Thanksgiving, we all know, is a food person’s Superbowl, a Day of Reckoning, a time when you and your guests expect to be dazzled by every course, paired so perfectly together that the final table spread looks like it fell out of a magazine (hopefully one of ours). Although the platters may seem picture perfect, the guests are hardly a compilation of the smiling models we see on those glossy pages (or in Rockwell paintings).
More often than not, you will host a vegetarian teenage girl who wants nothing but dinner rolls and ice cream, a home-from-college boy who’d rather earn extra cash at the restaurant where he bussed tables over the summer. You’ll host the requisite gluten-peanut-dairy-allergy folks, as well as those who dislike most dishes on principle (a friend insists she hates turkey because “it’s dry,” though I try to convince her it’s not the bird’s fault).
What can be done to satisfy so many different parties? The question itself is the problem, in a way. You should not aim to satisfy anybody (that’s what restaurants with paying customers are for), merely offer a good meal and a friendly atmosphere.
A good rule of thumb to accommodate your loved ones when planning a menu is to create a balanced meal with sturdy sides, rather than make a separate main for anyone with dietary needs. The vegetarian can enjoy green beans, mashed potatoes, bread and cranberry sauce. The dairy sensitive has turkey, stuffing, green beans, rolls and cranberry sauce to enjoy.
Another word of advice for these sides would be to alternate light and heavy dishes—easily accomplished by using separate cooking methods. Pair a creamy potato gratin with steamed Brussels sprouts; slow-cooked sausage stuffing with a cold, quick cranberry relish. You won’t compete as much for oven space and your guests will benefit from a meal that won’t leave them cemented to their seats.
Quick Cranberry-Orange Relish
My mother always thought this Thanksgiving staple in our home was passed down from her mother—until we found it on the back of the cranberry bag. Tart, sweet, and bright, this relish is excellent for breakfast or spread on a turkey sandwich.
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
2 navel oranges, unpeeled, quartered
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or more to taste)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Process cranberries and oranges in a food processor until chopped fine; transfer to bowl. Add sugar and cinnamon; stir to combine. Serve garnished with an orange wedge and a cinnamon stick.
For non-traditional Turkey Day sides, try this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Herbs and Parmesan or this Wild Rice Dressing with Roasted Chestnuts and Cranberries.