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Credit: Brittany Conerly

Still Undecided on Your Thanksgiving Menu? Here Are 4 Ways to Think Big, but Cook Small for Thanksgiving 2020.

published Nov 19, 2020
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Thanksgiving is almost here: Are you still on the fence about how you’re celebrating (or even if you’re celebrating at all?). If so, you’re not alone. We’ve heard from so many people that they feel tentative about the holiday: Should they stay home? Celebrate with a small group? And the food — food is the last thing on our minds. So I’m here to give you a nudge and push you into a place of decision.

I’m going to make one thing really easy for you: No, you should not celebrate Thanksgiving with anyone outside of your household or COVID pod. If you’ve been waffling or feeling torn, as I was, there is a lot of relief in just making the wise choice. Stay home; don’t see your relatives; keep it small. Personally, when I decided to sidestep all the fraught choice of seeing my extended family, I felt both sad but also relieved. This is your permission and your encouragement to do the same.

In your small Thanksgiving meal, “Think big, but prepare small!” This advice comes from Alexander Smalls, a legendary chef and cookbook author who I interviewed last weekend as part of Kitchn’s Thanksgiving Food Fest. (He has so many delicious ideas for “thinking big” for the holiday; you can watch our chat here!)

Thinking big could mean having a lush traditional meal and reveling in the nostalgia, and having a whole pie to yourself to nibble all week long. Or thinking big could mean thinking beyond the holiday to meals ahead. Or you could think big in some totally creative and unexpected way that has meaning for you.

Here are four ways to think big and make a Thanksgiving that is scaled down in size but big in imagination and pleasure.

Option 1: Eat what you love.

I think that the first option for the long Thanksgiving weekend that everyone should consider is to completely unshackle themselves from Thanksgiving tradition to eat what they love and nothing else. When I talked to Nik Sharma, author of The Flavor Equation, during Thanksgiving Food Fest, he told me that he and his husband are having beef Wellington! Other folks just really want pie, and nothing but pie. Why not make a pot of soup and three pies, and binge a great Netflix show over the long weekend (we might rewatch The Mandalorian)?

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Option 2: Go traditional, only smaller.

If you crave the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving but want to keep it small for just the two of you, I completely understand. We have the perfect small-scale menu for you with a sheet pan turkey breast that roasts right with the vegetables. Make a batch of traditional stuffing and mashed potatoes, and make (or buy!) a pie and you’re all set for a meal with all the right flavors and just the right amount of leftovers.

Option 3: Cook an entire Thanksgiving meal in one Dutch oven (yes, seriously!).

Want to keep it even smaller and more accessible — and a tiny bit tongue-in-cheek? Use this excuse to buy yourself a brand new Dutch oven (like this Staub or this Le Creuset) and then make this ingenious one-pot Thanksgiving dinner! You start by searing a turkey breast to build the flavor, then roast sweet potatoes and potatoes in the pot. Mash them, add the stuffing on top, then the turkey breast and green beans. Cover and cook until done. Voila! Two kinds of potatoes, stuffing, and turkey breast. Just add cranberry sauce and pie and you’re set.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Option 4: Roast a BIG turkey — then turn it into meals for a month.

Last but not least, a Thanksgiving option that is a little more ambitious but can turn a quieter long weekend into a serious gift for your future self. Go ahead and buy that whole turkey, roast it, and enjoy it — then turn a surplus of meat into meals for a month. Our full plan below gives you everything you need, from recipes to step-by-step prep directions, to turning a full turkey into freezer favorites like turkey enchiladas, turkey vegetable soup, and more. It turns out you can have your turkey and eat it, too.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year? I hope this helped guide you. Think big, plan small!