TheTaste Guide to a Thanksgiving Dinner at Home

If, like many cooks, you’re not quite ready for C word just yet, may I interest you in the T word? Thanksgiving to me seems like the ideal opportunity to have a little celebration meal coordination practice run, get in a festive mood and practice your turkey tactics.

Given the year we have all had, it seems justified to latch on to any and all reason to celebrate with good friends and great food. Let us be thankful that we can share a delicious feast together, with or without any connection to the States.

If on the other hand you want to jump on the bandwagon without committing to the full Turkey Day feast, check out our top picks of Stateside treats available here in Ireland to mark the occasion.   

Starter:

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

An all-American appetiser I have imported to my own kitchen, Artichoke and Spinach Dip is a cross between a baked Camembert and creamed spinach with all the ooze you could ever want. This simple but ever so indulgent starter can be made in one big batch and served in individual bowls/ramekins for Covid friendly dipping. 

Serve with all manner of dunkables: crudités like carrots and radishes, apple or pear slices, seeded crackers, sliced sourdough…the list goes on and you can build a stunning starter centrepiece mixing and matching all of these dippers. If feeling extra industrious, serve the dip with these fabulously festive Pumpkin Bread Rolls.

Pumpkin Soup

If you would prefer something easy to make ahead and reheat on the day, this silky and luscious Maple Roasted Pumpkin Soup recipe from Soulful and Healthy would be ideal. This gives you the option of a more formal sit down starter and opens up the possibility of lovely leftover soup to serve with your obligatory day after sandwich.

Main Course

Roast Turkey

It really wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a golden roast turkey to be grateful for, not least for the leftovers. This straightforward, buttery and delicious Roast Turkey recipe from Avoca, as with only a few weeks to Christmas, our desire to brine and preen a big fancy bird may be limited.

If you’re not feeding a large crowd, this Turkey Crown recipe from Neven Maguire is the perfect small scale centrepiece for your Thanksgiving celebration. This recipe comes complete with the kind of classic, white sliced pan-based stuffing we know and love on this side of the Atlantic, whereas our American cousins are more inclined towards a cornbread-based version. I won’t be swayed on the superiority of sage and onion stuffing alongside turkey.

Gravy

Festive season life hack: get cracking on Jamie Oliver’s genius Get Ahead Gravy for the last Thursday in November, make a double batch and freeze half for Christmas dinner. This foolproof recipe uses chicken wings to achieve fantastic depth of flavour with none of the fuss. Your future self will thank you for whipping this up come December 25th, as will your Thanksgiving guests.

Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole has been the ubiquitous veggie side on Thanksgiving tables across America since the 1960’s. Although traditionally made with Campbell’s Mushroom Soup as the base, you can make a tasty version from scratch with ease. 

Cook a large bunch of green beans in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 mins, remove and add to a bowl of iced water. In a pan with a good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil, fry 300g of sliced chestnut or portobello mushrooms until browned and slightly caramelised, add a clove of garlic and some dried thyme along with a dash of white wine and cook for a further minute. 

Remove from the pan and add another knob of butter, swirl to melt and then add a tablespoon of flour to make a roux. Cook for 3-4 minutes until golden, then pour in 150ml full fat milk and 125ml cream, whisking until smooth and thick. At this stage, you could add some grated cheese to taste if desired (cheddar, parmesan or gruyere perhaps) but to keep it traditional, omit and let the rich mushroom flavour shine through. Season with salt and pepper, pour over the blanched beans and mushroom mix in a casserole dish and bake at 180c for 25 minutes until bubbling and golden. 

The final flourish for a classic green bean casserole is a topping of crispy onions, the kind you can buy in a drum at the supermarket. Sprinkle a generous layer, pop back in the oven for 5 minutes and then you are ready to serve.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Dried cranberry, Bacon and Pecans 

Let’s steer clear of the pitfall of soggy boiled sprouts and go straight for delicious caramelisation with a sheet pan roast of Brussels sprouts, carrots, pecans and dried cranberries.

Slice carrots into batons, trim Brussels sprouts and par boil both for 5 minutes. Drain well and pour on a baking sheet, then sprinkle with thick cut lardons, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, add fresh thyme if desired. Roast at 180c for 20 minutes, shake up and add a handful each of pecans and dried cranberries and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Customary Sweet Potato Side Dish 

You’ll no doubt have spotted a sweet potato casserole dotted with mini white marshmallows on TV Thanksgivings over the years. However, I feel like strict obligations to tradition have been met with the green bean creation, so we could sensibly swerve serving marshmallows with our main. We still want something with a little sweetness to contrast with the richness of the casserole and buttery turkey, so instead serve up a buttery sweet potato mash spiked with pumpkin spice. 

If no roast dinner is complete without the humble spud, this Potato, Kale and Pumpkin Gratin by Blazing Salads is all kinds of oozing deliciousness and would also work with sweet potatoes in place of pumpkin, or a mix of both.

Cranberry sauce

An absolute must have, this homemade Cranberry Sauce from the Fruit on the Table Cookbook is simple and oh so versatile. Bonus points for making a big old batch of it so you have a couple of jars ready for Christmas, as it keeps for up to 2 months. Double bonus points if you add a nice glug of ruby Port for extra indulgence.

Dessert

Even the words Pecan Pie evoke the irresistible scent of toasty deliciousness that fills the air while this beauty of a dessert bakes and it is a must on your Thanksgiving menu. Gareth Mullins would never steer you wrong on the recipe front, and the only tweak I make to this sublime slice of nutty heaven is to spike it with bourbon (for which we have the USA to thank), adding at the same time as the vanilla. 

If like me you feel your dessert spread must always include chocolate, makeup for skipping the marshmallows for mains and pay homage to the All-American classic campfire treat with this divine Smore Cheesecake from the Made in the USA Cookbook.

Leftovers

One of the main reasons I personally am tempted to jump on the Thanksgiving celebration train is the prospect of lots of leftovers for the days after. 

Make that turkey work overtime for you, embrace your inner Ross Gellar and craft a Thanksgiving Sandwich worth obsessing over. 

Of course, turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce are all happy bedfellows in a festive sandwich, but the key here is a gravy soaked middle slice, the “Moist Maker”. For me personally, the addition of other trimmings like finely sliced Brussels sprouts makes this even better, like a faux slaw with a little bit of mayo. Pure filth, in the best possible way.

If you fancy something a little lighter but still seriously satisfying after all that pecan pie, try Siúcra’s Warm Turkey Salad with lovely pickled cranberries which are fantastic on a cheeseboard too.

WRITTEN BY DARINA COFFEY

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