A Beginner’s Thanksgiving: 7 Recipes That Lighten the Workload

These recipes call for a limited number of essential ingredients, many of which are shared across the menu.
These recipes call for a limited number of essential ingredients, many of which are shared across th...

Thanksgiving dinner can appear to be the most intimidating meal to prepare for the inexperienced cook. However, it’s not every day that a citizen is tasked with preparing a large list of dishes, including a massive bird, for a group of people who have preconceived notions about how everything is done.

That does not have to be the case. So I set out to create a simplified menu for novices — or anyone who wants to achieve the same flavor profiles without putting in the extra effort.

The majority of the recipes may be made with just a sheet pan and a large skillet. Everything cooks at the same temperature — 350 degrees — so no mental or physical gymnastics are required.

Shopping is simple because these recipes only require a few key ingredients, many of which are shared throughout the meal. Forget about the fresh herbs; they’ll merely add to the laundry. Instead, use a single dried herb as a flavor motif throughout the meal (oregano, thyme, or sage are all acceptable).

Also, stay away from the last-minute culinary frenzy. Instead, prepare much of this food ahead of time when you’re less stressed. (It should take three to four hours to complete.) So roll up your sleeves, listen to a podcast, and relax as you cook. Thanksgiving Day is reserved for roasting the turkey.

1. Roast Turkey Breast with Salt & Pepper

A bone-in turkey breast is much easier to cook than an entire bird; it takes a fraction of the time and feeds a crowd comfortably. I like to roast my turkey the same way I roast my chicken: coated with butter, seasoned with salt & pepper, then baked until crispy.

2. Gravy with umami

The last thing you want to do on Thanksgiving Day is rush to create gravy from the hot pan drippings from the bird. So this make-ahead variation starts with a caramelized red onion foundation and adds nuance and depth with nutritional yeast as an optional umami enhancer.

3. Pizza Stuffing with Cheese

The red-sauce flavors of pizza may seem out of place on Thanksgiving, but they work incredibly well as a custardy stuffing bonded by cheese. In this soothing meal, tomato paste and dried oregano blooming in buttery onions do the heavy lifting, supported by an ivory shower of shredded mozzarella that melts and becomes lushly gooey in parts.

4. Roasted Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

There’s no reason sweet potatoes can’t be mashed with butter, cream, roasted garlic, and plenty of salt like regular potatoes. However, baking sweet potatoes in the oven, rather than boiling them in huge pots, is not only a hands-off method of cooking them, but it also concentrates their taste.

5. Salad with green beans, artichokes, and radicchio

With radicchio and canned artichokes, snappy cooked green beans form a lovely salad. A hearty glug of olive oil, a heavy hand with salt and pepper, and an electric spritz of lemon are all you need for this zinger of a side dish.

6. Cranberry Relish with Lemon

A full lemon, pith and all, serves as the harsh, acidic edge your Thanksgiving feast requires. But, with its jeweled, crimson brilliance, this confetti of a condiment also appears so gorgeous, almost like stained glass.

7. Apple Caramel Pudding

The great smoothness that this pudding takes on while it stays in the refrigerator overnight is what makes it so special. The layers come together over time: vanilla cookies, caramel-fried apples, and salted cinnamon whipped cream, creating an airy fantasy in the form of a fall treat.

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