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Thanksgiving for Two

Sometimes Thanksgiving isn't all that. Sometimes there's a pandemic and holiday gatherings are dangerous. Or you can't bear to hear certain relatives go off on crazy rants. Or, maybe you just want a nice, quiet, intimate Thanksgiving — maybe even a Thanksgiving for two.

For years, we've done Thanksgiving by ourselves. Normally we go out to eat since it's just the two of us. But this year, we are staying home, so we'll be working off our classic Thanksgiving for Two menu.

These recipes are scaled down for two. You should have some glorious leftovers — probably enough to make a few Turkey sandwichs — but you won't be buried in food you can't eat.

The menu includes our favorite classics, and some fresh takes on old classics. None of these recipes are hard, and that is by design! Plan ahead, mise en plas (which means to cut, measure, and stage all your ingredients ahead of time), and make the food in the order shown.


Mini Apple Pies & Mini Pumpkin Pies

Why choose when you can have both? This recipe makes 8-10 miniature pies. You use puff pastry for the crusts because you have enough going on already.

Hand taking Mini Apple and Pumpkin Pies

Bite-size mini pies are perfect for when you can't decide between two flavors.

Mini Apple Pie Ingredients:

2 Tart Apples, diced
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Flour*
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Brown Sugar
¼ cup Regular Oats
1-3 Tbsp Flour

*sub ½ Tbsp Arrowroot or 1 Tbsp Cornstarch for gluten free

Mini Pumpkin Pie Ingredients:

15 ounces Pumpkin
3/4 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
12 ounces Evaporated Milk
2 Eggs, beaten

Crust (for both recipes):
2 sheets Puff Pastry

Prepare the crusts:

  1. Allow the puff pastry to defrost undisturbed on the counter.
  2. Sprinkle a light dusting of flour on the counter. Place the pastry on the flour and flip once. Roll it out just enough to smooth the surface. Don't smash it.
  3. Use a cookie cutter to cut out crusts large enough to extend past the edges of the wells in a muffin pan. Transfer the crusts to the muffin pan. Gently stretch them as needed to make them fit.

Make the fillings:

  1. Make the apple filling: Toss together the apples, sugar, cinnamon and flour. Set aside
  2. Make the pumpkin filling: Whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cream.
  3. Separate the eggs. Lightly beat the yolks and fold into the pumpkin batter.
  4. Beat the egg whites to medium peaks. Fold very gently into the pumpkin batter.

Assemble the pies:

  1. Spoon the apple filling into half of the crusts. Fill them to the brim.
  2. Divide the pumpkin filling between the rest of the crusts. Leave about a ½-inch margin at the top for the filling to expand.
  3. Combine the butter, brown sugar, and oats with a fork or fingers. Add a bit of flour to make the mixture crumbly. Divide it between all of the apple pies.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the pumpkin pies in the middle of the pan come out clean.
  5. Allow to cool before eating.

Alternate Gluten-Free Crust

2 cup Finely Ground Hazelnuts or Almonds
½ cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Butter

  1. Grind about a cup and a half of nuts in a food processor until they are very fine. They should fluff up a bit once ground
  2. Mix the ground nuts with the brown sugar.
  3. Use your fingers to mill in the butter until the crust is moldable.
  4. Press the crust into a buttered muffin pan or into a 9-inch pie pan, if you prefer a normal-size pie.
  5. Pre-bake the crusts for five minutes at 350 degrees.

Roast Turkey Breast & Gravy

Here you have a classic, simple, but unique set of flavors for your roasted turkey breast. If possible, get a bone-in breast so that it tastes more like a proper holiday turkey after it's roasted. The gravy is a reliable small batch formula that you can modify for any other kind of gravy.

Timing note: Make the gravy at the end, after the turkey breast is out of the oven — you need the drippings!

Turkey Ingredients:

Turkey Seasoning
1 Whole Turkey Breast
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Apple Sauce
½ tsp Italian Herbs
½ tsp Allspice
1 tsp Fresh Thyme
1 tsp Salt
Pepper to taste Gravy

Gravy Ingredients:

Gravy:
2 Tbsp Butter
1 ½ Tbsp flour
1-1 ½ cup Milk
Turkey Drippings
1 tsp Salt
White Pepper to taste (black pepper is fine too)

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Turkey Instructions:

