Smaller groups allow for a more interesting menu
Be daring and add a seriously spicy dish. Pickles and relishes like piccalilli or chutney add a puckery note.
Most Thanksgiving recipes are tailored for eight to 12 guests. But what if you’re having 25?
Roasting two whole turkeys at the same time demands a giant oven. Carving those birds is a daunting task requiring at least several helpers if you want to get the meat onto the table while it’s still hot.
Instead, try roasting one bird to use as your centerpiece for the big Norman Rockwell moment (get your cameras ready), while simultaneously roasting a tray of turkey parts on a separate rack underneath. The parts cook quickly, are incredibly easy to carve, and you can let your guests choose which they like best, eliminating any fights over dark meat or white.
Think of it as the Thanksgiving analogue to the wedding-cake trick: At large affairs, there’s always one tiered cake done up for show, and several other plain sheet pans full of cake that are easy for the caterers to slice and quickly serve.
For a smaller group – say, closer to eight people – count yourself lucky.
You get to make a much more interesting meal. Since you don’t have to cook in bulk, try out recipes that are a little more creative than classic. Have a guest bring the mashed potatoes, so you can make a sweet potato gratin instead. Buy some puff pastry and play around with it to make cheese straws, pumpkin turnovers or an apple tarte Tatin.
Roast a turkey breast and use the extra oven space to bake a dressing that’s new to you. Take the opportunity to fuss over the table and the guests a little more than usual.
It’s not easy to please everyone in a country where those who insist on a hard-core traditional Thanksgiving meal and those who flirt each year with different dishes are more polarized than Republicans and Democrats. It is possible for one cook to satisfy both camps, but it requires some ingenuity. Adding new ingredients to the old favorites is not the way; instead, add one or more new dishes to perennials on the table, and make sure they have modern, fresh flavors. Here’s how to proceed.
Glazing a turkey with pomegranate or rubbing it with chipotle won’t change anyone’s mind; people either like turkey or they don’t. Adding celery root, Cheddar and the like to the classic mashed potatoes is risky. These days, plain, buttery, homemade mashed potatoes are a treat that everyone seems to look forward to.
It doesn’t have to be onions. Also have a jellied cranberry sauce (canned is fine), so the reactionaries will be happy. can add a welcome note of surprise to an all-too-familiar menu.
Don’t stray too far from the essentials: turkey, dressing, a cranberry sauce, potatoes, gravy and a vegetable of some kind. To tamp down any anxiety about multitasking, think of yourself as making a simple roast chicken dinner with a couple of extra sides. There is no need to bake a pie. Ask someone to bring one, or buy a good one the day before the feast.
The highest-impact change you can make to Thanksgiving dinner may be mastering a new recipe for turkey. But because smoking, spatchcocking and deepfrying all require at least one test run, here are some alternatives: a more sophisticated vegetable side, a fancier pie crust or a snappy modern touch like an herb salad.
A note on special diets:
For a group with many dietary restrictions, don’t assume you’ll have to cook separate meals. What you want to do is bring unity to the table and offer as many dishes as possible that everyone can eat and enjoy.
If you’re not going to have a turkey on the table, take care to serve a main dish that has some of the visual and sensory firepower of a roast. Something demonstrably large, like a roasted cauliflower or two, or a platter of stuffed squash is sure to please. Many vegetarians may be happy to fill their plates with all the vegetable side dishes, but you could serve macaroni and cheese and declare that you made it just for them.
You can make a version with meat, and one without. Both could live in harmony. A recipe for stuffing with mushrooms and bacon can be adapted to use gluten-free cornbread. Leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock, and that recipe could also be vegetarian.
Some cooks don’t want to use tempeh, textured vegetable protein or xanthan gum, and that’s fine. Chances are, that vegan gravy recipe with nutritional yeast, mushroom powder and Marmite isn’t half as good as a simple homemade version. Our vegan gravy recipe relies on real mushrooms and can be made well ahead of the big day. 1½hours 6 to 12 servings Here’s a vegetarian dinner of impressive size and heft. You could use small sugar pumpkins, or any sweet-fleshed winter squash, but delicata squash is our favorite for reasons of taste and beauty.
1. Cut 1 inch off the top and bottom of each squash. Use a melon baller or small spoon to scrape out the seeds. Sprinkle the inside of the squash with salt and pepper, then stand them upright on an oiled baking sheet.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. When it foams, add onions to pan and saute, stirring often, until they begin to soften and turn translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add kale to pan and continue to cook, tossing, until kale begins to wilt, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and put vegetables in a large bowl.
3. Place bread cubes on a sheet pan and toast in the oven until they begin to crisp, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add bread cubes to the bowl with the vegetables, and add blue cheese and cranberries. Stir to combine.
4. Put pecans in a dry saute pan set over medium heat and toast until nuts begin to darken and turn fragrant, about 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in maple syrup and cook for 1 minute, then scrape into the bowl with the rest of the stuffing and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
5. Lower oven temperature to 400 degrees. Divide stuffing among the squash. Cut remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 6 pieces, and top each squash with a dot of butter. Roast squash until you can easily pierce it with a fork, about 45 minutes. If squash is browning too quickly, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over it.
6. Sprinkle parsley over the squash. Serve 1 whole squash per person as a main course, or ½squashorlessasasidedish. 30 minutes 3½cups This vegan gravy features caramelized mushrooms and a little soy sauce for depth of flavor. You can simmer the gravy up to five days ahead and store it in the fridge. Reheat just before serving.
1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in vegetable stock, a little at a time, until a smooth sauce forms. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes until thickened. Season with soy sauce, salt and pepper. Serve as is, or pass it through a fine mesh strainer.