by Kara Kimbrough
As mentioned last week, I've come up with a few tried-and-true recipes for scaled-down holiday dinners. Many Americans are celebrating with fewer loved ones around the table, if they're getting together at all. So, here are my best tips for surviving a Pandemic Thanksgiving.
For this year's smaller gatherings, baking a mammoth bird may not make sense, but a turkey breast is manageable and won’t produce leftovers for days. With savory gravy ladled over make-ahead mashed potatoes, it’s the perfect meal for a smaller crowd or dinner for two.
If turkey conjures up painful memories of joyous holidays past, chicken and dressing casserole is a prefect substitute. Or, use it as a side and add turkey gravy for even more flavor.
Last year, I substituted green beans and bacon for my regular Thanksgiving dinner Brussels sprouts and bacon. After all, my nephew and I were the only ones that really enjoyed them. Try my new addition, addictive green beans and bacon.
Recipes for pecan, sweet potato and pumpkin pies abound this time of year. However, there is an easier way to tackle dessert. A few Thanksgivings ago, I conducted a store-bought pie bake-off and shared the results: there is one above-average pie brand in the supermarket freezer case. If you’d prefer to spend your time on the main entrees and sides and pick up dessert, my best tip for Thanksgiving dinner during a pandemic is below.
No Fuss, No Muss Turkey Breast
- 5-6 pound bone in turkey breast, thoroughly thawed
- 2 yellow onions, peeled and halved
For Turkey Butter:
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened (or butter substitute)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon sage
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
Mix ingredients together.
To prepare turkey: Loosen skin from thawed turkey and pat breast dry. Use a small knife to cut slit on one side to separate skin from flesh. Using a butter knife, lift skin and coat breast with half of the butter. Coat the surface skin, including underside, with remaining butter. (If you prefer a lot of butter, simply double the recipe and amounts used to coat breast and skin.)
Season skin by sprinkling lightly with a half teaspoon each salt and pepper or Mrs. Dash.
Place onion halves in bottom of 5 quart or larger Crockpot. Place turkey on top, skin side up. Cook 6 hours on low (check temperature after 5 hours) until internal temperature reads 165 degrees F when meat thermometer is inserted into the middle.
Transfer turkey to baking tray (reserve juices in Crockpot). Cover loosely with foil, rest for 20 minutes. Preheat oven broiler to high.
Important step for browning: Drizzle turkey very lightly with olive oil, not butter, to avoid burning. Place on a metal pan and put under a broiler at least 12 inches from heat for 5 to 10 minutes until skin is crispy. Watch very closely to make sure skin doesn’t burn. Serve with gravy.
No Fuss, No Muss Turkey Gravy
- Crockpot juices (supplement with chicken broth or stock if desired)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Ladle cooking juices from bottom of Crockpot into a bowl and press juices out of onions; set aside. In a non-stick skillet, mix flour and water until smooth, then stir in cooking juices. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until thickened, 3-5 minutes.
Notes: Adjust Crock-pot cooking time for larger turkey breasts. Meat is lean, so serve warm to maintain moistness.
Full Meal Chicken and Dressing Casserole
- 2-3 pounds boneless chicken breast filets or tenders, cooked and shredded (about 4 cups)
- 6 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread (I don’t recommend Jiffy Mix for this recipe)
- 8 slices white bread, torn
- 3-1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 13x9-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients except butter. Spoon mixture into baking dish. Dot evenly with butter.
Bake uncovered about 45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
Addictive Green Beans and Bacon
- 2 pounds fresh or frozen green beans (I prefer French style, but you can use cut beans)
- 1 pound bacon
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or 2 teaspoons minced garlic)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If using fresh green beans, trim ends and blanch for 5 minutes in salted boiling water. Prepare frozen beans according to package directions.
Pour drained green beans into a lightly buttered 13x9 inch baking dish.
In skillet, fry bacon until just done, but not super crispy. Drain grease from bacon, chop coarsely on a cutting board and place pieces over green beans.
In medium saucepan, melt butter, then add brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and garlic to melted butter. Pour butter mixture over green beans and bacon. Lightly toss with spoon to coat beans. (I added a little bacon grease to the beans, but this is optional.)
Bake for 30 minutes or until beans are bubbly and bacon is crisp.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- 6 cups of instant mashed potatoes (I use a large box of Hungry Jack)
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, sliced thin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
For garnish: sprinkle of paprika and chopped chives (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare instant potatoes according to package directions. Make them thicker than normal by adding in extra flakes, but don’t overdo it.
Once prepared, blend in sour cream, cream cheese, salt, pepper and paprika.
Pour into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dish. Place slices of butter over the top. Add a sprinkle of paprika and chives, if desired. Bake for 30-40 minutes. (This can be assembled the night before, covered and placed in the refrigerator before baking on Thanksgiving.)
Easy and Delicious Thanksgiving Dessert
Marie Callender’s Pecan, Dutch Apple or Lattice Apple Pie
Note: All possess above-average crusts, not-so-sweet fillings and crunchy, almost-homemade toppings. At less than $10 each, it's a delicious, economical dessert. If you want to pass it off as your own, simply transfer it before baking into one of your own pie plates. Top with ice cream or whipped cream and serve.