Thanksgiving Special – A Rustic Italian Feast

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!


Now this is the dinner I would serve if my family didn’t insist on classic or close to classic New England dishes.

Antipasti – a salad to start!
Fall is mushroom season in Italy. My salad of Mixed Greens and Roasted Mushrooms will make a great start to your Thanksgiving dinner.

Move on to the main event!
Many Italians would move onto a pasta course but I prefer to keep it simple. I suggest you combine a beautiful fall risotto with, what else, the Roast Turkey. Feel free to keep the Cranberry Sauce on your menu but skip the stuffing. Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto will be the perfect side dish for your turkey. Complete the main course with Stir-fried Leafy Greens.

For a sweet finish!
It’s not quite Tiramisu but White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle is creamy and delicious and, well, let’s just call it a distant cousin

The Game Plan

If you haven’t done it yet, order the turkey!

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.

Sunday or Monday:
Find 15 or 20 minutes to make the Cranberry Sauce and the vinaigrette for the salad.

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.

Make the White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle.

Roast the squash for the risotto. Cool, cover and store in the refrigerator.  Grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano for the risotto.

Wash and bag the leafy greens.

Turkey Day:
First thing in the morning, roast the mushrooms and onions for the salad. Your menu may have its roots in the north of Italy but the house will smell warm and homey … just like Thanksgiving. Cool and slice the mushrooms, cover and store in the refrigerator. Cool and cover the onions. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving or reheat to warm but not hot. Toast the walnuts, cool, cover and store at room temperature.

If you haven’t already, check your recipes and, based on your dinner hour, list the start times for each and every dish. If you haven’t already, think about assigning tasks to friends and family. Your foodie friends will be happy help to pitch in.

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.

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

Cook the garlic and chili flakes for the Leafy Greens over very low heat and then remove from the heat and set aside.

Carve the turkey and cover it to keep warm.

Start making the risotto. Whether you are having a cozy dinner in your farm kitchen or a more formal affair in the dining room, you can make risotto for Thanksgiving, And no, you do not have to stir it constantly! It can simmer by itself why you enjoy your salad. I cheat little and, instead of 1/2 cup, I add the stock about 1 cup at a time. I use a timer and add stock and stir about every five minutes. Sometimes I lower the heat to slow the risotto down and then finish it quickly on medium-high heat to keep it from getting mushy. When the risotto is almost finished, stir-fry the greens in the chili-garlic oil. If you are a relaxed group, especially if you are doing a kitchen Thanksgiving, just slow it down and start the risotto after the salad course.

Toss the mixed greens with vinaigrette and plate the salad on a large platter or individual plates. Dinner is served! 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. Relax and enjoy. A rustic Italian feast celebrates la dolce vita or the good life. 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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