A True Foodie’s Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner

With the summer heat wave coming to an end, those 80 degree days are starting to feel more and more like fall! Football is well under way, the thrill of Halloween will pass and the brisk weather will set in- this means Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, the weather is perfect and I love any excuse to dress up in my kitchen and cook a ton of food for my favorite people. 

Whether you were born and raised here in Austin and get to have a traditional family Thanksgiving-or- you’re like me and round up all of your transplant people for Friendsgiving, you’ll find this post helpful in picking out the perfect dishes, recipes included! If you love hosting Thanksgiving in your own home, like me, I’ve curated the perfect Thanksgiving meal from Charcuterie to Pecan Pie. Or if you’re looking for a savory side dish or delicious dessert to contribute to your gathering, you’ll find some great ideas below.

 

Appetizers:

 

Charcuterie

Charcuterie Boards are instant gratification! Don’t let your guests get hangry from the scent of a roasting turkey for hours… a simple meat and cheese board is super easy to put together in minutes! If you need help putting together a charcuterie board of your own, feel free to check out Creating an MVP Charcuterie Board . This is a perfect appetizer to contribute- or you can always leave it to the professionals at Ritual Austin and outsource one of their amazing boards!

Blackberry and Pecan Baked Brie

Tell me this baked Brie with black berries and pecans isn’t salivating!! The options on this one are truly endless; there are so many different kinds of Brie, fruits like apricots and other toppings to choose from- I also think Maple Syrup would make a great topping for fall. Just set the oven to 350 degrees F and bake everything together for 15 minutes. This was definitely a crowd pleaser and I will 10/10 be making this again!

Main Course:

 

Oven Roasted Turkey

Roasting a turkey really isn’t as difficult as our grandmothers made it seem, trust me, if I can roast a turkey for Thanksgiving diner- ANYONE can… you just have to get past removing the neck and giblets from the cavity. I started with a fourteen pound frozen turkey from HEB which required three to four days to thaw in the refrigerator and six to eight hours in water, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time before cooking! After removing and cleaning the inside of the turkey I stuffed the inside with salt, pepper, lemon, onion and spices such as sage, thyme, rosemary and parsley. I also stuffed the neck with onion. To seal the turkey for roasting, you’ll have to tie the legs and pull the wing skin back and tuck the skin behind the wing and under the turkey and secure it with toothpicks. This whole process only takes a couple of minutes, then you can lather the outside with olive oil and spices and place it in the pan for roasting!

I roasted my turkey breast side facing down first at 400 degrees F for one hour and at 350 degrees F for another hour. After those two hours, I flipped the turkey breast side up and continued to roast at 350 degrees F for 30 – 60 minutes. The temperature of the meat should be between 165 and 170 degrees F, this is a great time to invest in a meat thermometer if you don’t already have one! Pro Tip: if the top is browning, you can create a tent with aluminum foil to prevent the skin from burning!

If you’re a fan of gravy, you can whip up this homemade topping with the left over juices in the roasting pan! Just add 1/2 c. of butter, 1 tsp. black pepper and 1/2 c. flour to the drippings and slowly whisk for several minutes until the gravy thickens.

 

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If your thanksgiving dinner is on a smaller scale, try roasting a duck instead of a Turkey. Seriously, fourteen pounds is a lot of turkey for two people to eat… so instead we roasted a duck for smaller portions! Pro Tip: save the duck fat and put it on EVERYTHING!!

Roasting a duck is a lot like roasting a turkey, only easier, and takes less time. You will need to take the time to thaw the duck and remove the giblets, just like you would with the turkey- then thinly score the skin in a diamond pattern without cutting through the breast. I seasoned the inside and outside of the duck with garlic, lemon, salt and olive oil before tying the legs.

After that, you’ll follow four basic instructions for roasting the duck! You will essentially roast the duck at 350 degrees F for 3 hours. The first step is to roast the duck breast side up for 1 hour, breast side down for 40 minutes, breast side up again 40- 60 minutes, brushing the drippings back on top. To finish, you can broil the duck for the last 10 -15 minutes until the skin is crispy, just be careful not to let it burn… remember that aluminum tent trick! Pro Tip: you’ll want to save the drippings for later!

Side Dishes:

 

Brussel Sprout, Cranberry and Pecan Salad

My friends and I share a love for Brussel Sprouts, anytime we see them on a menu its an automatic decision to share! These also went in the oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. The prep for both the baked Brie and the Brussel Sprouts was super quick, I definitely recommend serving these as an appetizer or side dish- they’re so easy!

 

Jumbo Lump Crab Topped Asparagus 

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This is probably my favorite side dish to eat, and there are several easy recipe options! The photo above features Italian breaded asparagus spears fried in a cast iron skillet, although I also love asparagus spears without the breading, roasted in the oven. The spears are topped with jumbo lump crab from the HEB seafood counter, which I sautéed with lemon, butter and garlic. This is a great, savory side dish to accompany dinner or serve as a starter.

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Duck Fat Potatoes

I’m telling y’all, duck fat is the real MVP. If you opted to roast a duck instead of a Turkey, your Thanksgiving dinner will be a game changer. We basically made our own rendition of Smashed Yukon Roasted Potatoes- 350 degrees F in the oven for 20 minutes. Then comes the fun, pour the left over duck fat from the roasting pan onto the potatoes and broil for about 5 minutes to make them crisp and savory!

 

 

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Oven Roasted Carrots

Because you need a serving of veggies on Thanksgiving? Right? Well, if your mother forces you to eat some vegetables with Thanksgiving dinner, these oven roasted carrots are the way to go! Slice them in long quarters, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes! Top with lemons for a pop of zest!

Desserts:

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

This Chocolate Pecan Pie is AMAZING. This time around, I used a store bought pie crust even though I would normally make my own. Pecan pie was a lot easier to bake than I thought it would be, there’s only a few ingredients and a few steps in the baking process- I’m convinced anyone can do it!

Ingredients:
2 c. Pecans Chopped
3 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
3 Eggs
1 c. Dark Corn Syrup
3/4 c. Sugar
1 Stick of Butter
1 tsp. Vanilla

Directions: Cover the dish with the pie crust and fill with pecans and chocolate. Beat the butter, eggs, vanilla, sugar and corn syrup. Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before cutting.

 

Pumpkin Pie

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Ingredients:
Pie Crust
2 Eggs
3/4 c. Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice
15 oz. Evaporated Milk
15 oz. Pumpkin

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Blend all wet ingredients first, adding the dry ingredients last. Place the pie in the over for 15 minutes and reduce the heat to 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Allow 2 hours to chill.

Beverages:

 

Apple Cider Sangria 

This is a tried and true fall cocktail, I prefer it served warm from a crockpot but have also served it chilled from mason jars! The recipe is super easy and you just add all contents into one pot!

Ingredients:
1 jug of Apple Cider
1 bottle of Pinot Grigio
2 c. Caramel Vodka
3 Apples

Pro Tip: Nix the Pinot Grigio and add Bourbon instead!

I know this menu can seem intimidating, so, if eating Thanksgiving dinner is really more your style than cooking it, contribute a bottle of wine for the cause instead! Feel free to check out these awesome wine pairing suggestions. P.s. you can be like us and drink ten bottles of wine between four people so you can bowl with the empty bottles after dinner…

That’s it! You’re ready for Thanksgiving! You learned how to roast a turkey AND a duck, some awesome sides to bring to the table or some outsourcing options for contributing to Friendsgiving. Let me know if you tried any of these recipes at your very own Thanksgiving Dinner!

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