We’ve talked about how to cook Thanksgiving dinner for two people. We’ve talked about how to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd of ten people or more. Not to sound like Goldilocks or anything, but how do you cook for a group of people that’s just right?
This menu is actually the closest I’m going to get to my actual Thanksgiving menu, which I’m cooking for four people and maybe a few others who will drop in for drinks, dessert and to eat our leftover potatoes. What do you do when you’re planning a dinner for an ambiguous number of people? Well, I know that I, for one, will make way too much food so that we can eat Thanksgiving dinner at least three times.
Thanksgiving dinner leftovers are the best leftovers you’ll have all year, so take any leftovers needs — loaded turkey sandwiches, turkey noodle soup, turkey quesadillas…and so on — into consideration when you order your turkey by the pound.
We’re inviting our friends to come over around 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. with the expectation that we’ll have dinner around 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. This means we’ll need to keep something on hand to keep the group from getting too tipsy before it’s time to cut the big bird.
Appetizers. I think we often overlook that for Thanksgiving, because we want everyone to be hungry for the big meal. BUT … have a couple at the ready in case your perfect plans get off schedule, the turkey’s taking too long or someone is running late. Just a couple of light apps keep everyone happily munching and keep the party vibe rolling along, so you don’t have to panic. You buy yourself a little time! -Shelley Fulton
When creating my menu, I opted for simple this year. I preordered a fresh turkey from the big W-F so that we don’t have to make room for the bird to thaw in the refrigerator for three days. I’m making super simple mashed potatoes with butter, cream and a little creme fraîche, stuffing in a slow cooker, a sweet potato and apple casserole, corn casserole and an orange cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries.
Our friends are bringing a green bean casserole — it’s always nice to have one green vegetable for guilt appeasement — and we ordered biscuits, along with an apple and pumpkin pie from Bang Bang Pie, a gourmet pie shop here in Chicago. As tempted as I am to do something creative with brussels sprouts or butternut squash, I know that I can manage my menu as it is now if I keep it simple.
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast (recipe below) or Herb-Roasted Turkey
Wild Mushroom Turkey Gravy
Mashed Potatoes with Creme Fraîche
Classic Slow Cooker Stuffing
Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole
Perfect Cranberry Sauce
I do plan to play bartender and whip up a batch of a signature cocktail, though I haven’t decided for sure yet what that will be.
Even so, we have a well-stocked bar at home for entertaining, so we’ll have the usual suspects too: gin and tonics (my boyfriend’s favorite), a few different wines to pair with the meal and maybes some hard cider (we’ve been enjoying Crispin Cider after the brand was kind enough to send us some to try).
Until I can make up my mind, pick your favorite mulled drink and whip up a batch to keep warm in the crock pot for guests to sip throughout the afternoon and evening.
The Grocery List
I’ve been reading again and again how important it is to actually write out grocery lists, even if you’re usually a fly by the seat kinda gal. Which, I am when it comes to grocery shopping, as my boyfriend and my budget can attest.
Before I decided to order a fresh turkey, I considered doing a turkey breast for simplicity sake. I decided to take a small (three and a half pound) bone-in turkey breast for a test drive and what I discovered? Turkey is a delicious and simple dinner, Thanksgiving or not. My three pound turkey was perfect for two or three people so if you’re serving six, opt for the six to eight pounder.
Instead of roasting the turkey in a roasting pan as the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe suggested, I used my KitchenAid Professional Cast Iron 4-Quart Casserole, which is available in a variety of colors in both four and six quart sizes. It’s sturdy and versatile, great for high temperature cooking on the stove or in the oven, and the lid doubles as a grill pan, which is pretty much my favorite thing ever because I love a good two-in-one appliance. The porcelain enamel interior coating doesn’t require seasoning the way most cast iron pans do, so it’s super convenient and easy to use, which is definitely a big plus on the biggest cooking holiday of the year.
In the name of simplicity, a super simple blend of herbs and spices, olive oil and garlic is a perfect, simple seasoning for the big bird, even if said big bird is a little on the smaller side this year.
- 1 whole bone-in turkey breast (6½ to 7 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, mustard, rosemary, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
- Place the turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan, skin side up. Rub the mixture evenly all over the skin of the turkey breast and underneath any loose skin, directly on the meat. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.
- Roast the turkey for about 1½ to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest area of the turkey breast. If the turkey appears to be over browning, cover it with a foil tent.
- When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers for up to three days.