You want an easy Thanksgiving menu – no milling your own grain for complicated, artisan rolls. Because you have people to entertain. Yet, you still want an elegant Thanksgiving menu – no jellied cranberry sauce with the markings of can rings. Because, again, you have people to entertain.
What you need is an easy and elegant Thanksgiving menu. One that takes the stress out of the day by including some make-ahead and some store-bought items; but one that also shows a little bit of fancy. If you don’t show some fancy for Thanksgiving Dinner, then when? If you don’t show some fancy for Thanksgiving Dinner, then when? Click To Tweet
CULINARY TRIGGER WARNING
This menu leans heavily to the traditional side. There’s no lasagne, poached salmon, or pierogi nonsense going on. But neither is there mashed potatoes. And you might find a foreign ingredient recommended in the stuffing. Stay calm. There’s a reason for it and all will be explained.
So without further adieu, here are my suggestions (with recipe links) for an easy and elegant Thanksgiving menu.
This recipe comes from Monica Matheny at The Yummy Life. But it’s soooo much more than a recipe. Her post is the most comprehensive, easy-to-understand primer on how to cook a juicy turkey on the internet. It’s filled with tips learned over 30 years of cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas birds.
If you follow Monica’s instructions, you’re guaranteed to produce a perfect Thanksgiving turkey – even if it’s your first time!
What makes it easy: The tips and step-by-step pictures make it idiot-proof.
This recipe is also from Monica Matheny at The Yummy Life. What can I say? The woman knows what to do with turkey drippings! The beauty of this recipe is that it’s make-ahead. After making a perfect turkey, the most stressful part of the menu is producing a perfect, lump-free gravy – which most people wait to do until the turkey is done and the drippings can be used. This is unnecessary insanity!
Monica’s recipe still uses flavorful drippings but from roasted turkey wings. And you can make it several days before Thanksgiving and have enough for Christmas too! You’ll love that it’s virtually fat-free (no butter added!) so you won’t feel bad for eating a piece of pie.
What makes it easy: It’s still deliciously homemade, but all you have to do is heat it up on Thanksgiving day.
This recipe is from Averie Sunshine at Averie Cooks. It’s an excellent, classic, traditional stuffing recipe for those who develop an eye twitch at the thought of tinkering with traditional stuffing. (That’d be my family. Seriously, these people cannot deal with a chestnut, pear, or piece of sausage.) This recipe will be right in their comfort zone.
But what I love about it is it’s a great base recipe for those who want to add that fancy. I’d add 1/2 cup of dried cranberries to give it some beautiful color. I’d also bake it in a bundt pan (add an extra egg for hold) and serve it on a plate with pretty herb garnishes.
What makes it elegant: The classic, crowd-pleasing recipe is given a beauty treatment.
Save your white mashed potatoes for every day. This is Thanksgiving! This is the occasion for Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes! Besides, white mashed potatoes are only another platform for gravy. You already have turkey and stuffing for that.
This recipe from Sarah at Champagne Tastes is flavored with bourbon, maple syrup, and butter. And it has a gorgeous bourbon pecan crumble topping. It sings holiday dinner! If you’re dealing with a nut allergy in your house, just forego the bourbon pecan crumble topping. However, do not, under any circumstances, let a marshmallow come within 50 feet of this dish.
What makes it elegant: It’s not white potatoes and it’s flavored with Fall itself: maple and bourbon.
It’s time to take your mom’s recipe for green bean casserole with canned onion topping firmly in hand. And burn it. Elevate your holiday vegetable game with this recipe from Lisa at Tiny Kitchen Capers.
Bacon Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts – just the name makes your mouth water. Because, bacon! If you’re one of those folks who’ve never tried Brussels sprouts but is convinced you wouldn’t like them (that was me 2 years ago) set your assumption aside. Just because they look like tiny cabbages doesn’t mean they taste like them. They don’t! They have a really mild flavor.
What makes it elegant: Brussels sprouts are very visually appealing. And bacon! And it’s not soupy, gray-green beans.
This recipe: cooked frozen corn, butter, salt. Let simplicity rule with buttered corn. This menu does not need – or want – corn turned into a casserole. So keep it light and visually pretty by steaming your favorite brand of frozen corn in your microwave, toss with some salt, and top with a generous pat of butter.
What makes it easy: This vegetable dish takes 10 minutes from freezer to serving dish. Could not be easier.
ROLLS & BUTTER
Focus on the turkey, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. These are the stars of your Thanksgiving show. So buy your rolls and doctor your butter.
If your family is married to crescent rolls, I won’t say I’m opposed. They are a little done to death, but still pretty. What I recommend is frozen yeast-dough balls (like Rhodes brand). You put them in a prepared muffin tin, cover with plastic wrap, let rise, and bake. They taste and look homemade. But I put two balls in one compartment to make them extra large.
Add 2 tablespoons of honey and a pinch of cinnamon to a softened stick of salted butter and whip it with a fork. Put it in a little glass bowl for serving.
What makes it easy and elegant: Beginning with store-bought dough takes 90% of the work out warm rolls. And adding fall flavor to the butter makes it holiday special.
Here’s another easy AND elegant recipe. Buy a bag (or two, depending on your crowd) of fresh cranberries and make according to the directions on the package. EXCEPT, substitute orange juice for the water it calls for.
The great thing about cranberry sauce is that it’s traditionally served chilled. That means you make it ahead a day or two. And that gives the cranberry and orange flavors time to blend. When it’s dinner time, just transfer the sauce to a pretty serving dish and garnish with some orange zest.
What makes it easy and elegant: It’s made ahead, but made extraordinary with orange juice instead of water.
Brace yourself for some truth. You have to have pumpkin pie or it’s not Thanksgiving. That’s an actual law. But there’s no appreciable difference between what you can make in your kitchen (unless you add bourbon to it!) and what you can buy fresh at a big box store like Costco or Sams Club. So buy your pumpkin pie there. They’re large, unlike frozen pies. And you’re going to put whipped cream on it anyway.
If it makes you feel better, make homemade whipped cream. Beat 1c heavy whipping cream, 3T powdered sugar, and 1/2t pure vanilla for 2-3 minutes. Super quick.
What makes it easy: You didn’t make it – except for the whipped cream which makes up for it.
DUTCH APPLE CRUMB PIE
This is the recipe I’ve been using for 30+ years and for which my husband says he’s never tasted better. Download the free recipe card here.
What makes it elegant: It’s not a heavy, two-layers-of-crust pie. The crumble topping keeps it light and the syrup it creates while baking makes it beautiful when cut.
Some people watch their diets even on holidays. (What a concept!) For them, a fruit plate is a non-pie dessert option. I recommend a pretty presentation of quartered pomegranates, whole mandarin oranges, and fresh sliced pineapple.
In addition to chilled water, I recommend an aged Reisling or sparkling pink Shiraz for your wine glasses. Both will compliment the meal, but the sparkling Shiraz will also give your table that added element of pretty.