I have never made up my own Thanksgiving recipes, I'll be honest. For such a big food day, I have always left it up to the pros. That being said, I have tried SO MANY recipes on Thanksgiving and it has truly been awesome! And while most people are of the school of thought that you never try a recipe for the first time when you'll be entertaining, I highly disagree - and so does my mom!
So today I am sharing with you my absolute favorite recipes that I have collected over the years, and a few I might try out this year. Just in case you are still finalizing your holiday menu. After all, I'm basically finalizing mine by writing this. Except for champagne, that is always on the menu.
I have tried so many turkeys over the 15+ years I've been making Thanksgiving dinner. Stuffed bird, citrus bird, pomegranate bird, a bearnaise bird (yum), one year we even put the stuffing under the skin of the bird! But I made this turkey last year and it was the best one I had ever made. The meat was juicy and the skin was crispy and kind of salty-sweet. So good!
Psst...BI-LO has frozen turkeys for 39 cents/pound right now! I got a 15-pounder for $5 last night.
Cooking Light Lemon-Thyme Turkey
This is the dressing I swear by. I could probably make it in my sleep. It's the perfect texture, balancing between crunchy and creamy, and is the perfect background for really any turkey you make. I think I'm going to make this in the crockpot this year, to save oven space.
And I just use regular Italian seasoning instead of finding Italian dressing mix, since I already have it in my pantry.
My Uncle Darryl usually makes the gravy, or at least, he makes one of the gravies. I never used to make it because he made giblet gravy and I didn't want any part of that. But then I realized I didn't have to include giblets and I was all in.
I don't have a recipe I follow for gravy, actually. When I take the turkey out of the roasting pan to rest, I pour the pan drippings into a fat separator (I like the one linked below), and let everything settle. Then I set the roasting pan on the stove - it will take up the space of two burners - add enough grease back into the pan so it equals about 1/4 cup grease, then whisk in 1/4 cup flour. Keep whisking, scraping up the bits on the pan, until it turns a pretty golden color. Whisk in a cup of the reserved pan drippings (not the fat!), and a cup of low-sodium chicken or turkey stock. Keep whisking until thick and smooth, then pour into a gravy boat.
If you make the turkey I linked above, the gravy may be a little on the salty side, so just taste as you go, and if it's too salty, add a little water - it won't dilute the flavor, just mellow out the salt.
These mashed potatoes are so good and so easy, I actually make them all the time. I don't bake them when they're finished, I just make them towards the end of cook time for the turkey and other sides, and put the lid on the pot. That keeps them warm enough. Oh! And I don't normally peel the potatoes, because the skin is so thin on Yukon gold potatoes that no one minds. This recipe makes A LOT of mashed potatoes, so I'll probably cut it in half since I'm only feeding 6 people this year.
I'm also of the mind that you only need one potato dish. So I don't usually make a sweet potato dish unless asked. Last year, I made these, and TBH, they were more hassle than I thought they'd be but everyone else loved them: Cooking Light Sweet Potato Stacks with Sage Browned Butter.
Martha knows what's up. This dish is so easy to make, it's usually what I work on as we pull everything out of the oven and carve the turkey. It has never taken me 45 minutes to make, especially if we have leftover bacon from breakfast (normally unheard of, but if I know it's going to save me time later, I'll refrain) and pre-shredded brussels sprouts.
Martha Stewart's Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
Recipes I Want to Try This Year
Mac and Cheese
My little sister normally takes the reigns on mac and cheese on Thanksgiving, since I can take it or leave it. ON THANKSGIVING ONLY PEOPLE, CALM DOWN! But, she won't be able to come this year (sad) and I was considering not making any until Ryan requested something cheesy on the table. Luckily, Southern Living has my back. In their Thanksgiving issue this year, they included their Best-Ever Macaroni and Cheese, along with two variations: Roasted Broccoli Mac and Cheese, and Herbed Breadcrumb-Topped Macaroni and Cheese.
I think I'll pick the Best-Ever or the Herbed Breadcrumb version, because I don't want to step on my Uncle Darryl's toes broccoli-wise. He makes the best broccoli casserole, aka cheese casserole with a little broccoli. Which mac and cheese would y'all try?
A Festive Appetizer
I saw Valerie Bertinelli make this Cream Cheese Log with Sweet-and-Spicy Cranberry Relish on her Food Network show last Saturday and it looked like a super easy and super flavorful appetizer that I could make a day ahead. Except I'll be omitting the green onions because, gross.
I also requested my mom make Roquefort grapes this year - mix room-temperature Roquefort cheese (or blue cheese) with a little room-temperature cream cheese, then mold around cold green grapes, and roll in toasted crushed walnuts or pecans. Easy, flavorful, tangy, and crunchy.
An Interesting Take on Salad
You didn't think this would be a recipe list without a Giada recipe, did you? She has a ton of great holiday themed recipes, but this is the one that stood out to me this year. Okay, it's technically a pastry, but I feel like the arugula on top makes it a salad. Kind of? Just let me have it. Either way, I'm going to make her Savory Butternut Squash Crostata, but I'm going to sub shallots for red onions because I don't love a strong onion flavor (see above).
I don't normally make a dessert for Thanksgiving. I either leave it up to someone else (my sister or her boyfriend) or consider the wine my dessert. But I saw Trisha Yearwood make this Lemon Pecan Slab Pie on The Kitchen last weekend and based on Jeff and GZ's reactions alone, I knew it would be amazing. See, I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I do love pie crust, and since this is a slab pie, there is lots of crust. And it seems like the lemon really makes the flavors pop. Plus, it looks relatively easy. I'll just throw this in the oven when everything else comes out and it will be done by the time we're done eating!
I am so excited for my favorite holiday - lots of delicious food and most importantly, spending time with my family. I hope you add one or more of these to your menu this year - and stay tuned for a great idea for leftovers inspired by my pre-teen self coming next week!
What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Comment below!
Food that maximizes flavor and minimizes effort and time.