If you make the same dishes every year and you’re feeling bored of the tried and true before even eating them this year, or if you’ve been invited to someone’s home and want to really contribute a great dish, we’ve got some great suggestions for you.
Even if you completely adore your normal Thanksgiving recipes, take a moment to give these newcomers a chance. You might find a new family favorite, improve how you’ve been doing things, and add to the food-centric goodness that is the way we celebrate Thanksgiving.
And since family get-togethers seldom seem to happen without drinks, I’m offering cocktail suggestions, too.
These are favorites from fellow Federalist writers and staff, from friends, and from my own list of “must makes.” Not all of these are by any means traditional Thanksgiving fare, but isn’t that some of the fun of trying new things?
The single most suggested was a Manhattan. Since this is such a classic, recipes (and opinions) abound. Try this classic one or this historical one. For variety, it was suggested to swap a coffee liquor for half of the vermouth, as long as the liquor used was less sweet.
In the same line of thought as the white mojito is white margaritas. Bonus: there are even cranberries.
For a really, really seasonal drink, try an apple cider mimosa.
Fan of gin and champagne? You want a French 75 or Soixante Quinze. They’re delicious and celebratory. I recently had some excellent ones at a wedding.
You might not be as familiar with Black Sails, but if you like port and whiskey, give it a try.
Another classic with complementary flavors is a Sidecar.
If you like things simple, consider a Gin and Tonic.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be all about heavy, sit-down foods. Sometimes it’s nice to have a lot of snacky things on hand, as my grandmother would have said.
Especially for groups of people, moving around and socializing, appetizers are an easy way for people to eat a little bite and still visit. Some of these are minimal to no prep, and some need a little more time.
For those looking for the absolute easiest food that still is tasty, consider lettuce wraps. They’re also light, which pairs well with the heaviness of the meal to come. I make them closest to this, subbing chicken for pork.
For something totally different, consider making stuffed snow pea pods. A friend of mine makes these with beef.
I am a big fan of Caprese salad, so I love the idea of making it into an appetizer. Skewer fresh mozzarella, small tomatoes, and fresh basil on long toothpicks or bamboo appetizer skewers, and before serving drizzle with a dash of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. A related pair is antipasto skewers.
Charcuterie boards or layouts. I admire people who do this artfully. They can be gorgeous. Combine sweet and savory, pieces of bread or crackers, fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, nuts, olives… the possibilities appear to be endless. And really impressive. I feel this might be related to the Antipasto Bar idea, as well. If there are nuances I’m missing, I apologize. Please, invite me over and demonstrate the difference with food.
Deviled eggs, especially if you have refrigeration handled, are simple and filling.
Main Course Suggestions
Into something less traditional? Consider eggplant parmesan. Or have guests bring family favorite casseroles to pass and share.
There’s almost always turkey floating around the fridge after a big feast, and what better way to use it up than warm and filling soup?
Ben Domenech’s Soup
Smash and slice 5-6 garlic cloves, depending on size, and start in olive oil in a large stockpot. Add diced vegetables: white onion, carrot, celery, mushrooms, and a shallot. Season with salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook until the vegetables turn translucent, then add chopped fresh thyme and rosemary.
Pour in unsalted chicken stock; if you’ve got store-bought, get a small thing of bone broth and add it and the stock (unsalted—getting salted is too much of a crapshoot) along with another full container of warm water rinsed through the stock container; bring it to a boil.
Add leftover dark meat or a drumstick; you need the bone. Pat beforehand with salt, black pepper, and lemon zest. After around 15 minutes, pull them out and with two forks, shred the chicken. Put the meat back into the soup. Add grated ginger, chopped fresh dill, and lemon zest and lemon juice to taste.
At this point, you can lower the temp and after scooping out some of the broth, boil the pasta. I think orzo is underrated as a soup pasta, even though I know everyone prefers rotini or egg noodles. Boil it in a mix of broth and water until tender, then combine in a bowl with the soup and serve with warm bread.
Always remember to store your soup without noodles in it, otherwise they’ll turn soft and disintegrate.
It might not be a traditional pumpkin pie, but chocolate makes almost everything better. Especially pie. If you’re more of a cake fan, consider a caramel apple pound cake. A friend of mine made this and loved it, exactly as written.
And if, at the end of all of this, you’re baked out? Here is a list of no-bake desserts. All seasonally appropriate and fit to top off this meal.