Thanksgiving Menu: Planning One Epic Meal

Three fantastic Thanksgiving recipes, sans turkey and stuffing.
thanksgiving dinner 3

thanksgiving dinner 3

Set the tone for a tasty Thanksgiving dinner with Grilled Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Powder.  

Photo by: Photo courtesy of Clifton Inn

Photo courtesy of Clifton Inn

Set the tone for a tasty Thanksgiving dinner with Grilled Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Powder.  

In my house, there are four givens at Thanksgiving: 

1.  There's going to be turkey.

2.  There's going to be stuffing. 

3.  I will forget to set out at least one part of the meal.

4.  I will spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the appetizer, sides and dessert. 

This year, I started obsessing right around the time the Halloween candy came out and narrowed it down to the final three long before the last Snickers bar bit the dust. Here's how it's going to play out on the plate: 

Grilled Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Powder

Courtesy of Tucker Yoder, executive chef of Clifton Inn, Charlottesville, Virginia

Yields 6 

"This dish is inspired by fall with the use of seasonal squash and the nutty caramel flavors from brown butter," Yoder says. "It includes sherry vinegar and honey for the ideal kick of sweetness and tart to make an appetizer that will spark the taste buds." 

Grilled Butternut Squash

  • 1 butternut squash, large
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Slice butternut squash into large plants ¼-inch thick. Grill on one side to char nicely, season with salt and pepper and finish cooking in a 350-degree oven for about five minutes, being careful not to overcook the squash. 

Brown Butter Powder

  • ½ stick butter, unsalted
  • 8 ounces non-fat milk powder

Brown butter in a pan until it has a nice nutty aroma. Add non-fat milk powder and stir until the powder turns golden brown. Season with salt.

Sherry Vinegar

  • ½ cup sherry vinegar
  • ½ cup honey

Mix sherry vinegar and honey in a pot and cook until it becomes a syrup, about five minutes. Allow to cool before using. 

Serve the squash with the grill mark side up with a dollop of sherry syrup, a sprinkle of brown butter powder and a small sage leaf. 

Grilled Balsamic Radicchio

Courtesy of Laurent Tourondel, chef/partner of Arlington Club, New York, New York

Serves 6

Let's be honest: No one eats salad on Thanksgiving because it's a) cold and b) healthy. But this dish is so warm and full of great flavors, no one will mind that it's nutritious. 

  • 1 medium head radicchio, cut into 8 wedges with the core intact
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Mix the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil and honey in a medium serving bowl. Place the radicchio in a shallow baking dish and pour marinade on top. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes. 

Remove radicchio, reserving the marinade, and grill until crispy, about 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and place on a serving platter. Drizzle with reserved marinade and keep warm. 

Spiced Sweet Potato Mousse with Ginger Glazed Pecans and Graham-Pecan Crumble

Courtesy of chef Jeffrey Forrest, executive chef of Parker & Quinn, New York, New York

Yields 8-12 desserts

Now this is the way to end an epic meal with some energy! Who needs crust when there's graham-pecan crumble?

  • 1 cup sweet potato puree (or canned pumpkin puree)
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 sheet gelatin, hydrated (or 1 tablespoon powdered)
  • 1 small bar dark chocolate

Sweet Potato Puree

2-3 sweet potatoes, medium-sized

Pierce the sweet potatoes several times with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until softened, 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on size. Let cool. 

Slice each sweet potato in half lengthwise, scoop the flesh into a saucepan and discard the skins. Mash puree with a wooden spoon until fairly smooth. 

Mix puree with spices and reserve. 

In a mixer with a wire whip, add heavy cream and vanilla extract and whip to a hard peak and reserve.

Whip egg yolks on medium-high for seven minutes, or until thick and light. While whipping eggs, heat sugar, water and corn syrup to 250 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Add hot sugar to egg yolks down the side of the bowl while whipping and whip again until thick. 

Add gelatin while the mixture is still warm. Mix slowly until it dissolves, then add potato mix slowly while whipping. 

Fold in ½ of the whipped cream. Reserve remaining cream for topping. Pour into individual glasses or bowl and chill. 

Graham-Pecan Crumble

  • ½ cup pecans
  • ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Toast pecans in a 350-degree oven until just fragrant—do not brown. Let cool and finely chop. Mix pecans with graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and reserve. 

Glazed Pecans

  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ tablespoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

In a mixing bowl, coat pecans with maple syrup. Add ginger and salt then toast pecans. Reserve. 

Assembly

Top mousse with whipped cream. Sprinkle pecan-graham cracker crumbs over mousse. Grate a little dark chocolate with a microplane over the dessert. Finish with 2 or 3 ginger glazed pecans. 

Next Up

Easy Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

Whether you prefer your stuffing in or out of the bird, this easy recipe is the perfect complement to Thanksgiving's main event.

Tarragon Green Beans With Almonds Recipe

Take everyone's favorite green veggie — green beans — up a notch with this flavorful recipe that features fresh herbs and a crunchy nut topping.

Cranberry-Ginger Relish Recipe

Your Thanksgiving guests will flip for this twist on the seasonal favorite. This not-too-sweet relish goes great with roast turkey, chicken or pork.

Golden Raisin and Cranberry Chutney Recipe

Forget canned cranberry sauce; instead whip up this not-too-sweet relish to complement your Thanksgiving turkey, ham, duck or even roast pork.

Candied Yams Recipe

Sweet and gooey, this recipe is a fall favorite for kids and adults alike. Whip up a big batch for your Thanksgiving get-together.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup With Fried Sage Leaves

Warm up your fall guests with this creamy and oh so satisfying soup. Great as a first course or as a healthy, light meal when served with rustic bread and artisanal cheeses.

Individual Maple Sweet Potato Souffles

Maple syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness to these light and airy fall side dishes. Top with toasted pecans for an earthy crunch.

Southwestern-Style Poblano Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

Forget store-bought mix: With toasted pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes and just the right amount of kick from roasted poblano peppers, this homemade stuffing is destined to become your family's new favorite.

Herb Roasted Turkey and Gravy Recipe

Fresh parsley, rosemary and thyme give this turkey a savory flavor your family and Thanksgiving guests are sure to love. Turn the pan drippings into a thick gravy that's the perfect complement to your bird.

Sage-Roasted Turkey With Crunchy Maple Crust Recipe

Fresh sage and pure maple syrup give this Thanksgiving turkey a savory-meets-sweet flavor that's a cut above the rest. Friends and family will happily gobble up this moist and flavorful bird.
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