An Intimate Thanksgiving Dinner Can Still Be Big On Flavor

Tradition suggests the most meaningful Thanksgiving celebrations are those that involve dozens of friends gathering around a giant turkey. This year, celebrations will need to become a lot more intimate, but that doesn’t have to make them any less meaningful.

Whether cooking for six or two this year, or just enjoying a chicken breast for one while catching up with the family on Zoom, the festive feeling can still be kept very much alive. “It is easy to enjoy a festive meal at home on a smaller scale,” said Elisa Marshall, the founding partner and event planner at Maman. 

And that can even include making a pretty hearty meal, even if it’s for a small group who requires less food. “Don’t be afraid to make a little too much, as Thanksgiving leftovers are usually the best part!” said Marshall.

Shop local

Small businesses are having a rough time this year, and Thanksgiving is a great time to support them. “Make a point to pre-order pies from a local bakery, call a local orchard to have a few extra gallons of cider to make a natural autumn cocktail, or work with your local butcher for a special, locally sourced cut of meat,” said Morgan Bedore, vice president of sales, marketing, and creative development at Constellation Culinary Group. A smaller group will allow you more freedom to handpick and mindfully source items.

Scale down the turkey

For a successful Thanksgiving for two, avoid cooking a whole turkey and if possible, buy turkey legs, thighs or a single turkey breast. For example, online butcher D’Artagnan offers a fantastic Truffle Turkey Breast that comes already cooked and ready to eat. Another option is a Smoked Turkey Breast dinner from Joe’s KC BBQ, which can be found on Goldbelly.

While a giant turkey that will feed a dozen people is a beautiful tradition, it’s not necessarily a frugal one this year, especially if it’ll lead to weeks of leftovers. Chicken or turkey breast can be a fun nod to the tradition while trying something new.

“This will significantly cut down on your cooking time and will avoid waste at the end of the day,” said chef Ricardo Jarquin, executive chef of both the Forbes 5-star resort The St. Regis Bal Harbour and W Miami Hotel.

If you are not a fan of turkey, cook something that you will enjoy more such as lamb, ribeye, Cornish hen, or whole fish. There is no rule that says you must eat turkey on Thanksgiving!

Be selective with sides

Sides may be the best part of a big dinner, but too many will mean a lot of waste. “Pick your top two or three and make them as best as you can,” said Jarquin.  “Sides are my favorite part of Thanksgiving but a table full of sides just for two is a bit labor intensive.” Cooking less items will add less stress and allow you to spend the extra time with that significant other.

Consider buying premade foods

Not everyone enjoys spending the whole day in the kitchen on Thanksgiving. Use this as an excuse to support your local restaurant or gourmet market. “Oftentimes, they will have heat and serve options that you can pick up and reheat when you’re ready to enjoy your meal,” said Jarquin. This will not only save you time but will avoid stocking up your pantry with items that you probably won’t use again anytime soon.

Be easy on yourself

Last but not least, keep things simple and avoid feeling pressured to make it a grand feast. “You may also consider, instead of cooking turkey, sides, and dessert, focusing on two dishes that you love but don’t always get the chance to cook,” said Jarquin.  

Keep in mind that Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on things you value and love. Make it less about the food and more about the people you love, whether they are sharing the table or a Zoom screen.

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