Suzy Fleming Leonard: Try these recipes for a delicious Thanksgiving for 2 — or just a few
Many of us won't be hosting lavish gatherings this year, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a meal packed with holiday flavor
In Southern households, food equals love, and my Grandmother Fleming showed her love in abundance, especially during the holidays.
Every year, my family made the seven-hour trip from Louisiana to South Alabama the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. While my sisters and I bickered in the backseat, arguing over whose turn it was to sit in the middle, my mother tried to distract us by counting cows in the endless pastures along the highway.
Our reward for making the trip came the next day when Mother Fleming piled the dining room table with turkey, fried chicken, roast beef and smothered pork chops; turnip greens, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and dressing; apple pie, peach pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and chocolate cake.
We could have fed all of Clarke County and still had leftovers. Mother Fleming just sat back and grinned as she watched her sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren go back for seconds and thirds.
I know my family's not unique. Similar scenes are played out annually in dining rooms across the country. Except this year.
With the pandemic keeping most folks at home, even when their families live down the street, our tables won't be sagging from Thanksgiving's bounty.
But food can still show love, even with a smaller gathering.
With some input from a food writer friend across the state, and a little help from a couple of pals here, I came up with a menu that's perfect for two to six people, with plenty of leftovers for next-day snacking.
Everything's kind of wacky this year, so why not try something new?
The whole meal took about three hours to prepare, give or take a little cook time.
Start the bread first, so it has plenty of time to rise. The casseroles can be put together a day ahead of time if you'd like.
Ideally, you would cook each these dishes on the center rack of the oven, but on Thanksgiving, you want everything coming out hot at the same time. For this meal, the turkey went in first. After an hour, I slid the bread in next to it.
When the bread and turkey had about 30 minutes left to cook, I put the casseroles in the oven on the top shelf. Luckily, all four baked at 350 degrees.
Chop the ingredients for the stuffing, but wait until right before dinner to make it. If it sits too long, it can get mushy.
I love making pumpkin yeast rolls. They're delicious, but the recipe makes 24 rolls, way too many for a small gathering. I adapted the recipe to make a single loaf.
½ cup whole or reduced-fat milk
¼ cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 packet instant or quick-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3¼ cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
¼ cup toasted pepitas
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine milk, sugar, pumpkin puree, egg, softened butter, yeast, salt and flour.
Mix on low speed until all ingredients are combined, then increase speed to medium low to knead. The dough should be soft and slightly sticky, but will pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if dough is too soft.
When the dough starts to form a ball, add pepitas and knead with the mixer on low speed until the seeds are incorporated throughout the dough.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray or butter. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a loaf. Gently place in pan. Cover loaf pan with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until the dough almost doubles again.
Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Brush the top of the loaf with half of melted butter.
Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and let bake for 45 minutes, or until the top turns golden brown. Thump the top of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done.
Brush the remaining melted butter over the top of the loaf. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.
I got a turkey breast that was just less than 6 pounds. There was enough meat to feed six people, with leftovers for next-day sandwiches. I basically followed the instructions on the label.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Brush the turkey breast with melted butter. Season it with salt, pepper and garlic powder, or any seasonings you like.
Place the turkey in a shallow roasting pan, and cover with foil, or use a Dutch oven and cover with the lid. (Add a pound of washed, whole red new potatoes to the pan if you want an extra veggie on the table.)
Roast for 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 15 minutes, until a thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat reads 155 to 160 degrees.
Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.
I like to make this as an alternative to sweet potato casserole. It's sweet, and a little tart. The original recipe used canned pineapple tidbits, but I use fresh fruit. And no, this isn't a dessert. Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.
4 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more for greasing the pan
4 cups (1½ pounds) fresh pineapple chunks, cut into small pieces, juices reserved
Juice from the pineapple, with enough water added to equal 1 cup liquid
¼ cup sugar
3-4 tablespoons quick-mixing flour (I use Wondra)
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Butter a 2-quart casserole dish, and fill with the pineapple chunks.
In a small pot over medium heat, mix the liquid and sugar and bring to a simmer. When sugar has dissolved, stir in flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until liquid begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of cold butter.
Add 1 cup of shredded cheese to the pot and pour the mixture over the pineapple chunks. No need to let the cheese melt.
In a medium sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Crush 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers and combine crumbs with melted butter.
Sprinkle buttered crumbs evenly over the pineapple, then top with the remaining ½ cup of cheese.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.
