So, we all know how beautiful a decorated roast turkey on a platter looks and many of us associate this with the ideal Thanksgiving. The reality is, however, that many households are small and either don’t need, or want, a large turkey. The responsibility of getting a turkey properly cooked can be somewhat daunting. Yet, who among us does not want to celebrate Thanksgiving in a somewhat traditional manner and have the heavenly scent of turkey roasting in the oven.
To show how the traditional elements can be incorporated into a small-scale Thanksgiving dinner, I have prepared a dinner for two. This meal is easily scalable meaning it can be multiplied to serve the number of guests you have.
I still wanted turkey but I wanted something manageable in size and meat that would cook quickly and without having to have a large roaster. That’s where fresh boneless turkey breasts come in. They are available in all sizes, ranging from the small 1-pounders. These cook quickly, especially in a convection oven, and you still get the same wonderful scent in the house as the turkey breast roasts. The other benefit to a boneless turkey breast is that it is all pure meat. There is no large carcass to deal with and the meat slices so perfectly for stylish plating.
I brine my chicken and turkey. It makes such a difference to the flavor and texture of the meat. All I do to brine a fresh turkey breast is let it sit for a few hours submerged in a salt-water brine. After brining, I pound it somewhat thin, roll some of my stuffing into the breast, and tie it securely. I then brush the entire meat with melted butter mixed with olive oil and sprinkle it lightly with paprika. I head to the garden and pick some fresh parsley, rosemary, dill, oregano, and thyme (or whatever blend of herbs I happen to have at the time). Chopped really fine, these herbs are then sprinkled over the meat which is set on a rack in a small roasting pan.
I am a huge proponent of using a meat thermometer. This ensures my meat is always cooked properly and stays tender and juicy. I cook the turkey breast in my convection oven till it tests done on the meat thermometer. After the turkey comes out of the oven, I loosely tent it with tinfoil for about 20 minutes or so before proceeding to carve it. Comes out perfectly cooked and juicy every time. Easy-peasy.
For gravy lovers, the downside to roasting turkey breast is that there are virtually no drippings from the meat which can be used to make gravy. This is easily enough remedied, however, by making the gravy using poultry stock which is what I have done here from some homemade turkey stock I had in the freezer.
Whether it’s a meal for 2 or 22, I always recommend doing as much of the prep work ahead of time as possible. In this case, I made the Rhubarb-Cranberry Sauce the day before and refrigerated it. This is my newest cranberry sauce and it combines two wonderful flavors beautifully. Either fresh or frozen cranberries and rhubarb can be used for the sauce. It has the most glorious jewel-toned color and fabulous flavor. The sauce pairs particularly well with turkey.
For the soup course, I am also featuring my newest soup recipe, Roasted Parsnip and Pear Soup. For Thanksgiving, I try to use seasonal produce like parsnips and pears. This soup freezes well so can be made ahead, thawed, and reheated in the microwave. Or, a batch of it can be made specifically for Thanksgiving and the leftover frozen.
For the salad course, I have gone with a really simple salad, most of which came from our backyard garden – fresh lettuce, beets, red onion, and nasturtium flowers. I roasted the beets (though they could be boiled instead). So, on a bed of lettuce, I placed slices of beets and added some mandarin orange sections and slices of red onion. This was topped with crumbled feta cheese and the salad was served with a simple vinaigrette and topped with a colorful and edible nasturtium.
Because I have included both a soup and salad course, it is not necessary to have a number of different vegetables on the plate. Here, I have included the decadent Duchess Potatoes and colorful carrots which, though basic, add a wonderful pop of color to the plate.
My wine pairing with this Thanksgiving Dinner is a 2016 Riesling from Thirty Bench Winemakers in the Niagara Peninsula. A Reisling is a good choice as it has lots of palate-refreshing acidity along with a slight touch of sweetness to balance and complement the variety of flavors in the dinner.
For dessert, it’s Squash Pie. I always maintain that, while similar to pumpkin, squash pie has a richer, deeper flavour.
I have opted for a very simple tablesetting and I have used items I already own in its construction. Miniature white pumpkins were placed on three candlesticks of varying heights. Some hydrangea plucked from my hedge formed a colorful, yet soft-colored, base for the pumpkins. I used three small votives at the base of the arrangement to give a glow of soft light.
Here’s a closer peek.
I intentionally left the tabletop bare because the deep maple wood provides a warm looking canvas for an autumn meal. Each placesetting was framed with gold charger plates sitting on gold-colored round placemats. This keeps the tablesetting muted but yet has the warm tones of fall.
To draw the connection of the pumpkin-focused centerpiece down to the placesettings, I simply placed a small pumpkin atop the napkin at each place.
When the napkins have a lot of colorful border design on them, like these, it is sometimes best to just fold them flat on the plate so that the design is visible. Otherwise, the design may be lost in a napkin fold and not be as effective.
Glassware does not need to match. Here, I have chosen two different vintage pieces from my collection for the wine and water glasses. The tablesetting is clean, simple, and uncluttered. Best of all, it only took a few minutes to create, used items I already had, and the tiny pumpkins cost me less than $4.
I am a big fan of using white dinnerware as it goes with everything and food always looks so appetizing on a white background.
So, regardless the size of your household, there are options to preparing a tasty Thanksgiving Dinner that still includes the elements we expect to see in a Thanksgiving dinner.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!