Turkey time has reared its ugly wattle (that gross turkey neck skin) once again, but preparation need not be scary this year. Four years ago, I did away with Thanksgiving classics and revitalized the tired main dishes and sides that appear every year.
After letting go of turkey, sloppy dressing, overly decadent sweet potato casserole and traditional mashed potatoes, my family’s meal got so much better. I replaced the bland turkey with my family’s favorite beef tenderloin (seasoned with multicolored peppercorns), and the sloppy dressing with a sausage cornbread counterpart that is crispy and comforting.
I abandoned the marshmallows in the sweet potato casserole and substituted sage and butter, paired with a toasted sourdough topping. Mashed potatoes got a makeover when I grated parmesan cheese into the potatoes during the final preparation. I also brought a few vegetables to the table that, unlike classic Thanksgiving dishes, are not beaten, mashed or blended with butter.
After that first innovative Thanksgiving, I try to replace and expand that original menu so it doesn’t become tired. Here are a few new ideas to help revitalize your Thanksgiving.
- Whole Beef Tenderloin seasoned with multicolored pepper corns with optional Bearnaise sauce. (The linked recipe uses plain peppercorns, but in my recipe, I use multi-colored ones)
- Mushroom Wellington (a play on the classic Beef Wellington for vegetarians). NYT Cooking has the best recipe I’ve tried yet!
- Herby pecan cornbread dressing… stuffing and dressing are the same thing, if you’re unfamiliar.
- Savory Sweet Potato Casserole. What makes it savory you ask? It’s made with brown butter and sage, with a nice mix of some savory cheeses like Parmesan or Gruyere.
- Whole roasted multicolored carrots with pine nuts and basil.
- Smashed potatoes topped with parmesan and parsley butter.
- Classic dinner rolls (This is my absolute favorite dinner roll recipe, and it’s a new take because they’re homemade instead of frozen.)
- Chocolate Chess Pie with sky high whipped cream topping! (add pecans if you miss pecan pie, but these two have very similar textures)
- Crème Brulee for a crowd: I have been wanting to make crème brulee in a large ramekin to feed a big crowd, rather than individually.
- Pumpkin Pie, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or may I suggest a pumpkin cheesecake alternative? This also has bourbon in it — you’re welcome.
Of course, you can stick to the traditional Thanksgiving with turkey, but my family simply detests turkey. If you’re like us, you could abandon the entire tradition and make burgers … yes, my family has made burgers on Thanksgiving before. Whatever it is, have fun spending time with your family and friends, and embrace the mistakes and the comfort of this purely American holiday.
Graphic by Neako Hallisey.