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Thanksgiving ideas for two

Hi all,
This is the first year that I'll be cooking for two for Thanksgiving. I'm used to doing the big spread for at least 10 people, but kids are going elsewhere this year. Can I solicit some ideas / recipes on a smaller scale that are elegant instead of voluminous? Thanks in advance, all comments will be much appreciated!

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  1. I've done Thanksgiving for 2 only once but it was a success! The good thing is you can do away with any tired old dishes that you don't like that others consider a staple of the Thanksgiving table (I am looking at you, green bean casserole).

    We kept it fairly traditional and did roasted turkey thighs instead of the whole bird, but you could do whatever part you like the best, like a bone-in breast. I made my usual stuffing (which I suppose is actually dressing), since it is easy to scale down how much bread and liquid you need. I also LOVE fresh cranberry relish, again easy to scale down using a bag of frozen cranberries, just adjust the amount of sugar and water added to the pot. We did keep the side dishes to a minimum, and other than the dressing had roasted butternut squash (a favorite of mine) and brussel sprout hash, which is truly delicious:


    Dessert was pumpkin custards- basically pumpkin pie filling cooked in ramekins in individual serving sizes. You could go all different ways with dessert- little apple tarts would be really good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mels

      Mels, I love the idea of the ramekins and / or individual apple tarts. . . I am a dessert girl myself!

      1. re: mels

        mels, your approach sounds a lot like mine. i made the last-minute decision to cook for just three this year, so i'm trying to keep it relatively simple. a bone-in breast; a separate casserole dish of the traditional family "stuffing" (i always make extra to guarantee there will be leftovers for noshing after T-day); small batch of cranberry compote; turnip souffle per Mom's request; a baked sweet potato for sis; garlic green beans; pumpkin-coconut custard for me; and again per Mom's request, i ordered a Northern Spy apple pie from Balthazar Bakery for her & Sis to enjoy for dessert.

        no apps or soup, minimal sides, and fewer dessert options than usual - the three of us have widely varying preferences and eating habits, so i'm trying to accommodate everyone without over-complicating it.

      2. You can start with a turkey breast, or do a duck (which I always found much tastier than turkey). Then just make half- or even quarter- batches of whatever sides you want, remembering that you can supplement your meal with dishes bought at Bristol Farms, Whole Foods, or your mega mart.

        Or you can do what we do, since we are only 3 people, which is make reservations.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Michelly

          Michelly - I've been thinking about duck myself . . and the potatoes I could prepare afterwards with the fat!

          1. re: Michelly

            I was going to suggest making reservations as well. There are only 3 of us for Thanksgiving this year, and we have reservations for dinner at a private garden/conservatory nearby. I really do enjoy cooking, but am so relieved to not have to worry about pulling off the huge meal this year. Instead, my mom and I will cook a few dishes we want to have on our own schedule (i.e. roast a small turkey on Friday), and will otherwise relax.

            1. re: mpjmph

              I'd just warn that the first year of eating out after hosting big dinners can be jarring. I learned to love it as you could suit your whim. Some years when we wanted a huge variety we went to the large hotel buffets. Other years it was a la carte at small intimate restaurants.

              It was nice being able to avoid the crowds at the supermarket.

              However, cooking for two at home for the first time has its jarring side as well.

              There are petite turkeys that averge 6-10 lbs should you still want turkey. Another suggestion is to cut the turkey in half, roast half and freeze the rest for another time. Go for that $200 heritage bird. You don't have to worry about people complaining it is not like white broad breasted turkey. You don't have to please everyone, only yourselves.

              Or you can always try that turducken.

              1. re: rworange

                LOL - I've actually thought about the turducken, I've always wanted to attempt it! Don't know if I'll get that adventerous. If I do, I'll let you know. Have you made it yourself? If so, how long did it take and how did it come out? While I've got lots of experience cooking and am pretty brave, I haven't done much butchering and so would be worried about the de-boning.

                1. re: katcancook

                  No, I haven't tried it. The bravest I would be is to buy it at a butcher pre-made and bake it. I keep hoping to catch it some year at the few restaurants that offer it.

                  However, I am guessing the concept is better thant the real thing. Stil, youhave a year that no one is really going to complain about the main meat so it might be fun to try. You could always get a butcher shop to do the deboning if you didn't want to buy or couldn't find anything pre-made.

                  There's lots of discussions of it on the Home Cooking board during the years.

                  The one that makes me laugh is the idea of deep frying a turducken

                  1. re: rworange

                    OMG that's too funny! DEEP FRIED turducken! But the lost duck fat! The tragedy, I tell you! Thanks for sharing, I found a website that sells it already boned and stuffed. It's pricey, but no more than I would usually spend for the whole spread!!

                    1. re: katcancook

                      my Fresh Market has them if you have one of those.

                    2. re: rworange

                      Costco actually has a turducken on their website....so a friend and I are doing on Monday before Thanksgiving. We thought we'd do it as a little experiment.
                      Should be fun!

              2. re: Michelly

                Duck, all the way. It is our family Thanksgiving tradition. Rich, delicious, special. Turkey? Not so much. But if you do want to do turkey, why not do a roulade from a breast?

                1. re: sandylc

                  Duck is sounding really good to me . . . I've begun pulling recipes for Peking Duck. Do you do a simple roast duck? Anything special?

                  1. re: katcancook

                    My mom has always been in charge of Thanksgiving (up until this year) and she stuffs the duck and roasts it until it almost melts. Not snooty cuisine, but delicious. I am thinking of going a different route this year with the duck, so I am still shopping for how I want to go about it. I still want stuffing, but it will be baked separately, I think. That makes some flavors (like Asian) not desirable for the duck. I am thinking of roasting it simply with just salt and making Lucia Watson's berry sauce for it (Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland).

