Thanksgiving Special – A Rustic Harvest Feast Italian Style

gords_French_bowl_jugToday seemed like a good day to share three different menus for the perfect Thanksgiving feast. Whether you and your family are hungry for traditional fare, a five course bistro dinner or a rustic Italian feast, I’ve decided the turkey is sacrosanct at Thanksgiving. However, the rest of the menu is fair game. Feel free to take a menu from soup to dessert or mix and match! So stay tuned, there’s more to come!

Now this is the dinner I would serve if my family didn’t insist on traditional New England dishes. I can only bend them so far.

Antipasti – a salad to start!
Like France and Switzerland, 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 Italian 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. Alternatively, you could serve my Rustic Apple Tart.

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. Remove the squash from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you start the risotto. Grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano for the risotto, cover and store.

Wash, bag and refrigerate the salad greens as well as the leafy greens.

Turkey Day:
First thing in the morning, start roasting. Your menu may have its roots in the north of Italy but the house will smell warm and homey … just like Thanksgiving.

Roast the mushrooms and onions for the salad. Cool, slice the mushrooms, cover and store in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. 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. Let the wine aficionado in the group open and pour. Foodie friends will be happy help with carving and tossing.

About a half hour before it’s time to shove the turkey into the oven, remove it from the refrigerator. Remove the neck and bag of giblets from the turkey’s cavity.Quarter a lemon, orange or apple and an onion and put them in the turkey’s cavity. Tie and truss the bird.

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.

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 in your formal 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 a 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 to keep it from getting mushy. If you are a relaxed group, especially if you are doing a kitchen Thanksgiving, just start the risotto after the salad course.

Toss the mixed greens with vinaigrette and arrange 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 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.

Want more? Click Here for more seasonal menus or Here for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog ! © Susan W. Nye, 2014


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