Thanksgiving dinner can seem intimidating to a novice cook. It’s not often that a civilian is asked to knock out a long succession of dishes, including a giant bird, for a crowd with fixed ideas of how it should all be done.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. I set out to devise a scaled-down menu for beginners — or anyone who wants to achieve the same flavor touchstones without doing more work than necessary.
Most dishes can only be prepared with a large skillet and a sheet of pan. Everything cooks at one temperature — 350 degrees — so you’re not performing mental or physical gymnastics with the oven.
These recipes only require a few essential ingredients. Many of them are shared across the menu. Forget the fresh herbs — they’re just one more thing you’d have to wash. Instead, use a single dried herb (oregano thyme, sage, oregano are all fine options) to create a flavor element throughout the meal.
Avoid last-minute cooking sprints. Much of this menu can, and should, be made the day before, when you’re less stressed. It should take between three and four hours. Put on a podcast, get comfortable and enjoy the cooking. Thanksgiving Day is not the day to roast the turkey.
A bone-in turkey breast takes less time than a whole bird and can still be cooked quickly enough to feed a large crowd. I like to roast my turkey in the same way as I roast my chicken. Butter is poured over the turkey and then it’s seasoned with salt and pepper. Then, it’s baked in a moderately high oven until crispy.
The last thing you want to do on Thanksgiving Day is rush just before dinnertime to make gravy from the turkey’s hot pan drippings. This version can be made ahead using a base of caramelized onions and nutritional yeast as an umami enhancer. It adds depth and nuance to the dish.
Although they might seem out of place for Thanksgiving, the red-sauce flavors in pizza work wonderfully with custardy stuffing and cheese. This comforting dish features tomato paste and dried Oregano, which are infused in buttery onions. Shredded mozzarella gives it an ivory sheen, and melts in spots.
There’s no reason we can’t treat sweet potatoes like regular potatoes — mashed with butter, cream, roasted garlic and lots of salt. Baking sweet potatoes in the oven instead of in large pots with boiling water is not only a more efficient way to cook them, but it also enhances their flavor.
Snappy green beans can be combined with canned artichokes and radicchio to make a beautiful salad. This zesty side dish requires only a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a powerful spritz of lemon.
Cranberry-and-orange relish is a classic, but here, a whole lemon — pith and all — acts as the bitter, acerbic edge that your Thanksgiving plate needs. This condiment looks almost like stained glass with its ruby-red gleam.
This pudding’s unique delight lies in its soft, velvety texture after it has been chilled in the fridge overnight. As time passes, the layers become cohesive: vanilla cookies, caramel-fried apple slices, and salted cinnamon cream. It’s a dreamy fall dessert in its most airy form.
Source: NY Times