Thanksgiving dinner for one: Recipes for a single holiday meal
Jump to recipe: Roasted turkey thighs | Simple stuffing | Skillet-crisped Brussels sprouts leaves | Mashed sweet potatoes
It’s a bad, sad prospect, Thanksgiving dinner this year. It can’t be a good old Turkey Day when from points far-away family and friends travel to gather inside a just-passably ventilated room, unmasked, to sit packed together around a large table, for an extended time, eating from common platters and talking loudly to old people.
In 2020, lots of us plan to dispense with the traditions, if reluctantly then at least securely. Some of us may well find ourselves alone.
For this Thanksgiving Day dinner, I have planned a menu, with recipes, for the solo cook. If you’re to dine alone, treat yourself to a traditional turkey dinner anyway. It may not be as grand as a big spread, but it’s a sign that you honor both the Before Time and yourself. You are your own best — and safest — guest.
The recipes are for two or more servings; that’s for leftovers. (What’s Thanksgiving dinner without the dawn of Friday’s leftovers?)
For the turkey, thighs. You might want a small boneless breast; that’s a good alternative for which online recipes abound. The stuffing is close to what my mother cooked for the St. John Thanksgiving dinner for 50 years. It’s just delicious.
I have substituted dried cranberries for the raisins that she used. I had somehow to get cranberry into the menu. Because, Thanksgiving.
Brussels sprouts are a tradition the last Thursday in November. The recipe here is a neat new way that I found to cook them. I especially like the crispy bits and the tangy-sweet balsamic.
The mashed sweet potatoes do double duty: They’re sweet potatoes, another familiar face for Thanksgiving, but baked then mashed with lots of butter. Their texture, then, is a sub for perhaps the most sought-after (but here not included) dinner item on Thanksgiving Day, mashed potatoes in the russet way.
If you want some of those, by all means treat yourself to them as well. They’re a snap to make.
Roasted turkey thighs
- 2 turkey thighs, about 1 pound apiece
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- 1 scant teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon each, crushed lightly in the palm of the hand: dried thyme leaves, herbes de Provence, dried sage leaves
- ½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup chicken (or turkey or miso) broth
- The day before cooking them, rinse the turkey thighs and pat dry with paper towels. Place them on a plate, skin side up, and keep overnight in the refrigerator, uncovered, so that the skin dries out somewhat.
- When ready to roast, remove the thighs from the refrigerator 1 hour in advance of cooking and allow to come up in temperature. Make a compound butter of the dry seasonings and the butter, stirring or smooshing them together well.
- Rub 1/2 the quantity of the compound butter over each thigh, including going around the sides with your fingers. Place on a baking sheet or tray and carefully pour the broth around the thighs but not on top of them. Roast for 50-65 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 170 degrees deep in the meat not touching any bone.
- Let rest outside of the oven for 10-15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped flat-leaf parsley, if desired.
Makes 4 cups, give or take
- 2 medium or 1 large shallot, small diced
- 2 medium ribs celery, small diced
- M stick unsalted butter
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Kosher salt, fresh pepper, herbes de Provence
- 8 slices thick white bread, “Pullman” style, cubed and toasted in a 350-degree oven until lightly browned
- 2-3 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought, warmed
- Cook the shallots and celery in the butter until they are softened, 6-7 minutes or more (however soft you like). Toward the end, add the cranberries and soften them. Add very generous amounts of the seasonings (sniff it until its smells like bagged stuffing). Add the cubed bread and toss to coat.
- Add 2 cups of the chicken broth and toss in. Cover and let sit off the heat for 10 minutes. Then see if the liquid has been absorbed to your liking; if not, add more. In an oiled or buttered gratin dish, heat in a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
Skillet-crisped Brussels sprouts leaves
Makes 2-3 servings
- 8-9 large Brussels sprouts
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Kosher or fine sea salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon good quality balsamic vinegar, preferably what is called “condimento” (aged balsamic)
- Prepare an ice bath of water and ice cubes in a large bowl. Trim off, at the stem end, 1/4 of each sprout and separate, as best you can, each into its leaves (as if you were pulling apart a head of iceberg lettuce). In a large amount of well-salted, swiftly boiling water, blanch the leaves for 1 minute. Drain and immediately add to the ice bath.
- Dry off the leaves with plenty of paper toweling. In a large skillet (nonstick works but does not crisp them up as traditional steel or cast iron does), cook the leaves in the olive oil and butter for 6-7 minutes, tossing continually, until they sport bits of crisp brown here and there. Sprinkle in the vinegar, stir and serve.
Mashed sweet potatoes
- 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, any sort or provenance
- ½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- Salt and fresh pepper
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Poke the sweet potatoes all over, 4-5 times each, with tines of a sharp fork, not too deeply, just enough to break the skins.
- Place on a baking sheet and cook for 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, mash the insides of the potatoes (and any pieces of thin skin that you wish to eat) with the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm to serve.
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