Thanksgiving 2011

Crunch time. Like many of you, I am planning Thanksgiving dinner. For me, Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday: secular, food-centric and followed by 3 days of no work! I thought it would be a good idea to check in and see what you all were planning on cooking. I hope we might be able to inspire each other and get energized for the big day.

A few weeks ago Nuala, a reader, wrote to me about menu planning. Nuala is determined to make this the Best Thanksgiving Ever. I was blown away by what she had planned and so she very kindly agreed to share her menu with all of us. It is incredibly impressive (I added links to recipes when I had them):


Early afternoon nibbles:
Concord Grape Sparklers (NY Times)
Baked Ricotta and Goat cheese with Candied Tomatoes (
Nuts, egmented citrus fruits, figs, and  dates

To start:
Pear Manchego Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette and Pumpkin Seeds (
Sweet Potato Soup with Feta and Za’atar Oil

Smoked Turkey with Madeira Orange Gravy (Steve Raichlen)
Traditional Stuffing
Butternut Squash Puree with Crispy Shallots
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Brown Butter (Michael Ruhlman)
Brussels sprouts with Roasted Fennel and Cider Cream (
Kale with Pancetta and Toasted Rosemary Walnuts (

White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Cranberry Mousse and Cranberry Gelee (adapted from
Chocolate Eclairs (Pierre Herme)
Gingerbread-Ginger Ice Cream Sandwiches with Caramel Blood Oranges (Claudia Fleming)
Pumpkin Clafoutis with Cream Cheese Ice Cream and Candied Hazelnuts (Claudia Fleming)


Yowzers! That is quite a menu. Before we all start to feel bad about ourselves, Nuala assures me that she has help. But still, WOW.

What about you? What recipes are you excited to try? Anyone else going without turkey this year (I cause controversy with this decision every year)? Tell me everything!

39 comments to “Thanksgiving 2011”

  1. Wow-that is quite a menu! It kind of makes me stand up a little straighter and puts a spring in my step. I better get rollin! Every year I make Martha Stewart’s mushroom stuffing (with my own homemade brioche bread cubes). I like a pureed butternut squash or pumpkin soup at the table. It’s just the husband, me, and our little wiener dog, so I ordered a bone-in turkey breast to roast. Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes are going to make an appearance and I will bake an apple pie. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. No turkey for me, but my family will definitely be making one. (And they will invariably offer me some and laugh at how funny it is to offer turkey to a vegetarian. Several times) I’ve been trying to decide what to make for my vegetarian entree- maybe roasted cauliflower or a tofu steak? I usually make some kind of soup but I figure there’s already so much going on in the kitchen I want to keep it simple.

  3. What a menu!

    This is my all time favorite Thanksgiving cake: Sweet Potato Cake With Rum-Plumped Raisins and a Spiked Glaze ( Instead of using raisins I go with dried cranberries (truthfully I will take any opportunity I can to use dried cranberries).

    And just because sweet potato and Thanksgiving make so much sense together, I also love Mark Bittman’s baked sweet potatoes wrapped in prosciutto and sage. (

    Even though I am Canadian when I first stumbled upon the above recipe it was already past Canadian Thanksgiving (normally the beginning of October) so I decided to celebrate American Thanksgiving as well. I mean there is no harm in celebrating Thanksgiving twice, only immense pleasure. Also it gave me an excuse to make Pumpkin Swirl Brownies: They are best served with pumpkin ice cream (just mix together some vanilla ice cream, pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and then freeze until firm).

    Happy Thanksgiving (and thanksgiving feasting)!

  4. This is my first year hosting Thanksgiving. Our family is all spread far apart so it’s just us and 2 other couples who can’t visit their families. I have a young toddler, so to make the holiday easier on myself I decided to host a brunch. So far the menu includes turkey club sandwiches with bacon and cranberry chutney, sweet potato latkes with spiced applesauce, pumpkin bread, autumn fruit salad, and of course coffee and tea. It’s not very traditional but I think it will be beautiful, delicious, and fun!

