In order to keep the Turkey as the Star of the meal, we make Cream of Carrot Soup, its color is perfect on the table and the kids and grownups love it. It was hard to let the antipasto go, and nix the pasta first course."Its an Italian thing."
Now the turkey rules the day!!
I usually do a salad too (roasted beets and blue cheese with greens and toasted walnuts is great -- just use a small serving).
I've also done soups -- light not cream-based soups -- like a corn "chowder" or butternut squash and sage.
Just use a smaller serving than normal so you don't overwhelm the meal to come!
There was a great recent post about appetizers on Thanksgiving:
I know you might mean a true first course. I go back and forth. Sometimes we have so many people, a first course can be tough to manage. And there is so much food coming anyway! If I do a first course, I like it to be light, given what is coming. A really nice fall salad is a great way to start.
I do this salad from Suzanne Goin's 'Sunday Suppers at Lucques': Warm Kabocha Squash Salad with Dandelion, Bacon, Roncal and Pecans
It is light while still seeming hearty...and it is wonderful. One note: although I tend to make it with Dandelion Greens, as I can get them at Whole Foods, I do still add other lettuces. Any nice mix of lettuce can work here. It is an adaptable salad. But it works terrific as written.
you can find a recipe here (scroll down):
Last year I did:
potato and buckwheat blinis with salmon roe and/or smoked salmon and creme fraiche
phyllo dough pizza with chanterelle mushrooms and goatcheese
mini serrano ham and asparagus quiche made with manchego cheese
olive tapenade and red pepper bruschetta with really good french bread and olive oil
assortment of cheeses, crackers and veggies
Sparkling wines/ champagne
In recent years, my family always says they like the starters better than the actual meal, which is depressing considering the whole holiday is about the traditional main meal. Maybe this year I will skip the first course in the spirit of the holiday. hmmm, would save me a lot of work.