Turkey breasts are the most obvious option for those who enjoy the traditional holiday, but do not necessarily need 10 pounds of meat for two or four people at the table. However, if the idea of not eating a turkey doesn’t ruin your feathers, let yourself down. You just don’t have to serve it!
As a food specialist who could personally take less care of the bird, I have spent the last few years serving anything but a whole turkey at my Thanksgiving dinners.
This is a highly adaptable dish that can serve a crowd or just a few people – and you don’t feel like you have to stick to a turkey or even a chicken. A vegetarian pie stuffed with vegetables such as potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, corn and peppers can be just as exciting and filling.
Stuffed peppers are for dinners during the week – stuffed pumpkins are showcases for Thanksgiving! The smaller squash varieties make a great individual presentation that would overshadow the turkey, even if it is on the table.
Cut the tops of round pumpkins, such as carnival or acorns, or cut the elongated pumpkins in half as delicacies in length, then remove the seeds and tough entrails.
Stews for main course
As someone who believes that stuffing is the cause of the season, I’m here to say that it’s not very difficult to translate this classic Thanksgiving helper into a main course.
Think of it as a spicy bread pudding, rather than a plain side, with additives for ingredients that increase its potential for a basic meal with even more flavor. Like stuffed pumpkins, you can take a casserole stuffing in almost any direction.
In many Italian American families, a plate of lasagna is a traditional appetizer or side dish along with the more widely accepted holiday dishes. But why not reverse the script and make lasagna the main attraction with a twist of Thanksgiving?
Happy Easter or Easter
If your favorite holiday meal is Easter or Easter, there is no food law that says you should only eat it once a year. The traditional ham or breast, which is central to these big holidays, can easily make its way to Thanksgiving.
Each of these large baked cuts goes well with the usual Thanksgiving party list, from mashed potatoes to green bean casserole to baked sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.
So, if you have a favorite family recipe for breasts or rather prefer ham, make this dish for yourself.
Mac and cheese
Listen to me. When prepared from scratch, poppy seeds and cheese are a dish of indulgence even on an ordinary day. But if you have the opportunity to make it more special, why not go all the way?
Bake a pasta casserole with cheese with real dairy products and crispy breadcrumbs, then pour it with something even more degrading, like fried onions – hey, if they are good enough for green beans, be sure it will be great here. Or go southern style with pork or breast.
In fact, the breast poppy and cheese is what my husband and I will have on our Thanksgiving Day this year. At a time when all bets are off, why not go for the convenient food you love the most?
Casey Barber is a food writer, photographer and illustrator; the author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on a Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratches: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Treats”; and editor of the Good website. Food. Stories.