  5. Good ideas, all!
    Sarah, I think a Thanksgiving brunch sounds awesome and I really love that you are serving club sandwiches. It all sounds great.
    Sasha, That cake sounds delicious!
    Sarah, I always think of Thanksgiving as the best holiday for Vegetarians, because the turkey is usually the least interesting thing on the table. ; )

  6. That is quite the ambitious menu! I’m impressed.

    This year, my boyfriend’s parents are driving up from New York for Thanksgiving. It’s going to be a pretty non-traditional dinner. Since we’re only four, we’re not going to do a turkey. Instead, we’re going with the porchetta from the Tartine Bread cookbook, which looks totally amazing (slow roasted pork shoulder rolled up with an herb stuffing into a log and then pan-seared right before serving). Dessert will be the apple-pie layer cake from Momofuku Milk Bar, which has been super-fun preparing for so far and whose components have been delicious (lots of make-ahead steps that I’ve been tackling over the past couple of days). Sides have yet to be determined.

    Are we going to hear more about your Thanksgiving plans, Tim?

  7. Yowzers! is right… I am particularly intrigued by the Smoked Turkey with Madeira Orange Gravy.
    I think i will stick closely to the menu I prepared a couple of years ago:
    But I am always prone to trying one or more new things.

  8. Tim, I just found your blog–where have I been?! Love it!!

    I came to cooking–at all, let alone Thanksgiving Dinner–later in life, so it’s only been the last five years or so that I’ve taken on this task. My partner is a gifted cook, and up to now I have gotten away with being a somewhat disinterested sous chef. Somehow though the roles have changed a bit and I’ve been doing the majority of the cooking.
    Thanksgiving dinner is completely overwhelming, and I love every minute of it! My standout dish is the yam with sauteed apples dish (a la’ Martha Stewart) that I make every year. It’s a winner. This year my challenge/dilemma is whether to dry brine the turkey via the Zuni Cafe method. I’ve dry brined a chicken before, but god help me with a 22 lb turkey if it doesn’t work. Anyone had success with a bird this big?
    And Nuala’s menu is truly inspired! Thank you for sharing it!
    (Note to self: Google “egmented”)

  9. We spend Thanksgiving with my dh’s dad’s family. They don’t do turkey, but instead smoke ribs. It’s a long standing tradition. My MIL is joining us this year and she’s vegan (totally not understood by good old country folk). My contributions will be to make sure she had things she can eat. My test run on vegan dinner rolls had my hubby snacking on them all night, so now I have 5 doz done. Next up, I’ll be testing an onion tart and vegan dressing. One of them has to work!!

  10. I’m think I’m going to try some things from this year’s Saveur article True Harvest: A Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Autumn Vegetable Patties with the Potato and Rutabaga Gratin, and Honey and Herb Biscuits. And sparkling apple cider!

  11. We’re actually forgoing the cooking for the first time in a VERY long while. I’ll be bringing homemade ice cream (cinnamon plum, vanilla, and pumpkin butter-scotch) for dessert, and throwing together a wild rice & winter squash side dish for sharing.

    But, apparently, I miss needing to produce that infamous Thanksgiving bird. So, we feasted with friends last weekend and had a maple-brined & cherrywood smoked turkey. So good.

  12. I don’t eat anything with feet, so when I cook, my family doesn’t, either. Growing up outside Chicago (now living in SC), we know good pizza. And that’s tough to find in the South. So this year we’re continuing our tradition of making homemade, deep-dish pizza for dinner. My husband is a huge cheesecake fan, so I bake a pumpkin cheesecake (with homemade gingersnap crust). We top it with caramel pudding: (To make: Immerse an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of boiling water–simmer for 2-1/2 hours. Cool on the counter. Open when you’re read to eat!) For breakfast, we always have Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread, from the book “Cranberry Thanksgiving” (originally published 1971).

  13. We’re having a HUGE feast this year. We used to host thanksgiving in Chicago every year for 6-8 of us (all great friends – no family allowed!), but we moved to San Francisco earlier this year and thought we’d end up with less people, but somehow we’ve ended up with 14 this time around (4 of them traveling from the midwest).


