As much as I will miss the crowd at Thanksgiving this year, I may be even more wistful for the long, colorful parade of food at our usual Thanksgiving buffet. I always make the traditional basics – turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc – and over the years family and friends have brought all kinds of fun contributions: stir-fried noodles, corn souffle, sushi, ham, lasagna, cinnamon rolls, homemade soft pretzels. It’s a crazy cafeteria, and we love it.
It’s not a year for potlucks, and a blowout Thanksgiving isn’t the vibe of 2020. Home cooks are a bit burned out from months of preparing meal after meal. Non-cooks may be nervously taking charge of Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. Either way, a simple Thanksgiving seems like the way to go.
I’m giving myself a pep talk about the benefits of our pared-down Thanksgiving – an extra-special but regular-sized family dinner, less prep, less cleanup, and a rare Thanksgiving meal at which I may actually sit at the same time as everyone else. For once I will not miss out on giving thanks around the table. I am looking forward to it.
Thanksgiving dinner without a crowd can be mellow. It’s essentially a traditional meat-and-three. You don’t need a turkey for a few people – roast a turkey breast or a whole chicken, or just buy a good rotisserie bird. To me, it’s the sides that make the meal. Any plate with stuffing and cranberry sauce on it feels like Thanksgiving.
If you haven’t tasted great homemade cranberry sauce, you might wonder why you should make it when buying it is cheap and easy. Two reasons:
- You’ll be surprised at how fast and simple it is. A bag of cranberries, some sugar, an orange. Making cranberry sauce will give you confidence: Look how pretty this is! Took me five minutes and doesn’t taste like a can!
- A good cranberry sauce is more than a mere condiment or afterthought – its the jam in the peanut butter sandwich. Its deep red color and tangy sweetness liven up the entire Thanksgiving meal. If you end up with extra, it’s great mixed with yogurt, eaten with pancakes, or enjoyed on its own as a little fruity treat, like applesauce.
Normally I make classic cooked cranberry sauce ahead of time, because it keeps well for a week or more. This fresh cranberry relish doesn’t keep as long, but it transforms from raw ingredients to finished product in seconds. And it’s different enough that no one will mistake it for canned.
Here I made a half-batch in my mini chopper. The color of cranberries is the color of love.
Some sugar and orange, with the peel on – the rind adds much more orange flavor than the juicy flesh alone.
A few bursts of the chopper, and it’s ready to go.
We don’t need two cranberry sauces this year, but I think I’ll make two anyway. Last year I cooked but barely ate Thanksgiving dinner, because I was off gluten, sugar, fruit and other foods for health reasons. This fall, I’m starting to eat more like a normal person again, and double cranberry seems like a good way to make up for none last year.
This year’s harvest celebration may be extra small, but I will be extra grateful for it. Wishing you all a safe Thanksgiving! If you need more recipes, I’m including below some favorites from my Thanksgiving archives.
- Thanksgiving planning timeline (Google doc)
- A host’s guide to Thanksgiving
- Thanksgiving meal planning
- Buying a turkey
- Cranberry tea [post] [printable]
- Alice Waters’s carrot soup [post] [printable]
- Spinach dip (without the mix) [post] [printable]
- Three-ingredient artichoke dip [post] [printable]
- Thanksgiving turkey, dry brined
- Thanksgiving turkey, split and roasted
- Creamy chicken and rice soup (for leftover turkey) [post] [printable]
- Macho salad (for turkey leftovers) [post] [printable]
- Balsamic vinaigrette [post] [printable]
- Quinoa arugula salad [post] [printable]
- Arugula, pear and parmesan salad [post] [printable]
- Fennel, orange and avocado salad [post] [printable]
- Candied walnuts (or pecans) [post] [printable]
- Kale salad with honey-mustard peanut dressing [post] [printable]
- Shredded kale and brussels sprout salad [post] [printable]
- Kale salad with cranberries and toasted walnuts [post] [printable]
- Wild rice confetti salad [post] [printable]
- Bread stuffing for a crowd [post] [printable]
- Brussels sprouts Gjelina [post] [printable]
- Buttermilk cornbread [post] [printable]
- Cornbread stuffing with sausage and apples [post] [printable]
- Easy cranberry sauce [post] [printable]
- Foolproof mashed potatoes [post] [printable]
- Green beans with feta and balsamic vinegar [post] [printable]
- Maple glazed sweet potatoes [post] [printable]
- Quinoa with sweet potatoes, red pepper and feta [post] [printable]
- Roasted brussels sprouts salad [post] [printable]
- Roasted butternut squash [post] [printable]
- Roasted cauliflower Gjelina [post] [printable]
- Roasted cauliflower with parmesan and olives [post] [printable]
- Roasted fennel with parmesan [post] [printable]
- Apple pie with crumb topping [post] [printable]
- Apple snacking cake [post] [printable]
- Cinnamony apple crisp [post] [printable]
- Gingerbread cake [post] [printable]
- Pear torte [post] [printable]
- Pecan pie (no corn syrup) [post] [printable]
- Persimmon bread [post] [printable]
- Pumpkin applesauce cake [post] [printable]
- Pumpkin bread with chocolate [post] [printable]
- Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies [post] [printable]
- Soft ginger cookies [post] [printable]
- Derby pie [post] [printable]
- Caramel dip for apples [post] [printable]
No-Cook Cranberry Orange Relish
I love this no-cook cranberry-orange side dish – it’s a fresher and more citrusy alternative to your usual cooked cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. It only takes a few seconds to whiz together in a food processor, and no one will mistake it for canned.
- 12 ounces (about 3 cups) whole fresh cranberries
- 1 whole orange, unpeeled
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup sugar (to taste)
- Rinse and drain cranberries. Add to the bowl of a food processor.
- Wash the orange rind and slice the orange, with the peel on. Remove any seeds. Add orange slices to the food processor, along with 1/2 cup sugar.
- Pulse the food processor (turning it on a few seconds at a time), scraping down the sides of the bowl between pulses, until mixture is well chopped. Taste and add more sugar, if needed, to taste.
- A food grinder can also be use to chop the fruit.
- You can make this a day ahead. Because it’s uncooked, it doesn’t keep as long as classic cranberry sauce.
Here’s the link to a printable version.