Thanksgiving Menu: Planning One Epic Meal

Three fantastic Thanksgiving recipes, sans turkey and stuffing.
Set the tone for a tasty Thanksgiving dinner with Grilled Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Powder. 

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. 


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. 

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