    It’s gonna be a great time though. Lots of traditional stuff, some homemade rolls (I used Ruhlman’s recipe on his blog), homemade ice creams, some gluten free goodies for the two GF-ers, and I think we’re up to 7 different pies (2 GF). AND of course, plenty of alcohol and rock band. We never grow up ;). Hope yours is a blast!

  14. These are all great ideas and traditions! You all are better at this than I am. ; )
    ErinAve- that Saveur spread was great and I wanted to make it all.
    Heather- 7 pies?!?!?! Amazing.
    lo- I think a lot of people have an alternate Thanksgiving celebration to spend times with friends or other parts of the family. Probably a good idea to get more than one meal out of this holiday.
    Dawnmarie- I love that vegans are joining you for the ribfest. It is nice of you to take care of them , too.
    Jane- Welcome! I’m glad you found me. I, for one, think the dry brine will work just fine for the turkey.

  15. I am going to be in Orlando, at Universal, eating their terrible food, but your no-turkey comment reminded me that the family friend whose house we often go to on Thanksgiving never ever makes standard mashed potatoes. She’ll make sweet potatoes, or won’t have any potatoes at all. Finally, last year, my brother and dad declared “look, we can’t keep going there if she doesn’t have mashed potatoes, it’s just wrong.” Thus, we brought our own. ;)

    Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  16. I always host an orphan’s Thanksgiving for folks who live far away from their family. There are a lot of us in NYC. I make a turkey, or on a good year convince someone else to make! I just love leftover turkey so much. I make curried turkey pot pie after Thanksgiving and tons and tons of soup stock from the bones. I always make wild mushroom cobbler, because it is amazing and it is a real entree for any vegetarians who might wander into my Thanksgiving by accident. On years that I decide to control the entire menu, I also make a cornbread stuffing with dried cherries, smokey pumpkin soup, brussel sprouts with bacon and a salad with pears, cashews and blue cheese. I usually ask other people to bring yams or mashed potatoes and green beans…and booze. I always make a pear sambuca pie and usually a cranberry raisin pie or an apple rum raisin pie. I posted links to all of my usual recipes last year here…

    Its fun to read about what other people are cooking! Thanks for asking!


  17. that is huge! it would be much fun to attend this…all sounds incredibly delicious. i love the sound of the kale. no thanks giving for us in australia…enjoy! and can’t wait to see some snaps from your montrous feast.

  18. Tim-Love your blog and enjoyed reading everyone’s impressive Thanksgiving menus. I’m still finalizing my menu but two of my “make every year” desserts will be :
    1) Gourmet’s Bourbon Pumpkin Cheescake

    2) Bon Apetit’s Coconut Sweet Potato Cheesecake

    Brenda- I don’t eat anything with feet-hilarious! If only I could give up the little piggy lol:)

    Sara-Not sure which Park you will be visiting in Orlando but if by chance it’s Islands of Adventure, The restaurant Mythos serves amazing food considering it’s in a theme Park.

    So many great ideas. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  19. This is our first year hosting, and we just got back from shopping for it.

    For starters, dried cranberry and provolone tortellini w/pesto, then sage squash soup, then pears w/balsamic reduction, then red onion and gruyere and/or mushroom and goat cheese ‘tamales,’ with roasted brussel sprouts and potatoes au gratin, then a cranberry relish to end.

    For dessert, pumpkin bread pudding w/hot brandy sauce, traditional apple pie, and a chocolate genoise. With caramel ice cream and stracciatella ice cream (the latter being adapted from your recipe, so thanks!).

    We totally agree. A secular holiday that is all about food. Definitely our favorite.

    (and thanks for the invitation to share! we’re very excited, and very glad to tell someone!)

  20. Since I am an American living in Canada, I will be hosting dinner on Saturday (we don’t get Thursday and Friday off) and will invite a mix of Canadian and French friends. I am keeping it pretty traditional this year, but maybe with some twists (buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potato and beet salad with toasted hazelnuts, Dorie Greenspan’s caramel pumpkin pie). I would like to add that the “thankful” part of Thanksgiving will be extra poignant this year…my whole family lives in Reno which is currently being devastated by wildfire. My parents almost lost their house, their neighbor was not so lucky. Many more people are sill in danger, so I will be putting good energy out there for them while recognizing how lucky my family was to escape unharmed.

