An intimate Thanksgiving


By Linda Morel

Although many families traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving with a crowd, this year the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to change all that. Downsizing will be the watchword.

Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes large indoor gatherings as high-risk activities, fewer people will be flying across the country or even driving across town to join extended family and friends. The New York Times recently citied surveys that found many consumers plan to hold smaller gatherings or host only their immediate family.

Plenty of rookie cooks will be making Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. Aware of this, grocery chains have increased orders for 12-pound turkeys, instead of birds in the usual 16-20 pound range, to accommodate this fall’s reality.

Although families will miss loved ones who can’t celebrate with them, an intimate dinner is an opportunity to serve foods that are too difficult to make for a larger group.

In the past, if you’ve simply seasoned turkeys with salt and pepper, why not raise the flavor profile of your turkey with a dry rub of festive fall herbs. This intense seasoning will have more impact on a small bird than on a larger one.

Likewise, try aromatic new side dishes. Jazz up yams with fresh ginger. Keep the old standbys that your family loves, but add a couple new and exciting dishes to the menu.

While 2020 has proven to be challenging, holidays have a habit of brightening everyone’s spirits. Although fewer people may sit at your table, Thanksgiving symbolizes the same wholesome values — the bounty of the harvest and gratitude for everything we have during this very difficult year.

Dry Rub for Roasted Turkey | Meat

Serves 6-8

1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1½ teaspoons rosemary
1½ teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon chili powder
12-pound turkey
1 tablespoon olive oil
Nonstick vegetable spray

Combine the salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder and chili powder in a small bowl.

Rinse the turkey under cold water, inside and out. Pat it dry with paper towels. Drizzle olive oil over the turkey and, with your fingers, coat the turkey skin. Sprinkle the spices on the turkey, including the cavity. Then rub in the spices. Lightly cover the turkey with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 3-6 hours before roasting.

Heat your oven to 325 degrees. Set up a roasting pan with a rack. Spray the rack with nonstick spray. Place turkey on the rack and roast it, uncovered, for 3 hours, or until the juices run clear, not pink, at the bone. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone, should read 180 degrees. Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest on a cutting board for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.


Candied Yams | Pareve or dairy

Serves 6-8

Nonstick vegetable spray
3 large yams
1½ inches ginger root
8 tablespoons dairy-free margarine or unsalted butter
¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons maple syrup, preferably Grade A Amber
1 teaspoon vanilla

Coat a 10-inch-by-15-inch baking dish, such as Pyrex, with nonstick vegetable spray. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel the yams. Rinse them under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Slice them into ½-inch disks. Cut the larger disks in half. Peel the ginger. Dice it and then chop it fine. Reserve.

Cut the butter, if using, into 12 pieces. In a medium-sized pot, melt the margarine or butter on a medium-low flame. Add the ginger, along with the white sugar and brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the cinnamon, ground cloves, salt and maple syrup. Stir again until well combined. To avoid a flare up, remove the pot from the flame and add the vanilla, stirring well.

Move the yams to the prepared pan. Pour the warm mixture from the pan over the yams and stir to coat each piece well. Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the yams are softened. Serve immediately.


Caramelized Shallots and Haricots Verts (French Green Beans) | Pareve

Serves 6-8

1½ pounds haricots verts
2 shallots
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Rinse the haricots verts in a colander under cold water. Drain them on paper towels. Reserve.

Peel the shallot, then cut them into slices and separate them into rings.

In a large skillet, drizzle in olive oil and heat over a medium flame until warm. Add the shallot rings and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Stir until softened and fragrant.

Add the haricots verts and stir to coat them with oil. Sauté until the haricot verts are slightly wilted but still green and the shallots are caramelized. Add more oil at any time, if needed.

Check the salt, and add more if needed. Move it to an attractive serving bowl and sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Pear Crisp | Dairy or Pareve

Serves 6-8

Equipment: 7-inch-by-11-inch ovenproof pan, such as Pyrex

Pear Layer
Nonstick vegetable spray
8 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon white sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt

Coat an ovenproof pan with nonstick spray. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pears in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, spices, sugar and salt. Mix gently with a wooden spoon. Move the pear mixture to the prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping below over the pears.

½ cup unsalted butter or dairy-free margarine at room temperature
1¼ cups blanched almonds, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup flour

Place the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pears. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the pears bubble and the topping turns golden and crunchy. Cool to warm and serve. The recipe can be reheated.

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