My Imaginary Menu: Thanksgiving

November 13, 2013(updated on October 3, 2018)

Thanksgiving cookbooks

Thanksgiving is approaching and Scott and I are attending two celebrations this year. We’ll will be spending the actual holiday with his mom down in Virginia and then on Saturday, we’ll gather with my family back up here in Philadelphia.

Because I’m not hosting either meal, I don’t get to have much of a say in the menu beyond bringing my assigned potluck items (pie and potatoes). And so, to satisfy my urge to sift through cookbooks and choose a selection of harvest-y dishes, I bring you my imaginary menu, Thanksgiving style (you last saw me do this last spring in anticipation of Passover).

lentil pate and semolina cracker sheets

To start out, I’d make a batch of the Lentil Pate from Kim O’Donnel’s fabulous book, The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations. I made it last year for a story on Table Matters and it was seriously amazing. For dipping, I’d bake up a batch of the Semolina Cracker Sheets from Ivy Manning’s Crackers & Dips. I’d put out a few jars of pickles and preserves, along with a log of chevre and call the appetizers done.

pumpkin cozy rolls

Before we get any further, I must make it clear that the turkey is assumed. I haven’t selected a recipe for it because I’ve spent many a year roasting turkeys with my dad and so it’s one of those dishes that is ingrained in my muscle memory.

With the turkey taken care of, I’d bake off a batch of the Pumpkin Cozy Rolls from Tara Matazara Desmond’s fantastic new book, Choosing Sides. A great number of my recipe selections are from this book, so prepare yourself to see it a lot in this post.

caramelized onion and roasted garlic herb stuffing

No turkey centered meal is complete without some kind of stuffing. I love it when it’s cooked inside the bird, but know that it’s a method that gives food safety folks the shakes. Whether cooked inside or out, I think this Caramelized Onion and Roasted Garlic Herb Stuffing sounds like a winner.

arugula with sugar cranberries and pancetta

I’m a big believer in having lots of lighter vegetables on the Thanksgiving table and so some sort of salad is a must. I’m something of a fool for arugula and so think that Arugula with Sugar Cranberries and Pancetta from Choosing Sides sounds like just the thing. If was cooking for my Jewish family, I’d skip the pancetta and sub in some toasted nuts instead.

green beans with smoky pistachio dust

Buttered green beans topped with slivered almonds are a Thanksgiving requirement in my family, but if they allowed me to tweak things ever so slightly, I’d do so by making these Green Beans with Smoky Pistachio Dush from Cheryl Sternman Rule’s Ripe instead.

browned brussels with maple butter

For my husband, I’d do a batch of these Browned Brussels with Maple Butter from Choosing Sides. He cannot abide the green bean but loves sprouts, maple syrup, and butter. The combination would make him thankful indeed.

roasted butternut and spuds

If the table could handle just one more dish, I’d add a batch of the Roasted Butternut and Spuds from Choosing Sides. I have a casserole of mashed potatoes, winter squash and a mountain of cheese that I dearly love, but it is HEAVY. This version sounds lighter but still delicious.

pear and chocolate oat crumble

For dessert, I’m turning to Nigel Slater’s newest work, Notes from the Larder. He has such a nice way with seasonal desserts. This recipe for Pear and Chocolate Oat Crumble looks both restrained and decadent. I bet it’s perfect with a little bit of vanilla ice cream and a post-dinner mug of tea.

That wraps up my fantasy menu for the coming holiday. Now your turn. What dish do you long to make for Thanksgiving this year?

Disclosure: All the cookbooks mentioned here were promotional copies, sent to me for review. However, all opinions expressed here are mine alone. 

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30 thoughts on "My Imaginary Menu: Thanksgiving"

  • Unfortunately, I am hosting Thanksgiving this year – and of course, not a lot of creativity will be tolerated, LOL. I shouldn’t grouse, because I love the family who are coming. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, and I enjoy feeding people. But this kitchen makes me cranky, and I’m not sure how much turkey will fit in this miniscule oven with its freaky hot and cold spots. I envision having to turn and rotate the pan like a nut all day! We do a good deal of high heat roasting of sprouts around here, and love them. That’s one green veggie down. Likely I’ll knock out high heat roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, too, with red onion. Otherwise, massive carb fest!

    Enjoy a lovely holiday! The appetizers sound so lovely, you should think about having a winter drink party sometime soon and do just that.

  • As of yet, we have no plans. We usually (me and hubby) just spend quiet day at home and he has put in his order in for hamburger and fries for Thanksgiving

  • I’m still not sure! Yikes. But all these books, and your imaginary dinner culled from them, sound amazing. Especially, Notes from the Larder. I was paging through it the other day, and I fell for it hard.

  • I’m not hosting this year (not my turn). In addition to providing the bird (I have traded my time over the year caring off/on for my friends’ flock of turkeys, geese, and chicken that I have “earned” a fresh turkey!) and the pies, I think that I’ll have to whip up KO’D’s lentil pate. That stuff is seriously amaze-balls.

  • My Uncle Kevin, who hosts and cooks every year, comes up with the menu. There’s always something he gets that he doesn’t have a plan for and leaves it up to me when I get there Wednesday. Otherwise, I’m in charge of pie. And then concocting things with leftovers the rest of the weekend. I might try that pate as an app though.

  • That meal sounds delicious! I am not making T-dinner this year, either but am making brussel sprouts for a “practice thanksgiving” with my lab. The recipe for the brussel sprouts looks awesome and makes me consider getting that book!

  • I want to make a Cherry Clafoutis, it looks really yummy. Think I might barrow my mothers cast iron, to make it in.

