Today 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 dishes are fair game. Choose one menu or mix and match, it’s up to you!
I lived in Switzerland for almost two decades. While I was there, I served a Thanksgiving dinner with a foot on each continent with a five course dinner combining New England and French traditions.
Start with soup!
Fall is mushroom season in France and Switzerland so I always started my Thanksgiving feast with Wild Mushroom Soup. One important thought before we get too far into the menu. You might want to warn your guests to pace themselves!
Move on to the main event!
The star of the show is still the Roast Turkey. Although there is nothing French about it, I always served my turkey with Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing and, of course, Cranberry Sauce. You might like to serve Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Carrots with the turkey along with my Lemon Roasted Potatoes. Or go with a one-pot option and try my White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale.
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. Either Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad or Mixed Greens with Warm Roasted Squash would be a great choice.
My favorite Thanksgiving cheese 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 but you can always serve a platter of your favorite cheeses.
For a sweet finish!
One of my Thanksgiving standbys en Suisse was Rustic Apple Croustade. It is just wonderful. However, for New England goes bistro you can’t beat Cranberry Clafoutis, Ginger Crème Brûlée or Maple Mousse with Apple Compote
The Game Plan
If you haven’t done it yet, order the turkey! If you like, find some Vacherin Mont d’Or on line. With a bit of 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. If you are serving the White Beans Provençal, don’t forget to soak the beans.
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. Or better yet, send your sidekick to pick up these things while you start cooking!
Prep the stuffing and store it in the refrigerator.
If you are serving White Beans Provençal, prepare the beans, do not add the kale, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. If you are serving carrots or Brussels sprouts, prep the veggies but don’t roast. Prep the bacon for the sprouts as well. Cover and refrigerate.
Make the vinaigrette for the salad. Toast the walnuts cool, cover and store at room temperature.
If you are serving one or both, make the mousse and apple compote and/or crème brûlée.
First thing in the morning, bake the apple croustade if it’s on your menu. Your dinner 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, 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 plating.
About a half hour before it’s time to shove the turkey into the oven, remove it from the refrigerator. Do not forget to remove the neck and bag of giblets from the turkey’s cavity. Stuff, tie and truss the bird.
While the turkey roasts, make broth for the gravy with the turkey neck and giblets.
As dinnertime approaches, finish making the soup. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Put the white beans on a back burner on low and bring to a simmer.
When the turkey has finished roasting, remove it from the oven and let it rest for about thirty minutes before carving. Put the carrots or Brussels sprouts in the oven to roast. Make the giblet gravy and keep it warm.
Carve the turkey and cover it to keep warm. Stir the kale into the white beans. Follow my Nana Nye’s example and put the apple croustade back into the oven that 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 of the table. Take your time between courses and let the conversation and laughter flow.
Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!
What are you cooking for Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.