Another twist on tradition, I make asparagus casserole instead of green beans. I even top it with those crispy, fried onions that come in a can. When I was growing up, we made it with canned asparagus and cream of mushroom soup. For this version, I used fresh asparagus, sliced white mushrooms and heavy cream. I'm a butter fiend, in case you can't tell. If you'd rather substitute olive oil for the butter, that's OK.
1 pound fresh asparagus
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
⅓ cup dry white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 tablespoons quick-mixing flour
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Crispy fried onions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Rinse and pat dry the asparagus. Cut off and discard about 1 inch from the bottom the spears. Cut the remaining asparagus into 1½-inch pieces and transfer to the casserole dish.
Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and cook until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Brush dirt off mushrooms with a paper towel and slice. Add mushrooms to the pot and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
Add the wine to the pot and scrape up any bits that have stuck to the bottom. Let the sauce cook until wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add salt, pepper, garlic salt and cream to the pot and bring to a simmer. Stir in flour, a little at a time, until sauce thickens.
Pour mushroom cream sauce over the asparagus. Sprinkle cheese over the casserole, and top with fried onions.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until cheese melts and starts to turn brown.
If assembling ahead of time, wait until just before baking to add the onions.
Quickie Cornbread Dressing
This recipe comes from my colleague Annabelle Tometich Martin at the News-Press in Fort Myers. Store-bought corn muffins make this a quick, super-simple stuffing recipe that can be easily adjusted for as many eaters as needed. We doubled the recipe and had plenty for 6 people. Feeling fancy? Whip up a batch of your favorite homemade cornbread muffins, to kick this up a notch.
Ingredients for 2 servings
2-3 strips bacon
½-1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium-sized onion, chopped
1 rib celery with leafy tops, chopped
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 apple, cored and chopped into bite-sized chunks (firm, tart apples such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp work best)
¼ cup dried cranberries or cherries
1 stalk of fresh sage, de-stemmed and finely chopped
2 corn muffins
½ cup chicken stock
Start bacon in a cool, nonstick skillet. Turn heat to medium-high and cook to desired crispness. Remove bacon but leave fat in pan. Remove pan from heat. Chop bacon and set aside.
Return pan to heat. Add ½-1 tablespoon olive oil to bacon grease, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Once oil is hot, add onion, celery and apple. Season with salt and pepper, cook till apples have softened and vegetables are tender, 3-5 minutes. Add dried cranberries/cherries and sage, tossing to combine, then crumble in corn muffins. Add stock, as needed, to dampen the mix and keep it moist. Toss to thoroughly combine. Remove from heat and fold in chopped bacon. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven. If stuffing dries out, add more stock before serving.
Note: For a heartier stuffing, add kale (stemmed and chopped) at the same time as the celery, onions and apples. To make this vegetarian, omit the bacon and increase the olive oil.
Make this easy gravy while letting the turkey rest before carving.
Remove turkey from the roasting pan and let rest, tented with foil, on a serving tray.
Pour ½ to 1 cup of the pan drippings into a medium skillet. If needed, add chicken broth to equal 1 cup of liquid.
Over medium heat, whisk quick-mixing flour into the liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the gravy begins to thicken. Don't get impatient with the flour. If you add it too quickly, lumps will form.
Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of cold butter. Stir until it melts.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spiced, wine-poached pears
This is another recipe from Annabelle that can be scaled up or down as needed. For those who love spice, cloves and/or a pinch of cayenne can be a delicious addition.
Ingredients for 2 servings
2 lemons, juiced, plus zest from 1 lemon, divided
2 to 3 pears, peeled and cored (Bosc or Anjou; core from the bottom to preserve stems for presentation)
1 cup red wine (zinfandel, shiraz or merlot are ideal)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mascarpone, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving
Fill a large bowl with cold water and add all but 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Peel and core each pear. Place them in the bowl of lemon water to rest.
Combine red wine, sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla extract and cinnamon in a medium saucepan that is big enough to hold the pears. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to a low simmer. Add pears and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes on first side.
Rotate the pears and continue to poach for an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove the pears from the pan and cool them on a cooling rack or an old, clean towel (the wine may stain).
Bring the wine sauce back up to a rolling simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. To serve, place one pear in a shallow bowl. Pour a stream of sauce over the fruit. Garnish with a dollop of mascarpone, ice cream or whipped cream.
Recipe adapted from thespruceeats.com
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