  • We’re doing a 2-person thanksgiving, so I’m making a chicken rather than a turkey. As sides, we’ll have brussels sprouts, acorn squash with mushroom stuffing, and cranberries. I might also add some sweet potato biscuits. Dessert will be these cute little pumpkin custards because I don’t want to deal with pie crusts.

  • It’s just the two of us so Thanksgiving will be low key. Baked Chicken, Sweet potatoes,home canned green beans,home canned whole berry cranberry sauce,and homemade garlic herb rolls. I would LOVE to cook for a large crowd again, there were 7 children in my family and holiday meals were a spread!!!!!

  • I have 2 Thanksgiving musts at my mom’s house- her cornbread stuffing with sausage and homemade noodles cooked in turkey broth. I remember my granny rolling out noodles when I was very little and it still makes me happy to see them on holidays. Oldies but goodies for sure.

  • I love these posts. They somehow give me permission to dream a bit about the holiday season instead of just getting stressed out about it. I’m going to try the roasted Brussels sprouts again this year. I didn’t roast them long enough last year, so this year I’m going to start early and roast long until they’re good and sweet. And top with a maple and balsamic reduction. Mmmm.

    1. Ooo, that sounds good if I can find brussel sprouts. I just made a cranberry molasses from Put ‘Em Up Fruit that I might try on them. Yum!

  • I usually contribute cranberry sauce (because I cannot abide the stuff in the can). i also contribute something I can eat as a main – I’m vegetarian – that everyone else can have as a side. This year I’m doing stuffed acorn squash.

  • We are hosting, and only 8 (two veg including me) which means not as many dishes as I would like once we account for what everyone will actually expect/eat. Given though, is homemade applesauce, fresh cranberry sauce, homemade canned spiced peaches (tradition in MIL family, but made with doctored purchased canned peaches until my son and I got ahold of it this year!). The rest of the veg depend on what’s at the farmers market the previous Sunday, but dessert (as much as I would love to serve chocolate to celebrate food native to the Americas) looks to be cranberry tart with almond crust adapted from a recipe in the Washington Post a few years ago and a pear and cranberry bundt cake recipe I copied from The Geeat Bakesale Cookbook (I think).

  • What I am making is imaginary plans to come to your imaginary Tgiving feast. I like what you are serving, and it will be a heck of a lot quieter at that table than it will be at the one I will be seated at in the earthly realm.

  • I love your recipe choices, Choosing Sides sounds like a really interesting cook book, I am definitely going to check that out!

  • Our menu is also pretty set, though I have tweaked it some to coax my pickypickypicky three year old. So for him, I am making corn. Corn and the homemade dinner rolls are likely the only thing he will eat. We are also having turkey ( I am hoping I can squeeze an organic one out of our budget this year), your recipe for cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes ( not my choice as a hypogylcemic but there will be riots if they are not there), roasted brussel sprouts with balsamic and pancetta, stuffing from bread I make myself, and that’s it since I am trying to take it easy this year. We are having pumpkin pie and a carrot cake for dessert. I would like to also make my homemade green bean casserole but I have to be realistic about how much time I have and I am in my second trimester and I know from past babies that if I spend hours in the kitchen there will be hell to pay later. My husband is off the day before so we can make the cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls, cake, and sprouts the day before, leaving only the turkey and mashed potatoes and corn( seriously does cooking corn even COUNT?) for that day. I have a delicious recipe for goat cheese stuffed mushrooms but my crowd won’t touch that. So mostly Thanksgiving will be reheating and HOORAY for that.

  • I am missing a side my mother always served, but the in-laws (for some unknown reason) don’t like me to make it. It’s potato stuffing.

  • I’m going to take you up on your challenge. Here’s my imaginary Thanksgiving meal:

    Appetizers: Pork, shrimp and cabbage raviolis; Wasabi deviled eggs
    Salad: Lettuce mix with avocado dressing and pistachios
    Main: Turkey roulade – stuffed with sage sausage, chard, and walnuts; tea brined, roasted turkey thighs
    Sides: Ore Ida tater tots… ’cause it’s my menu and I can have anything I want; sweet potato biscuits with clover honey; Momofuku’s Brussels sprouts
    Dessert: Black Pearl Layer Cake

  • I hope you can help me with the one thing I want to make! I need sugar-free cranberry jelly made from no-sugar-added cranberry juice for the diabetic I feed. I bought the juice and the Sure Jell, and I have plenty of Splenda; now what? I’d love to have this as a staple in my pantry year-round! No one in the family likes a whole berry sauce, nor any additives like oranges or other fruit. Just the plain, unadorned jellied cranberry sauce would make our day, and then some!

    I’m going to open one of the packages of Sure Jell and see what it says, but I’d sure appreciate any pointers! Thanks in advance!

    1. Did you get the Sure Jell designed for low or no sugar jam? That’s going to be the most important thing. You can’t make jam with Splenda if you’re using conventional pectin.

  • You are the best, Marisa! Thank you for sharing the lentil luv. Will salute you on Tday while I spread some on apples.

  • Thanks, Marisa! Hope you really do get to cook from Choosing Sides soon! It’ll do you good well beyond the holidays, I promise. Happy Thanksgiving, all! Have fun choosing your sides!

    1. I wish I had made it to your book signing at Ali’s, Tara! (Side dishes is the one thing in the kitchen that makes me freeze)

  • Thanks for all these interesting choices and links to recipes. I’d like to switch a few of my regulars up to something new.

  • Immediately after reading this post, I requested as many of these books from the library as were in the system(sadly, no Crackers and Dips). So far, I’ve made the Brussels sprouts and the pear and chocolate oat crumble. The sprouts were excellent, but the crumble knocked it out of the park. I almost had to put it out in the car to keep from eating the whole thing. I’ve got my eyes on the lentil pate (as well as others from Meatless) and the White Bean dip from Ripe. All these recipes and books are winners. Thanks for mentioning them!