A Simplified Thanksgiving

Ciao all! Johnny here with a few different recipes for that delicious holiday that is coming up sooner than we can imagine: Thanksgiving! Now, the post that follows is from four years ago when I was blogging on Confessions of Two College Foodies. PLEASE FORGIVE THE PHOTOS! They are older and I didn’t know what I was doing back then, but hopefully the instructions serve you well! 

Thanksgiving is an affair that calls for a lot of cooking, which means a lot of work and preparation. And I love it, as long as I am feeding a large crowd. However, if you’re only feeding four or fewer people, do you really want to roast a whole turkey with the stuffing and all the sides? Probably not. Also, a lot of Thanksgiving food is oven-based, well, what if you don’t have a double oven?

With this meal, you don’t need one. The traditional Thanksgiving menu can be a little too intensive and expensive for someone who is having a more intimate and quiet Thanksgiving. So, if this is you, you are probably wondering about some alternative dishes you could make that is more practical for a smaller group, but still packed with all those marvelous Thanksgiving flavors. Well, look no further. I have developed a simplified Thanksgiving feast that you and your friends will love!

We start with the star of the show: the turkey! On Thanksgiving, we all love to see a huge, stuffed bird come out of the oven all browned and crispy, it really is a wonderful picture in American households. However, a whole turkey is A LOT of work; sometimes too much work.

If you’re entertaining a small group, why not roast smaller turkey pieces with a delicious herb-garlic rub and serve each person a little dark and a little white meat? Roasting turkey pieces takes way less time in the oven than a whole turkey and takes almost seconds to prepare. I roast turkey thighs and a half turkey breast with a rub of garlic, woodsy herbs, lemon, orange, and good olive oil. That’s it! You still get a delicious turkey entrée, but for a lot less effort and money. I present my Garlic-Herb Roast Turkey Dinner.

Garlic-Herb Roast Turkey Dinner

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 turkey thighs, 1 ½ turkey breast, bone in with skin on
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons of both lemon and orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine or chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Pat the turkey pieces dry and place skin side up in a roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the wine or stock. Mix well. Rub all over the turkey pieces, making sure to get underneath the skin. Sprinkle with extra pepper if desired. Pour in the wine or chicken stock.

Place in the oven and roast for 2 hours until the skin is golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and place the turkey pieces on the cutting board or serving dish, cover tightly with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Slice into small pieces and serve both light and dark meat to each person.

If desired, you can create a gravy using the drippings from the turkey and follow the directions on a good store bought turkey gravy. Or you could melt down ½ cup of orange marmalade and ½ cup of cranberry sauce and glaze the turkey slices. Serve and enjoy!

Great Turkey - minimal cost and effort.

Great Turkey – minimal cost and effort.

Now, Thanksgiving is not complete without some kind of starch vegetable. I find that every family is different. Some families always serve mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner. Some, like my family, serve a yam casserole with the marshmallows on top. Others do sweet potato casseroles. For this meal, I decided to choose a happy medium and do Sweet Potato Mash -similar to mash potatoes in texture and style, but sweet like yams.

Sweet Potato Mash should please everyone. You can control the amount you want to make for your dinner by how many potatoes you use – I figure about 1 potato per person. Sweet potatoes, in my opinion, are easier  mash than regular potatoes, and they’re far easier than a yam or sweet potato casserole. Make first and then warm while the turkey cooks. This Sweet Potato Mash brings a Thanksgiving feel to any plate.

Sweet Potato Mash

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 ̊F. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Stab all over with a fork to let steam in the potatoes escape during cooking. Roast for 45 or so minutes until fork tender. Remove and allow to cool slightly.

Remove the skins and place the sweet potatoes in a food processor. Add the salt, pepper,  and sugar. Puree until smooth.  Stir in the nuts. Warm in the oven while the turkey cooks!

Of course, you’ve got to have something green on your Thanksgiving plate, and the traditional thing is of course, green beans. Everyone has the green bean casserole with those little French onions on top, but you might not want to prep it and make the amount that a casserole tends to make. So, here is a simple, and tasty green bean dish that can work on any Thanksgiving menu. My mom actually came up with this one, and I love it. It’s her Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots. Just a few minutes on the stove, and you’ve got the green beans ready to go.

Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz. bag of trimmed green beans
  • 4 thick cut bacon slices, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper

Bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain and then shock in and ice water bath. Set aside.

Sautee the bacon pieces until nearly crispy and golden, about 3 minutes. Add the shallots and cook until tender, another 2 minutes. Add the green beans in. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss and cook another 3-4 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Now that's some greens anyone would eat!

Now that’s some greens anyone would eat!

Now, we have reached a point where we are done cooking. You made 3 of the quintessential Thanksgiving foods, you’ve done more than enough. However, there are still more crucial Thanksgiving items that you need, so what do you do? You either have someone else bring them, or you buy them! Here are a few tips on some store bought goodies.

Everyone loves cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving. And like all Thanksgiving fanatics, I like to make it from scratch, but sometimes it is just too much of a hassle. So, buy it from the store! There are a lot of wonderful brands that sell delicious cranberry sauce, and you really can’t tell the difference between what is homemade and what is not. My favorite store bought cranberry sauce comes from Trader Joe’s. They sell their cranberry sauce in tubs rather than cans and it’s wonderful! You can buy the traditional cranberry sauce, or mix it up and buy orange-cranberry sauce, or raspberry-cranberry sauce. It’s all up to you!

Pies are also huge on Thanksgiving. And here’s my thing, if I’m cooking the main meal, someone else should at least be able to pick up a pie or 2. However, if you’re set on providing everything, I recommend that you go to your local bakery restaurant and pick up some pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie, or a combination of two or all three! You might want to place an order in advance though just to make sure they don’t run out without reserving one for you, you Thanksgiving all-star!

A full plate, but not so much of the effort.

A full plate, but not so much of the effort.

I hope you found this post helpful if you are looking for an alternative and simplified Thanksgiving menu. Remember, you can edit the classics and still keep that holiday flavor that we all live for! Have a wonderful holiday my friends, Boun Appetito and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Santosha and the Attitude of Gratitude | Johnny La Pasta

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: