Thanksgiving Special – Five Course Dinner with a Little French Flare

This week, I’m sharing three different menus to help you create your perfect Thanksgiving feast.

Whether you and your family are hungry for traditional New England fare, a five course French bistro dinner or a rustic Italian feast, I’ve decided the turkey is sacrosanct  but the rest of the dishes are fair game. I’ll be doing a bit of mixing and matching and taking dishes from all three of these menus. Feel free to do the same!


I lived in Switzerland for almost two decades. While I was there, I liked to serve a five course Thanksgiving dinner with a foot on each continent.

Start with soup!
Fall is mushroom season in France and Switzerland so I always started my Thanksgiving feast with Wild Mushroom Soup

Move on to the main event!
The star of the show is still the Roast Turkey. And no, don’t skip the the Cranberry Sauce. When serving a five course dinner, it’s important to pace yourself. Instead of stuffing and a couple of veggies, combine them with a delicious Savory Butternut Squash & Swiss Chard Bread Pudding. It’s one of my favorite festive cold weather dishes.

Time for salad!
The French typically eat their salad after the main course. A lovely salad will add a special touch to your bistro Thanksgiving. Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes, Olives and Feta is a great choice.

Cheese please!
My cheese of choice for my Thanksgiving dinners in Switzerland was always Vacherin Mont d’Or. It hit the market in mid-September and was beautifully aged and at its best by mid to late November. You can find it on-line or serve a platter of your favorite cheeses.

For a sweet finish!

It was such a hit last year that I’m baking it again! My Rustic Apple Croustade is just wonderful.

The Game Plan

If you haven’t done it yet, order the turkey!
If you want to try Vacherin Mont d’Or, order it on-line. With any luck it will arrive in time for Turkey Day.

Saturday morning before Thanksgiving:
Finalize your menu, gather your recipes and make your shopping list. Check it twice. Pick up any and all nonperishable items and everything with a long expiration date at the supermarket and farm stand.

If you don’t already have a batch in the freezer, make the Wild Mushroom Soup but don’t add the half & half. Cool and store the soup in the freezer until Thursday morning.

Find 10 or 15 minutes to make the Cranberry Sauce.

Set the table and pull out your serving dishes.

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, time to move into high gear. Check and double check your lists and head to the store. Pick up the fresh turkey, perishables, flowers and anything you forgot on Saturday.

Prep the bread pudding and store it in the refrigerator.

Roast the grapes and onions for the salad, cool and store covered in the refrigerator. Pit and slice the olives, cover and store in the refrigerator. Make the vinaigrette. Toast the pecans, cool, cover and store at room temperature.

Turkey Day:
First thing in the morning, bake the apple croustade. Your menu may have its roots in France but the house will smell like Thanksgiving.

Don’t forget to remove the mushroom soup from the freezer. Put it in a large soup pot to thaw.

If you haven’t already, check your recipes and, based on your dinner hour, make a list of start times for each and every dish. If you haven’t already, think about assigning tasks to friends and family. Wine aficionado and foodie friends will be happy to lend a hand.

About a half hour before it’s time to shove the turkey into the oven, remove it from the refrigerator. Quarter a lemon or orange and onion and put them in the turkey’s cavity. Tie and truss the bird. Do not forget to remove the neck and bag of giblets from the turkey’s cavity.

While the turkey roasts, make broth for the gravy with the turkey neck and giblets.

As dinner time approaches, bake the bread pudding. Finish making the soup. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

When the turkey has finished roasting, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about thirty minutes before carving. Or better yet, I suggest you forget the flour and roux and make a giblet sauce instead.Make the giblet gravy and keep it warm.

Carve the turkey and cover it to keep warm. Keep the bread pudding warm. Follow my Nana Nye’s example and put the apple croustade back into the oven which is off but still warm.

Ladle the soup and dinner is served! Relax and enjoy. A five course dinner is a marathon of small portions not a sprint. If you’ve got a large group, serve family style. It won’t take forever to get everyone served, if you pass two platters or bowls of everything. Start dishes at both ends and in the middle of the table. Take your time between courses and let the conversation and laughter flow.

Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What are you cooking for Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011


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