  1. Begin by rinsing the turkey breast thoroughly under gentle, cold water. Pat dry.
  2. Place the breast in a suitably sized baking pan.
  3. Combine the apple sauce and butter together until they are one.
  4. Combine the herbs, allspice, fresh thyme, and salt, then rub them all over the turkey breast.
  5. Roast the dry breast in the oven, set to 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes.
  6. Pull the turkey from the oven and baste generously with the apple and butter blend. Return to the oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees F.
  7. Baste every 20-30 minutes, until the breast reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Total cooking time should be about an hour and a half.
  8. Allow the breast to rest for ten minutes before carving

Gravy Instructions:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low heat, until it bubbles happily.
  2. Combine with the flour. Continue cooking until the roux turns golden and smells a bit like toast.
  3. Now add an ounce or few of turkey drippings.
  4. Remove from the heat for about a minute, stir in 1 cup of milk. Whisk until the lumps are gone.
  5. Bring up to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add the salt and sprinkle in a bit of white pepper. Taste the gravy. Adjust to taste with additional salt and pepper (I prefer white pepper for this recipe).
  7. Remove from the burner and keep warm until dinner.

Apple-Garlic Stuffing

One day I put apple bits and roasted garlic in our stuffing. We've never looked back. If you're making a full turkey, triple or quadruple this recipe.  (Or is it dressing?)

Ingredients:

4 cup Fresh Bread, cubed
¼ cup Butter
⅛ cup White Wine
12 cloves Roasted Garlic
¼ cup Celery, fine dice
¼ cup Carrot, fine dice
1 Shallot, fine dice
1 Tart Apple, diced
¼ cup Hazelnuts, halved
1 tsp Italian herbs
Salt and Pepper
¼ cup Water

Apple garlic stuffing close zoom

Apples, roasted garlic cloves, and yummy vegetables make this stuffing perfect.

Instructions:

  1. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  2. Toss in the celery, carrot, and shallot.
  3. Continue cooking until the shallot turns translucent. Allow the vegetables to brown slightly. If you see no color developing after three minutes, adjust the heat up a notch or two.
  4. When the color and translucency have developed, add in the apple, hazelnut, roasted garlic, and herbs. Saute for a couple of minutes until heady aromas rise from the pan.
  5. Deglaze with the white wine, and pull the pan from the heat.
  6. Fold into the cubed bread, gently folding to coat every surface of bread in the buttery, garlicky goodness.
  7. Place the dressing in a buttered 9x9 pan.
  8. After the turkey is roasted for about 45 minutes, drain off some of the drippings and mix with the water. Sprinkle over the stuffing.
  9. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  10. Remove the foil cover and bake for another 5-10, or until the top layer of bread crisps slightly. Cool for a few minutes before eating.

Cranberry Sauce

Lightly spiced and quite complex, this cranberry sauce puts whatever that stuff is in the can to shame. You'll actually like this version.

Ingredients:

½ cup Dried Cranberries
Two Oranges
1 Tbsp Crystallized Ginger
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 Bay Leaf
4 Allspice Berries
1 Cinnamon Stick
Dark Rum to Cover

Pouring rum into the cranberry sauce

A generous splash of dark rum rehydrates dried cranberries and enhances the spices.

Instructions:

  1. Begin by zesting one orange. Then juice it and set the juice aside.
  2. Add the cranberries and ginger to a small saucepan. Pour just enough dark rum over the berries to cover them.
  3. Add half the orange juice too.
  4. Bring the pot up to a boil, cover with a lid, and remove from the heat, or, maintain over very low heat for about an hour to rehydrate the berries and ginger.
  5. About 15 minutes before dinner, put the pan back over medium heat.
  6. Whisk the cornstarch into the reserved orange juice. Pour into the pot.
  7. Add the bay leaf, allspice, and cinnamon stick.
    Note: wrap the bay leaf, allspice berries and cinnamon stick in cheesecloth and tie closed for easy handling.
  8. Bring the sauce to a low simmer, and allow it to cook for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the aromatics before serving.

Smashed Chanterelle Potatoes

Usually you can find chanterelle mushrooms at the store in the Pacific Northwest this time of year. If you can't, substitute another mild mushroom or omit the mushrooms altogether. This is a basic but reliable mashed potato formula you can adapt to your heart's delight.

Ingredients:

1 Large Potato
1 ounce Gorgonzola Cheese
½ cup Chanterelle mushrooms
2 Tbsp Butter
Milk
Salt and Pepper

Mashing potatoes in the pan

Nothing to it — no special tricks here. Just mash them!

