Guess what? Your Thanksgiving celebration will be just as wonderful this year but you'll need to make some menu changes, and adapt how you gather. It's a time to invent new Thanksgiving celebration traditions. Michele Di Pietro and I have you covered! Listen to this podcast episode and find out everything you need to know for a fabulous Thanksgiving Celebration in the Covid era.
Invent New Ways to Gather
A Thanksgiving hike
When I was growing up our family tradition was a brisk morning hike followed by a hearty Thanksgiving meal. This might be the time to ditch the indoor meal gathering and focus on the morning hike.
Turn the hike into a picnic
Weather permitting you might want to each have your own picnic meal to enjoy in whatever spot you come upon that strikes your fancy. But maybe the weather won’t allow for this. Thanksgiving can be beautiful but it can just as likely be chilly and damp.
Al Fresco Thanksgiving celebration in the Covid era
Prepare your terrace, porch or outdoor area for a Thanksgiving celebration al fresco.
This might be the time to invest in some outdoor space heaters so you can keep your outdoor space sufficiently warm. Here are a few you might want to look into. My favorite is this stainless steel patio heater.
Or try this small portable electric patio heater.
If you don’t have a terrace or an outdoor porch set up your Thanksgiving celebration in your garage. Open up the garage door and let all the fresh air come in so that you have plenty of circulation.
And what about a fire pit? If you have one take advantage of it for your Thanksgiving celebration.
Masks and social distancing
Whatever outdoor celebration you choose don’t forget that masks and social distancing are still extremely important especially if you have a sizable guest list. Make sure you set up chairs and tables that are spaced at least a meter apart. And when you’re not eating and drinking slip that mask back on! Make mask wearing fun and get an adorable one online like these:
Indoor Thanksgiving celebration in the Covid era
If you decide to celebrate Thanksgiving indoors with friends and family try to keep the guest list paired down. Open up doors and windows so you have plenty of air circulation. And remember: using fans indoors only moves air around and aerosol droplets still remain in circulation. If you open up windows and doors it’s much better option.
Limit the length of your Thanksgiving gathering
The longer people gather together the higher the risk of contracting Covid so try to keep your gatherings brief.
Serving the Meal
Prepare single servings on plates before you bring food to the table. Thanksgiving is the time to bring out your best or purchase some new and beautiful disposable Thanksgiving napkins and plates.
Best not to share and pass around food platters.
Celebrate Thanksgiving Traditions virtually
For many the best part of the Thanksgiving celebration are games and Thanksgiving football games. Why not celebrate virtually and do those exact same things? Try indoor games you can play virtually like charades. And if you decide to watch football games together make sure you all tune in to the same channel.
Thanksgiving Menu Ideas
Soups & First Course Dishes
Start with a soup
Thanksgiving is the time of year when we are heavily in soup mode and it’s a great way to start off your meal.
I love a pumpkin soup, pioppino mushroom soup or a butternut squash soup.
I love classic Italian first course dishes that use traditional Thanksgiving ingredients. A few of my favorites are Radicchio Ravioli with Chestnut Cream, Pumpkin Gorgonzola Risotto and Sweet Potato Gnocchi.
Scale down the menu and get creative with the main course
This just might be the year to ditch the huge turkey and choose a simpler main course option. How about individual Cornish hens? Or roast stuffed chicken breasts? With either of these options you can still make your traditional stuffing and use it to stuff the hens, a small turkey or chicken, or the chicken breasts.
Another option is to order take-away Thanksgiving menus.
If you go with a stuffed bird a great stuffing is key!
Stuffing ideas and recipes
My stuffing recipe:
Eight large Italian sausages cooked and crumbled or finely chopped
3 cups cooked and crumbled chestnuts
Four ribs celery, finely diced
Two large onions, minced
One cup minced herbs: parsley, sage, marjoram, thyme.
Toasted bread cubes, 8 to 10 cups
Turkey or chicken broth, 1 to 1 ½ L
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Gather all your ingredients together and prepare the day before you stuff the turkey. This takes one task off your list for Thanksgiving day.
When you’re ready to stuff the turkey put all the ingredients, except for the broth, in a large mixing bowl.
Use two large spoons to mix all the ingredients together.
Mix in the broth, by the cupful, until it reaches the right consistency.
I like a stuffing that’s neither too dry nor too wet. I mix in just enough broth so the stuffing is moist enough to stick together if squeezed.
Note: This is a lot of stuffing and plenty for a very large turkey; I like to have plenty of stuffing for the turkey and enough to bake separately for seconds and leftovers.
Michele's take on stuffing
Michele doesn’t stuff her turkey and prefers to bake it separately; more like a strata. Her stuffing recipe is similar to mine but she also uses a few eggs. For the bread cubes Michele uses cubed baguette and whole wheat challah.
Cranberries are a Thanksgiving classic
Cranberry sauce or relish will add some sweetness to your menu.
Cranberry sauce is one of the easiest things to make, there are wonderful ways to vary it, it lasts a long time and freezes beautifully.
Michele’s cranberry sauce
Simmer fresh cranberries, orange juice, triple sec or another liqueur of your choice, and brown sugar or maple syrup. Once the sauce has thickened, cool and refrigerate.
Michele also suggests a delicious Aperol Spritz cranberry sauce. And why not? This year is the 100th anniversary of Aperol! For this cranberry sauce prepare an Aperol spritz, add fresh or dried cranberries, a little bit of sugar and simmer until thickened.
Michele and I both love cranberry relish
Use a food processor to process raw fresh cranberries, cubed whole orange or orange zest, and sugar together. Before serving Michele likes to fold in some pomegranate arils and toasted pistachios.
I don’t have access to fresh cranberries so before I make cranberry sauce or relish I plump up dried cranberries in tap water or a liqueur like triple sec.
And how about cranberries for dessert?
This year serve these delicious cranberry hazelnut biscotti for dessert.
Both white and sweet potatoes are a must on your Thanksgiving menu. Hassleback potatoes are delicious and simple to make. If you cook outdoors this year then why not roast some potatoes?
Roast vegetables, especially root vegetables are a tasty accompaniment to any Thanksgiving menu.
If you tuned into my recent podcast episode with Violante you’ll remember that while we chatted she served me a delicious roast vegetable dish of brussels sprouts, cubed butternut squash and dried cranberries. Violante tossed all the ingredients together with several spoonfuls of wild honey, a dash of salt and extra-virgin olive oil. The colors are beautiful and reflect everything that is fall, and the flavors were explosively delicious. This will definitely be on my Thanksgiving menu.
Don't forget the bread!
A basic hearty and healthy bread to serve is this whole grain farro nut bread. It’s delicious and nutritious and you’ll probably want to make it year-round.
Let's not forget the leftovers!
I always have a lot of leftover turkey and stuffing. This year I plan to use the leftovers to make this delicious chicken or turkey pot pie!
A classic Thanksgiving leftover meal is turkey sandwiches. Michele makes a cranberry mayonnaise for her sandwiches: whisk together cranberry sauce and mayonnaise and your cranberry mayo is done.
Michele suggests that you make waffles with leftover stuffing. You can also cube up a bit of your turkey leftovers and add it to the stuffing. When the waffles are done drizzle with some gravy or leftover cranberry sauce.
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