  21. Erica, Ugh. So sorry to hear about your family/community. That is terrible. Everyone planning a Thanksgiving meal should be thankful for how lucky they are to be doing just that. Also, Dorie’s pumpkin pie is great.
    K & A- that bread pudding sounds amazing!
    LaTonya- Thanks for sharing all of that! Those cheesecakes both look amazing.

  22. I actually wish I were hosting Thanksgiving this year — no one in my extended family is terribly interested in food or holiday traditions, and so it tends to be an incredibly casual affair with self-served whatever on paper plates. Not that the food and the company isn’t generally good, but I would so love to spend one year taking care of everything, hand-crafting a farmers-market fresh meal, setting it out on real china, pouring the wine…

    Sigh. One year, maybe…

  23. I think my guest list sits at about 13. The menu is fairly traditional: roasted brined turkey, sausage/cornbread stuffing, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes with a hint of parsnip, maple-garlic glazed carrots, sautéed brussels sprouts with pancetta, creamed roasted onions (alone worth the price of admission), spicy cranberry chutney. Pie and more pie for dessert: sweet potato (the pumpkin analog), pecan, buttermilk, Mom’s deep-dish apple. I have a few good Vermont cheeses for nibbling before dinner, along with marinated olives and toasted almonds, maybe I’ll put out some fig jam.

    I’ll be boning the turkey (leaving only the leg and thigh bones intact) and roasting it ‘flat’ with herbed butter smeared under the skin. I did this the last time I hosted T-Day dinner and everyone loved the result: breast meat that was moist and succulent and almost fatty, with perfectly bronzed skin. The 18-pound bird cooked in 2.5 hours, and was a breeze to carve.

  24. no turkey–currently (nervously) dry aging $75 worth of prime rib. the apple cider cream pie :) I found on your blog and shamelessly reblogged. brussel sprouts roasted with sweet chili sauce and peanuts in an attempt to recreate a dish I had at my new favorite restaurant : The Monterey in San Antonio. Pumpkin ice cream with 5 spice from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Waiting to cook with my older daughter the second she gets home from college. Making sure we still have stuffing for Sophie—who loved the pie despite the sour cream ;)

  25. Whoa! Nuala is a very serious woman!
    We just relocated from Brooklyn to Denver (though we might be moving back East again…sigh!), so we lost the big family dinner. Lucky for us we’ve been invited to a friend’s family dinner –extended family and kids included– it’s guaranteed to be mayhem. The family is a real meat-and-potatoes kinds of crew, so they’re in charge of the bird and I figured that my annual Tofurkey should be left at home for another time. Im brining Heidi Swanson’s Wild Rice Casserole, Garlic and Butter Mashed Potatoes and, for dessert, Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap and Hazelnut Crust (thanks Saveur).
    The next day we have a post-Thanksgiving Dinner at our place. It’s pot luck and leftovers are welcome. I’ll be making butternut squash bisque shooters with cinnamon maple cream (easy), crusted pumpkin wedges with sour cream (Ottolenghi) and of course, Marlow & Sons’ Chocolate Caramel Tart with sea salt. If I have time I’ll put together some Moroccan Deviled Eggs with Harissa. That’s if I have time…
    Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your first holiday as Mr. & Mr.!

  26. WOW is right…! Looks scrumptious! Esp the Kale with Pancetta and Rosemary nuts….YUM!

    In my teeny tiny kitchen complete with teeny tiny 1940’s oven we are making a Mexican Fiesta! We decided to scrap tradition this year-something I have never done (in this way)!

    So it’s all about Pozole with Braised Pork, Homemade beans and Green Rice, Butter and Shallot Roasted Chicken for Tacos, Guajillo Chile Salsa, Chile Verde and Avocado Serrano Crema, and of course a mess of Tortillas and housemade Chips!
    Ole! and Happy Thanksgiving!

  27. Ginny Lee- that apple cider cream pie is just ridiculous. I am serving it, too.
    Batya- I have been eying that Ottolenghi Pumpkin wedge recipe for months! Please let me know how it is! And happy thanksgiving to you, too!