Instructions:

  1. Scrub the potato well and roughly cut into 1-inch chunks. Drop them in a pot of boiling water, and season the water generously with salt.
  2. Cook until the potatoes break apart easily with the twist of a fork.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for one minute.
  4. Drain the pot into a colander in the sink, shake off the excess water and return the pan to the burner – turn the heat off.
  5. Add the butter and a splash of milk, and mash the potatoes.
  6. Mash in the crumpled Gorgonzola cheese. Add tiny splashes of milk until you have a creamy – rich consistency.
  7. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. If you are feeling fancy, add a scant amount of freshly grated nutmeg and chili powder.
  8. Cover with a lid and keep warm until dinner.

Use quartered crimini or another mild mushroom if you can't find chanterelles.


Candied Yams

Yams, butter, brown sugar, marshmallows. While not a sophisticated dish, it is one of my favorites. No need to mess with perfection.

Ingredients:

1 Yam
2 Tbsp Butter
⅛ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup Mini Marshmallows

Candying yams with butter and brown sugar

You can't go wrong topping yams with butter and brown sugar.

Instructions

  1. Scrub and peel the yam. Slice into quarter-inch thick rounds.
  2. Lay out in a small casserole pan, or individual oven-safe dishes.
  3. Break up the butter and spread out across top of the yams. Spread the brown sugar evenly over the top.
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the yams are fork tender.
  5. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle with the mini marshmallows.
  6. Return to the oven and crank the heat up to 450 degrees F.
  7. Bake until the marshmallows become golden brown, or about seven minutes. Keep a close eye on them, marshmallows burn quickly.

Broccoli Gratin

This is an alternative to the traditional green bean casserole. I like the way the cheese plays off the broccoli. And this recipe adds a nice bit of pungent flavor which offsets everything else on the plate. And it's crazy easy.

Ingredients:

1 Head Broccoli Florettes
1 Tbsp Butter
¾ cup Bread Crumbs
2 ounces Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled

Sprinkling the topping across the broccoli gratin

Broccoli is getting a nice crown of cheesy bread crumbs and a little bit of butter.

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the broccoli florets well under cool running water. Trim off the florets in clusters.
  2. Place the broccoli florets, stems down, in a small baking dish.
  3. Dot the tops of the florets with the butter. Spread it out as best you can.
  4. Combine most of the gorgonzola cheese and breadcrumbs together by smashing together with a fork or milling with your fingers.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the broccoli, and then top with the breadcrumbs.
  6. Bake in the oven at 325 to 350 degrees F for 25 to 40 minutes, or until the broccoli is fork tender.

Waldorf Salad

A bright fruit-and-greens salad that is crunchy, a little creamy, and very fall. It features crisp apples, sweet grapes, and decadent walnuts on a bed of greens. This is a classic salad inspired by one served at the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel, long before any of us were born. This is a recipe you can make ahead. Double it to serve 4-6, and triple it to serve a full house.

Waldorf salad zoom

Enjoy the beauty of this simple, elegant fruit salad. Grapes, apples, walnut, yum.

Ingredients:

1 Apple, small dice
1/4 cup Celery, fine dice
1/3 cup Walnuts, broken up
1 Tbsp Sour Cream
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
scant dusting Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Bed of arugula or Baby Spinach

Instructions:

  1. Fold together the apple, celery, walnuts, sour cream, and mayonnaise.
  2. Season to taste with pinches of salt, sugar, and a scant dusting of cayenne pepper.
  3. Plate on a bed of arugula or baby spinach and serve with love.

Flaky Rolls

Normally I prefer making actual rolls with my great grandmother's potato bread recipe for Thanksgiving. But when you're doing to full meal deal all by yourself, it's okay to take a shortcut for the bread. These flaky rolls couldn't be easier. All you need is some frozen puff pastry from the freezer section and maybe 15 minutes of prep time. Quadruple the recipe to serve a crowd — these will be popular!

You can make these a day ahead.

Ingredients:

2 sheets Puff Pastry
a bit of Bench Flour

Shaping the flaky rolls

Use puff pastry to save time and make super-flaky rolls.

Instructions:

  1. Allow the puff pastry to defrost naturally on the counter or in the fridge.
  2. Sprinkle your large work surface with a nice dusting of that bench flour.
  3. Lay out the puff pastry on the flour and flip once.
  4. Gently roll out the puff pastry, but only press down enough to smooth it out.
    1. Do NOT smash it.
    2. Do NOT try to make it thin.
  5. Cut the puff pastry into large triangles. The "bottoms" of the triangles should be a little wider than your palm.
  6. Roll each up from the wide edge to the skinny point.
  7. Pull, wrap, and pinch the ends together around the front.
  8. Place in a baking pan or on a baking sheet, seam side down.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffed, golden, and slightly crisp. Serve warm.

Note: To test for doneness in the over, try gently nudging a roll. It should move easily.

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