There are certain expectations when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. The traditional turkey is always present in most American tables on this night, together with the appetizers and side dishes that are usually served during this holiday. While there is no law against serving other dishes on Thanksgiving, traditional dishes make the holiday all the more special if only for the comforting feeling that they bring.
If you think about it though, the first Thanksgiving dinner was probably as different from today’s Thanksgiving dinners as the sun is different from the moon. Chances are that they didn’t instinctively think about serving turkey with the mandatory cranberry sauce on the side. What you do decide to eat on Thanksgiving depends entirely on you and your family’s preferences, but we’re here to help you out.
Still thinking about what to eat on Thanksgiving? Why not take a look at what we’ve prepared for you: a good mix of traditional and not-so-traditional Thanksgiving dishes.
It’s Not Called Turkey Day for Nothing!
Like it or not, turkey is an essential part of Thanksgiving dinner. Try asking anyone what to eat on Thanksgiving, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that turkey will be in there somewhere. There are a thousand and one ways to make Thanksgiving turkey, but one of the most popular recipes out there can be attributed to the famed celebrity chef Alton Brown. If you want to deviate from your usual turkey recipe this year, give this one a shot, and you just might have a new favorite. Here’s how to make Alton Brown’s Turkey with Stuffing.1
- 1 (10 to 12-pound) turkey, with giblets removed
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 2 ounces dried mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for rubbing on turkey
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning turkey
- 3 cups Challah bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (from approximately 4 to 5 slices)
- 4 ounces unsweetened dried cherries, approximately 1 cup
- 2 ounces chopped pecans, approximately 1/2 cup
- 2 whole eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning chicken
- Special equipment: 1 re-usable organic cotton produce bag*
*Cook’s Note: The bag is optional. Once the stuffing is made, you can place the stuffing into the bag and then place the bag into the cavity of the turkey.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place the turkey into a deep, high-sided bowl on its end with the stuffing end up. Set aside.
- Heat the chicken broth in the microwave in a large microwave-proof container. Place mushrooms in a glass bowl and pour heated broth over them. Cover and allow to sit for 35 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl toss the onion, celery, and green pepper with the oil and salt. Place the vegetables on a sheet pan and roast for 35 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, spread the cubed bread over the vegetables, return to the oven, and continue cooking.
- Drain mushrooms, reserving 1 cup of liquid. Chop the mushrooms and place in a large microwave-proof bowl with the vegetables and bread, reserved chicken stock, cherries, pecans, eggs, sage, parsley and black pepper. Stir well in order to break up pieces of bread. Use your hands to combine, if necessary. Heat the stuffing in a microwave on high power for 6 minutes.
- While the stuffing is heating, rub the bird with oil. Working quickly, place the stuffing into the cavity of the turkey to avoid losing heat. Place the turkey into a roasting pan, on a rack, and season with salt and pepper. Place the roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven. Roast for 45 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and cook for another 60 to 75 minutes or until the bird reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. Serve immediately.
This recipe will take you 3 hours and 15 minutes from start to finish and yields four to six servings, depending on your appetites.
If you want to make use of that wonderful invention called the slow cooker, here is a recipe for Slow Cooker Thanksgiving Turkey. Here’s a plus: the recipe uses bacon! If you are most concerned about how juicy your turkey will turn out, this recipe will take care of your fears: Juicy Thanksgiving Turkey.
If Thanksgiving dinner is not going to be a full blown affair, you might want to opt for cooking only parts of a turkey and not the whole bird. After all, what would you do with the carcass if you have too much left over? Here are some wonderful ideas:
- Best Brined Turkey Breast
- Smoked Turkey Breast with Apricot Mustard
- Honey-Glazed Turkey Breast with Roasted Pineapple
There’s Got to Be Gravy and Cranberry Sauce!
We’ve already covered Thanksgiving side dishes, but there are two special side dishes that have to be in the menu if you are serving turkey. Whether you’re looking at devouring an entire bird, or you are going the simple route with turkey breast, gravy and cranberry sauce will complete the meal.
GravyI have a confession to make. I am somewhat addicted to gravy. Whether I am eating chicken, pork chops, roast beef, or turkey, I want tons of gravy poured onto my meat. It’s not the healthiest thing, I know, but good gravy is difficult to resist!
The operative word here is “good”. Come Thanksgiving, you may have the best roast turkey in the neighborhood, but wouldn’t it be much better if you had the best gravy to go with it as well?
Making gravy does not have to be difficult, so why not give this Rich Turkey Gravy recipe a try? In 20 minutes, you will have a nice complement to your meat. If you are willing to spend more time and effort to make a much better mix, this Herbed Pan Gravy will not disappoint anyone at the table. Last, if you’ve got serious dieters coming over for Thanksgiving dinner, you might want to consider making Healthified Gravy instead. With only 20 calories, one can drink the gravy if one wishes to do so!
Cranberry SauceCranberry sauce is another staple answer when someone asks what to eat on Thanksgiving, and rightly so. For many who have grown up celebrating Thanksgiving all their lives, it just isn’t the same without cranberry sauce. I could be wrong, but this is the simplest way to make Homemade Cranberry Sauce.
If, however, you want to spice things up a bit, there are so many other ways to make cranberry sauce that will tickle everyone’s tastebuds. For starters, why not add a little jalapeno kick? This recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Jalapeno Peppers will give you that, and maybe something more.
I am a big fan of port, the sweet wine that hails from Portugal, and I have found that it has a lot of uses in the kitchen. To add a different dimension to your cranberry sauce, use a little port and throw in some banana peppers as well. Here’s how to make Cranberry Port Sauce With Banana Peppers.
Did someone say dessert? I know people who prefer not to have dessert, but I am one of those who just can’t say no, especially if what is being offered is a personal favorite. Then again, I love most desserts, so guess who always ends up eating sweets after a meal?
Make sure you have a sweet end to your Thanksgiving dinner by serving the best dessert/s you can come up with. First up, we have the classic Pumpkin Pie. This is a no fail Thanksgiving dessert, but if you want to up the ante, here is something more challenging which produces more amazing results as well: Pumpkin Pie with White Chocolate Whipped Cream. It’s not only the recipe name that is a mouthful, trust me!
Don’t feel like making pie? How about pudding? This Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce serves 16 people and is relatively easy to make.
Want something even easier? Delight your mousse-loving guests with this Pumpkin Pie Mousse with Toasted Pecans.
You can also go the healthy way by serving something that isn’t too rich. I like the idea of sorbet after a heavy meal, and since you’re probably already working with cranberry, Cranberry-Port Sorbet is a good idea for dessert. I told you I like port, didn’t I? Alternatively, you can use apple cider with cranberry.
What to Eat on Thanksgiving Menu
Here’s a sample menu to help you visualize what to eat on Thanksgiving.
Don’t forget – you can create your own menus and share them with your friends!
Whatever you decide to serve on Thanksgiving, I hope that you remember what counts most: a grateful heart shared with the people you love and care for!