Thanksgiving is arguably the biggest day of the year in the food community. It is an opportunity to share a delicious, decadent, indulgent meal with the people we love ; to consider our blessings and take time to appreciate them. For many, however, (myself included) a smaller occasion is appropriate.
For this year’s Turkey Day, Jenna, my girlfriend and Laurie, her mother, set out to create a perfect, proportionate Thanksgiving dinner for three. We wanted to create something unique that would also satisfy our classic Thanksgiving cravings until this time next year.
Most importantly, we wanted something inexpensive, easy, fun and delicious.
Here’s what we we came up with, not too bad if I say so myself.
Below are the inspirations and instructions behind each dish, and of course, our ratings of what worked best. Hopefully these ideas will be helpful to those of you cooking for just a few in the future.
A simple starter and great refresher between massive bites of turkey. We made the dill dip the night before from this recipe. For individual servings, we scooped a spoonful into a glass cup, cut carrot and cucumber sticks and stuck them in. Fresh veggies, no mess and no double dipping.
Our appetizer round consisted of fresh baguette topped with three bruschetta mixes, Tomato Basil, Artichoke and Spinach, and Creamy Mushroom, (we substituted criminis and added bacon ends). Again, to save time on the big day, we premade the topping and stored in mason jars. Ten minutes before serving, we sprinkled with parmesan and popped them in the oven at 350. The bacon and mushroom bruschetta took the trophy in this course and this is one we will be incorporating into our regular diets.
Broccoli Cheese Soup
This recipe was one of the better broccoli cheese soups any of us have had. The best part, once the base was added to the slow cooker we could forget about this one until just before dinner. Although not necessarily a staple of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we felt soup deserved a place on our menu and this one was an excellent choice.
Cornbread with Fresh Corn Kernels
This side dish was the only portion of our meal made from a box. We used a pre made cornbread mix, but put our signature on it by cooking and shaving an ear of corn kernels into the liquid batter. 45 minutes in the oven alongside the turkey and we had our first side. The real corn crunch makes all the difference in the world.
We used this recipe for reference but dumbed it down slightly to save time. Basically just toasted the croutons in a pan, made the seasoning oil with some slight variations to taste and tossed and baked at 350 until crunchy on the top. This item was almost not included initially, but it made the final cut. Thankfully.
Green bean casserole
Fresh, fresh, fresh. No need for canned cream of mushroom soup or canned green beans ever again. We actually bought the canned soup and went our own route instead by sautéing mushrooms, butter, flour and heavy cream. This recipe was extremely easy and extremely tasty.
We stuck to the basics on this one. It was a small bird, right around 12 pounds. We basted and injected a seasoning mix of butter, garlic, salt and pepper, creole seasoning and a few fresh herbs. 250 with a foil tent for a just over 4 hours. Just before removing, put under the broiler to crisp up the skin. It came out juicy, tender and delicious.
For most people, desert is what makes Thanksgiving and pie is the only way to go. Since we couldn’t decide on our favorite filling, we simply made three: Apple, Pecan and Cherry. Each filling recipe was cut in half and seasoned to taste. Made the fillings in advance and used the tops of mason jars for pie tins. Each was perfect in size and flavor.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I am far from a professional chef. I’m barely even a good home cook. But together, we created an amazing and manageable meal. Here are a few keys to our success:
- Make a plan and stick to it.
- Prep whatever you can in advance. We used a full case of mason jars in our preparations and they truly made the backbone of our meal.
- Cook fresh! It’s easier and cheaper than you think (certainly easier than I thought) and the taste is incomparable.
- Make it your own. We nixed the usual salad and mashed potatoes and incorporated fresh veggies elsewhere. Pick what you like and get creative!
We hope you had an equally magnificent Thanksgiving dinner and that some of these ideas will inspire your Thanksgivings to come.