For the last 15 years or so, I've been more likely to stuff a suitcase than a turkey come Thanksgiving. I've flown west from the East Coast to gather with my family, flown east from the West Coast to celebrate with my husband's clan, gotten delayed in Houston (ugh) and Chicago (treacherous) and been stranded at more than one bus station. Packing in plans with high school and college friends and braving a sleetstorm for a second turkey dinner or third pie feast means that Turkey Day is wonderful, chaotic, filling, and utterly exhausting.
But I have a little fantasy about Thanksgiving. It involves Bill Withers singing "Just the two of us" on the stereo as a fire crackles in our little fireplace. It involves a really nice bottle of Champagne that doesn't need to be split eight ways. It involves staying home: no planes, no trains, and a meal that's meant for just us. Here's what I'd serve.
Oysters to Start
I'm not sure I'd care to shuck oysters for a crowd of 15 or 20, but a dozen or so make a lovely starter, especially since we've cracked open that bubbly. Never shucked oysters before? Check out Kenji's instructional video here...
The Main Event: Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast and Stuffing
Just because the gathering is small doesn't mean I'd skip any favorites. We all know that Thanksgiving foods make excellent leftovers. But I love how handy and compact this stuffing-and-turkey dish is: just one casserole contains pretty much all my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving meal. The turkey breast roasts right on top of the stuffing until the bread turns crisp and brown, then continues on its own until fully cooked. The delicious juices go right back on the stuffing and while the meat rests, you reheat the stuffing until hot and crisp once again.
Porcini Mushroom Gravy
Making this dinner for two a low-stress affair includes prepping some elements of the meal in advance, including this earthy, mushroomy gravy. It starts with good homemade turkey stock (something I like to have around for fall soups anyway), flavored with dried porcini mushrooms and a little sherry for added savory flavor.
I love the freshness that an uncooked cranberry relish adds to an otherwise rich meal. This one has orange zest and apple, and can be whipped up in the food processor a few days in advance. It's also fantastic on a leftover-turkey sandwich, if you're the midnight snack type.
On the Side: Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad
I love roasted Brussels sprouts, but I appreciate a Thanksgiving side that's not vying for oven space. Brussels sprouts, with their ends trimmed and their leaves separated, do wonderfully in a skillet, especially once that skillet is greased up with rendered bacon fat. Hazelnuts add a bit more substance and savory flavor, making this dish right at home alongside the stuffing.
And For Dessert: Apple Crisp
If you're loyal to pie, and don't mind having leftovers, I don't blame you one bit. But if you'd prefer an easier dessert that can even be sized down and baked in single-serve ramekins, I'd go with this luscious apple crisp, flavored with a little bourbon and crowned with a handful of buttery, nutty streusel. If you're baking in individual ramekins, watch the baking time—it'll go a little faster in smaller containers, and you may want to broil the top for a minute at the end to brown it more. Then again, why bother sizing down? Just make the two-quart dessert and serve with two spoons to dig in. Hey, nobody's watching.