don’t actually stuff it in your turkey; that sucks all the moisture out of the meat. Cook it, as the recipe suggests, in a separate pan.)
Improvised Stuffing. If you’re doing a casual Thanksgiving–and I mean VERY casual–you could give this stuffing a whirl, which I improvised after watching Rachael Ray make it on TV. It’s just apples, onions, celery, butter, bread and stock baked in a cast-iron skillet. It’s surprisingly simple and delicious.
Edna Lewis’s Sweet Potato Casserole. A follower on Twitter recently Tweeted that ever since I wrote about Edna Lewis’s Sweet Potato Casserole (the recipe’s in the comments of that post; click here), she’s been serving it EVERY Thanksgiving. It’s certainly on the heavy end of things (lots of butter, brown sugar, honey and milk) but that’s why people are going to love it. And if you must, you can crown it with marshmallows instead of pecans and stick it in the oven until they’re brown. I won’t judge you.
Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon. Last night, I gave this recipe a whirl and served it with Pork Chops. It couldn’t be simpler but the flavor’s really intense; those cinnamon sticks impart a real, authentic cinnamon flavor to everything. And the port offers a deep almost cherry-like flavor. It pays to make cranberry sauce from scratch: it takes very little work (you just throw stuff in a pot and turn up the heat) and it makes a huge difference.
Roasted Apple & Pear Sauce. For those who don’t like cranberry sauce, this is another nice option to put out. Plus you can make it days ahead and just keep it in the refrigerator, covered, ready to go.
Collard Greens. With all that sweet, sweet food on the table, it might be nice to have a smoky, spicy alternative.
Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. I hope many of you are considering the Baked Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie I wrote about a few weeks ago for your Thanksgiving dessert table; it’s really a “WOW”-er of a dessert and, aside from having to roll out pie dough (the bain of my existence) a relatively easy recipe.
Apple Cobbler. This is also from a recent post, but it’s one of my favorite desserts. You can roast the apples ahead and then add the topping while everyone’s eating turkey to finish it off. Make sure to serve with big scoops of vanilla ice cream (I like Häagen-Dazs.)
Pumpkin Mousse Parfait. Another Barefoot Contessa recipe (here’s the actual recipe link), I made this one Thanksgiving and everyone loved it. It’s pretty, easy and you can make it hours ahead so you don’t have to stress.
Hope this list was helpful to those of you cooking Thanksgiving dinner; if you need any more advice, post your questions/concerns/fears in the comments!