  28. lechow- That all sounds fantastic. A couple of years ago we did an Italian feast, with turkey lasagna. It was fun, and honestly, nobody missed the traditional meal. Enjoy!

  29. (I think the computer ate my first comment, so here is take two.) In order to understand our Thanksgiving menu, you need to know that I’m Korean and our family is Jewish. For me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides; I could dispense with the turkey except that my family would mutiny. So I am always driving them crazy experimenting with new ways to make the turkey. For this year, I just bought an infrared oil-less turkey fryer/roaster. Wish me luck. The Thanksgiving table is anchored by ten lbs of russet potatoes for mashed potatoes with almost as much butter as Joel Robuchon. I also make cornbread stuffing with fresh cranberries, squash, and pumpkin seeds (recipe iirc from Mark Bittman, published in the NYT), plus a cherry-mint chutney. My mother brings moo sang chae (my favorite kind of kimchi), Korean cucumber salad, and spicy broccoli with soy sauce, garlic, and red pepper flakes. My mother in law brings Martha Stewart’s no cook cranberry relish with jalapeno. My sister in law brings salad and some kind of sweet potatoes. I need to find a new recipe for green beans; last year’s were just “meh”. Our rabbi is bringing his mother’s famous chopped liver, plus two desserts this year (his fabulous apple pie plus a New Orleans bread pudding, for which I need to make creme anglaise). So, this year, I think I am going to cut back and only make one dessert: the chocolate caramel tart with sea salt, because it’s not a festive meal without chocolate!

  30. That menu makes me feel like a slacker. :-( But a recipe we enjoy is Douglas Rodriguez’s Pumpkin Flan found here The recipe says it needs one pound of gingersnaps for the crust, but that’s way too much. Another favorite is Emeril’s Spinach & Artichoke Stuffing

  31. I always make stuffed mushrooms and spinach/stuffing balls for Thanksgiving. I think this year I might try the brussel sprout recipe above, from Food 52.

  32. What a fabulous menu! That is exactly how I’d want to do it if I was hosting. Fortunately/unfortunately, we are still attending family dinners so we have all the old-school menu items. However, this year I’ll add my own flair with a deconstructed green bean casserole and brown sugar buttermilk pie! I’ve already tried both and certainly impressed myself with the results :)

  33. I came across a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Cream Cheese Whipped Cream…to intrigued not to try it with pie. What do you make in lieu of turkey?

  34. Hey Beth, that sounds so good! I always add sour cream to my whipped cream, which maybe is similar- but cream cheese would be creamier. Sounds great. I am making beef this year. Have a happy thanksgiving! xo

  35. Well, since you asked, here is my all veggie, non-traditional Thanksgiving menu!

    -Spiced herbed nuts
    -Cheese board

    -Arugula salad w/ roasted beets, pears, blue cheese, toasted walnuts

    -Quinoa salad w/roasted acorn squash, chanterelles, roasted apple
    -Roasted carrots w/feta and parsley
    -Butternut squash & spinach gratin
    -Braised cannelini beans w/toasted bread crumbs

    Bourbon, chocolate pecan pie

  36. we had a friends thankgiving this weekend and of course the real one is coming up! for us, every holiday meal needs some pies or tarts, so the weekend saw a suzanne goin recipe for caramel nut tart (with macadamias, almonds, pecans, and walnuts) with cognac whipped cream, a bittersweet chocolate meringue pie, and goat cheese cranberry tarts that would have made good appetizers too.

    thursday is going to be so delish! we’ll be doing your chocolate caramel tart, lemon meringue pie, pear hazelnut crumb tart, and your quince and biscuit pie too! super excited.

  37. I’m spending this Thanksgiving alone, so I’m forgoing the turkey and trimmings and trying something new: Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese. Yum! (At least I hope so, since I’ve never made it before.) :-)

  38. David- That sounds like a perfectly decadent choice for a solo celebration. I like it. Happy Thanksgiving!

  39. Whoa! That’s quite a menu. But I’m REALLY jealous of is having help to prepare all the foods I am planning to cook. Nuala’s menu dwarfs mine (and my ego, too) Kidding aside, I would love to be invited to her thanksgiving dinner.

What do you think?