A Simple Thanksgiving Menu for a Smaller Crowd

A simple thanksgiving menu for a smaller crowd

This is no ordinary year and it’s not looking like an ordinary holiday season, either. Crowds of folks jammed around long tables are neither in vogue in 2020 nor recommended. And while I’m tempted to wallow in what will be missing this Thanksgiving, I’m focusing on what will be present — an outdoor party of seven rather than the two dozen of years’ past. It will be intimate and cozy, and will yield fewer dirty dishes and no requirement to invite that cranky cousin or oddball friend of a friend. This is the year for near and dears. It’s with all that in mind that I’ve pulled together this Thanksgiving menu, tailor-made for a smaller crowd.

Appetizer

Cheese & Sweet Potato Crostini

Sweet Potato Crostini

I’m all about saving your appetite for the main event, but it is nice to have something to nibble on before dinner. These little crostini are easy to assemble, pretty to look at, and darn tasty. Alternatively, a few little dishes of olives, nuts, and/or seasonal fruits will do the job as well.

Main Course

Oven Roasted Turkey Breast

For a smaller crowd, consider roasting a whole breast, which is closer to the size of a chicken, than an entire turkey. My preference is a bone-in breast, since it may be more flavorful and you’ll have leftover bones to make broth. Here are a few tips:

  1. Consider dry brining the turkey. Pat it dry with paper towels, season the surface generously with kosher salt (several teaspoons), and store in the fridge, loosely covered, for one to three days prior to cooking. That tenderizes the meat, infuses it with flavor, makes for a crispy skin, and is easier than a wet brine. Once you’re ready to roast, pull it from the fridge 30 to 60 minutes before cooking.
  2. If you want a proper recipe, Ina Garten has a good one. Skip the salt if you’ve dry-brined the bird. I also add 3/4 cup white wine or chicken broth to the roasting pan.
  3. I like to roast a turkey breast at 325 degrees F and pull it from the oven when an instant read thermometer registers 150 degrees in several places. Most recipes recommend cooking turkey to 165 degrees, but I find that results in an overcooked bird. The internal temperature will continue to rise once it’s out of the oven, so if you let your turkey rest, you will get to a safe temperature by dinner time.
  4. Cover the cooked turkey with foil and rest for 30 minutes before carving. Serve with pan juices or turn those drippings into gravy. If you’re looking for a quick cranberry sauce, this one fits the bill. Just cut the recipe in half for a smaller group.

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes & Cauliflower

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower

This is a lighter kind of mash, which might be welcome given how heavy Thanksgiving dinner can be. For a more traditional recipe, this one is pretty fabulous, too.

Honey-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

honey glazed sweet potatoes

I’m crazy about these sweet/tangy potatoes with just a hit of heat. You can prep everything ahead of time. Just pop the sweet potatoes in the oven about a half hour before dinner.

Arugula, Delicata Squash, and Pomegranate Salad

This is the latest in a whole line-up of seasonal salads that would work for Thanksgiving dinner. You might also like this Cabbage and Apple Slaw, this Persimmon and Pomegranate recipe, or this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad.

Dessert

Rustic Apple and Walnut Tart

Rustic Apple Walnut Tart

I created this recipe precisely for this holiday season…to share something supremely simple for your table. You might also like this Cran-Raspberry Pecan Tart or this Persimmon Pudding Cake. If you’re firmly committed to pumpkin, I recently made these Pumpkin Pie Bars and they are worth repeating.

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