The Thanksgiving Menu of My Dreams

Last year, I made the tough decision to skip Thanksgiving with my family. I did not feel comfortable traveling, and I did not want to risk my family’s health. While I truly missed being with my family, I took the opportunity to cook my first ever Thanksgiving meal by myself.

Cooking for only 4 people, you could say that this meal was “small” in comparison to what I normally see with my family. However, it was by no means lacking, as I pulled out all the stops for our little Friendsgiving. If you are still looking for inspiration for your Thanksgiving table, may I offer a few suggestions from this dream menu I came up with last year. This should probably have been called My NYT Thanksgiving, because almost all the recipes came from NYT Cooking.

Appetizer: Marinated Beet Salad with Whipped Goat Cheese

I thought carefully when choosing this singular appetizer to serve. If I recall correctly, I brought a ton of multi-color beets home from school/work, so I knew beets would fit into this meal somehow. With a multitude of recipes out there, it is hard to know where to draw inspiration. I ultimately chose this recipe by Julia Moskin, which is an adaptation from Andrew Carmellini’s recipe.

This was such a wonderful recipe. The only real change I made was to forgo the pistachios because of a nut allergy. The marinated beets were stellar on their own, but the whipped goat cheese brought another level of funk and flavor that enlivened the palate. Also, the colors were gorgeous and made for a show-stopping start to the meal. If you do make this salad, make sure to marinate the different colored beets separately, or else the colors will bleed.

Protein: Spatchcock Turkey

I turned to Mark Bittman for the technique to roast my first ever turkey. I considered just getting a breast or a smaller type of bird, but getting a small turkey (12 pounds) ended up being the most economical option. In order to save time and space, I decided to spatchcock the bird. By removing the backbone, you can cook your turkey quicker and more evenly.

My first turkey was juicy, tender with brown, crispy skin. I dry brined it over two days, so the seasoning had time to be absorbed throughout the meat. I have roasted a number of chickens, but I have to admit I was proud of my first turkey.

Plus, the leftovers were lovely. I made turkey stock, turkey pot pie, and the ultimate Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich.


Brioche Stuffing

I did make some adaptations to this next recipe by Melissa Clark. I left out the chestnuts, again due to an allergy. I like to think I made up for it by using my own stock and making my own brioche bread. I saw the brioche at Whole Foods, and quite frankly there is no comparison. The brioche recipe comes from Nancy Silverton, and it is the recipe I learned to make at my culinary program.

A good stuffing should be slightly crispy on the edges with a moist, flavorful center. This recipe was just that. Buttery and packed with vegetal and poultry flavor. The homemade bread and stock really elevated this side that has always been a favorite of mine. I cannot imagine Thanksgiving without stuffing.

I had an extra loaf of brioche, so I actually started our morning with brioche French toast with caramelized pears. What a wonderful treat.

Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

This next recipe was such a hit at this meal that I brought it out again for Christmas dinner. Lidey Heuck’s Brussels Sprouts are such a delectable side dish, you might forget about all the other food. The cider glaze will make you want to toss all your vegetables in this sweet-savory concoction. This was my favorite dish on the table.

Winter Squash Braised in Cider

Apple cider made a second appearance on the table. I braised some delicata squash in cider for another fall-appropriate side dish. If I had to choose, I definitely preferred the Brussels sprouts, but I still really enjoyed this squash dish.

Spiced Sweet Potato Pudding

Next, I made Marian Burros’ sweet potato pudding. This mash had a subtle maple flavor and brought that familiar vegetable to the meal. This was a good recipe, but at the time I did not have a very good food processor, so the texture was not as smooth as I would have hoped.

Cranberry Sauce

I am a cranberry fiend. I could not have Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce. I make an adaptation of my aunt’s cranberry orange relish. It has cranberries, orange, and apples in it, giving it more sweetness than bitter. This bright acidic condiment is much needed for a heavy, fat forward meal. I cannot wait to make a big batch of this later this week.

Dessert: Cranberry Curd Tart

Finally, after all that food, we still need to have dessert. Given that my family is not as fond as cranberries as I am, I took this holiday away as an opportunity to make David Tanis’ cranberry curd tart. I had been wanting to make this tart for at least three years. And I finally did it. This colorful tart was just that..perfectly tart. The cranberry curd rocked my world. I may be advocating for this to appear on the table again this year. That is how much I loved it.

Despite what it may look like, this post was not sponsored by NYT Cooking. I just love their recipes.