Yes, you can have a big Thanksgiving and invite the entire family. But with travel delays, family tensions, and heightened expectations, the stress can often overwhelm. So try this tactic: fewer guests, more fun. This mostly make-ahead menu feeds six, and everything—from the goat cheese crostini to the pear tart—celebrates the flavors of fall. It’s a holiday dinner with all of the flavor, but with none of the stress. Isn’t that how holidays are supposed to be?
Canadian maple liqueur and Calvados form the evocative heart of this refreshing fall cocktail. Lemon juice gives it a bit of tanginess (it balances the richness), while a top-off of sparkling apple cider gives it a lift, and makes it as bubbly as the occasion. Get our Log Cabin recipe.
Fig Jam and Goat Cheese Crostini
Crostini, the workhorses of casual entertaining, get a sophisticated seasonal upgrade. Soft, tangy goat cheese blends with fresh sage leaves and sweet fig jam, sort of a wistful reminder of late summer. Get our Fig Jam and Goat Cheese Crostini recipe.
Herb-Rubbed Roasted Turkey Breast
Who needs to fuss with a whole bird? An aromatic paste of black peppercorns, garlic, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and rosemary gives turkey a flavor that challenges the notion that breast meat has to be bland and uninteresting. Get our Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast recipe.
Simple Pan Gravy
You don’t need to roast a whole turkey to get great gravy. Simply fry some shallots in butter, whisk in flour to cook for about a minute, throw in some Marsala, broth, and cream, and cook down for about 10 minutes. Greatness achieved. Get our Simple Pan Gravy recipe.
Fennel and Walnut Cranberry Sauce
When the turkey’s simple, a more complex cranberry sauce can be just the thing. This one incorporates a fine dice of fresh fennel, with golden raisins and chopped, toasted walnuts. The zest and juice of an orange are there to provide the usual cranberry-sauce drama. Get our Fennel and Walnut Cranberry Sauce recipe.
Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Three ingredients (not counting seasoning): Yukon Gold potatoes, chicken broth, and unsalted butter. This recipe lets the naturally sweet taste of good potatoes shine. Even better: They’re simple as all get-out. Get our Buttery Mashed Potatoes recipe.
Creamy Carrot Casserole
Topped with crunchy brown-butter-and-garlic-infused breadcrumbs, carrots turn into an amazingly luxurious vegetable. This is a rich dish, but, paired with turkey breast and simple, un-creamed mashed potatoes, an essential one. Get our Creamy Carrot Casserole recipe.
Braised Brussels Sprouts
With a dash of sweetness from shallots, the earthy flavor of the sprouts, and some porkiness from the pancetta, this side dish couldn’t be better balanced. It holds its own on the Thanksgiving table but wouldn’t be out of place on any fall or winter dinner menu. Get our Braised Brussels Sprouts recipe.
Brandied Pear-Walnut Tart
Ground, toasted walnuts keep the crust textural and nutty-flavored, echoing the walnuts in the frangipane-like filling. Sliced, fragrant pears macerated in pear brandy are the stars of this sophisticated holiday dessert. Get our Brandied Pear-Walnut Tart recipe.
Maple Ice Cream
Darker, more flavorful, and slightly less sweet Grade B maple syrup is the luscious flavorer and sweetener in one. This is a custard-style ice cream, so you need to make a simple custard of egg yolks and milk before freezing. Get our Maple Ice Cream recipe.