                    1. re: katcancook

                      I did simple roast duck and made a plum wine sauce. The plum wine was a gift form a friend in China, but I'm pretty sure you can find it at a bigger liquor/wine store.
                      I coarsely chopped a shallot, 1 clove of garlic, and a big green onion, and sauteed for a few minutes in a pat of butter. Then, add 2 cups of the wine and reduce by about half. You might want to add a pinch of sugar depending on how sweet the wine is (?) Then strain and stir in a pat of butter.
                      Just drizzle over the duck after it's sliced. I loved it and it wasn't an Asian taste at all. I feel that it would go with some of the more traditional T-day dishes if you're going to prepare a few favorites.

                        1. re: alliegator

                          I love plum wine, it's easy to find as well. Sounds like a great sauce idea. I was thinking cherry, but I like the originality of the plum wine instead. Thanks!

                    2. re: Michelly

                      I did a duck last year for just the 2 of us, and my husband loved it! It was something special that made it feel like a holiday instead of an ordinary long weekend. Reservations are a good idea as well. If you both have the whole 4 days off, maybe even a little trip? A great way to try something new at a place you've never been to before.

                    3. I'm a one-dish kinda guy; how about individual turkey shepherd (sweet potato topping) pies or turkey pot pies. I am making for 3 this year and that is what I am planning on doing, along with my homemade cranberry sauce. I do the usual 1/2c water, 1/2c orange juice, bag of berries recipe with minor additions. The leftover cranberry sauce makes for an excellent sauce or syrup the next AM.

                      Also consider a simple roast chicken, if done right is one of the best made meals. Maybe with a polenta for a side and a nice roasted vegetable (brussels sprouts?).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: gmk1322

                        Roast chicken sounds good as well. You can't beat it when it's done properly! I like the sheperd's pie idea too. Thx!

                      2. cornish game hens w/wild rice/almond stuffing. with a cranberry or apricot glaze

                        pumpkin brulee (in ramekins) for dessert.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: laliz

                          I like the idea of Cornish game hens dressed up like mini turkeys for each of you.

                          1. re: Woodensandals

                            Reminds me that a bunch of years ago, Mr. Pine said he was sick of turkey, so I bought a turkey just for me and a Cornish hen for him. When they were side by side on the table, he decided "my" turkey looked too good to resist. That was his last kerfuffle over turkey.

                        2. If you want to stick with a bird, how about cornish game hens?

                          1. I was going to ask the same question here, then decided on turkey sandwiches for the two of us. We just want it easy without a lot of fuss. Then I remembered the turkey/stuffing bake and decided to do that with a couple of easy sides.

                            If you want turkey, I recommend this (and frankly I can't shut up about it because it's so easy and tasty).

                            Some of the side dishes on my short list (half sized of course):

                            Pearl Onions Au Gratin (could take the role of gravy to simpify things

                            Roasted herb brown sugar acorn squash

                            Roasted veggies, parsnips and... haven't thought beyond that, maybe it's too much peeling and chopping

                            Brussel sprouts, I never use the same recipe so I'm still looking for one, possibly this one:

                            Pear salad, maybe one of these two (haven't tried either

                            Fresh cranberry orange sauce (I always throw it together from memory and taste, no recipe


                            I'll probably just end up doing steamed artichokes and baked sweet potatoes, just to have less work. I've barely thought about dessert, but have a nice bottle of wine selected. Sometimes a quiet Thanksgiving is very nice indeed :)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mlou72

                              mlou, you made me nostalgic! My mom always made creamed pearl onions. The au gratin sounds like a great twist. I'll try it if I can find the onions here. The pear salad sounds divine as well.

                            2. kat, this butternut squash gratin recipe you can divide into ramekins(nice presentation- 3-4" white souffle cups) for your T dinner and freeze the rest. goes particularly well w/ duck or goose (we smoke a goose for ourselves!)


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                Chef - that recipe sounds delicious! Will add the ingredients to my list. Many thanks!

                              2. A small standing rib roast. Much better than turkey any day of the week!!

                                5 Replies
                                  1. re: pilotgirl210

                                    Yum, I don't want that for Thanksgiving--I want it NOW :)

                                    1. re: pilotgirl210

                                      That sounds heavenly but I do usually make Beef Wellington for Christmas dinner. I think I'm going with duck. But thanks for the suggestion.

                                      1. re: katcancook

                                        kat, tea smoked duck is a pretty easy dish but has a few steps. One of my fav things in the world because it has such a full lovely smoky lightly spiced flavor and moistness to the meat.
                                        Best recipe is in Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barb.Kafka. I also do it with chicken for non-holiday meals. Its flavor goes quite well w/ butternut squash or yams sweetness, and greens and fruit etc.

                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                          Chef, I really like the smoked duck idea. I'm not afraid of a few steps! Yes, I'm thinking greens as well. And I have a wonderful butternut squash soup recipe. Sounds like a plan. Thanks for your input, you're ideas always sound good to me!

                                    2. I'm considering chicken fried steak. :)

                                      Its a tradition in my Aunt's family since her father didn't like turkey. I spent a few holidays with that side of the family and it was actually a nice change. :) Everyone's favorites sides were included.

                                      I made a turkey just because they're so cheap this time of year a week or so ago and found out yesterday that the inlaws are going out of town and we've decided not to go so we're free to do something new. :)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: weezieduzzit

                                        This is a great recipe from Ina Garten for a stuffed turkey breast. I just love the way it looks when you slice it. I make a chestnut sage stuffing and it is wonderful. Just enough for two plus leftovers.