For all of you scrambling (as we are) to wrap our heads around Thanksgiving, here’s our tried-and-true food traditions that lend themselves to tailoring and improvising.
Check out our Roast Turkey Strategies: Pre-Salting Vs Wet-Brining. If you have the bird, you still have time to wet-brine. But the pre-salt method works almost as well and is easy-peasy.
Cocktails and Wines
6 Thanksgiving Wines to Toast the Turkey (written a few years ago, the general categories will lead you in the right direction)
We like to serve a bone dry La Gitana Manzanilla Sherry before the meal. It goes wonderfully with the savory nibbles below.
Hors d’oeuvres and Snacks Before the Meal
For nibbles, we often serve roasted fresh chestnuts (see An Easy Method for Roasting Chestnuts), along with thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto to stave off hunger without filling people up before the big meal. Pan Fried Olives or Black Olives with Rosemary are a nice savory salty flavor that won’t dampen the appetite.
In addition to our three favorite purees (top photo), we often serve a mess of buttered or creamed steamed mixed greens —chard, spinach, kale, whatever else is around — to provide a less rich counterpoint.
Friends often request our Roasted Fennel, Shallot, Meyer Lemon and Chestnuts side dish: We whip it up on Thanksgiving day, roasting it all on sheet pans. It’s fine served room temperature.
Cut the tops off a few fresh fennel bulbs and discard. Quarter the bulbs and but out the core. Thinly slice the fennel quarters and scatter them onto a large flat baking sheet slicked with olive oil. Peel and thinly slice a handful of shallots and add to the fennel. Quarter a couple of Meyer or regular lemons lengthwise and slice crosswise as thinly as possible; add to the fennel. Drizzle over extra-virgin olive oil and toss in a few handfuls of peeled, roasted chestnuts (we use the imported bottled or vacuum-packed ones, OR peel them ourselves using the An Easy Method for Roasting Chestnuts.) Season with salt and pepper and toss until all the vegetables are coated; spread them evenly over the sheet pan. Bake at about 400′ (the temperature doesn’t really matter), tossing occasionally, until the fennel is tender and the vegetables are beginning to caramelize.
Our Cranberry Walnut Conserve (for the Turkey and a Midnight Snack) is a side dish unto itself.
If you need a Quick Cranberry Sauce: Quick Cranberry Sauce: Add about 1 cup of red wine to a medium saucepan and a few tablespoons sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to about half. Add a package or cranberries, cover, turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries are tender (you’ll hear them pop as they burst). Add more sugar to taste and stir until dissolved. Remove the lid and stir until the sauce achieves the thickness you like. If you like, stir in a tablespoon or so of finely slivered lemon, orange or Meyer lemon zest. Store in a sealed jar in the fridge, then serve at room temperature.
Dessert: Our Rosemary Apple Tart is a classic. But if you want to improvise, check out Tart-O-Matic…Improvising Fresh Fruit Tarts At Thanksgiving, we use this method to make pear tarts, apple tarts, and sweet potato tarts (in these we peel sweet potatoes, quarter them lengthwise, then slice them as thinly as possible. Toss them with lemon juice, brown or turbinado sugar spiced with clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon or orange zest. Then proceed as directed. We haven’t tried it with pumpkin but imagine the approach would work just fine). We also make a surprising apricot tart using dried apricots that we’ve plumped in syrup.
Too busy to make a pie? Try our super-easy, pie-like Apple or Pear Crumble with Rosemary: