As the leaves turn golden and the air grows crisp, we eagerly anticipate one of the most beloved holidays of the year: Thanksgiving. This 2023, we invite you to embark on a culinary journey, replete with classic dishes that have graced American tables for generations. Each recipe in this collection is a blend of rich history, heartwarming tradition, and delicious innovation. From the centerpiece turkey to the sweet finale of pumpkin pie, we’re diving deep into the origins, ingredients, and methods that make these dishes timeless. Join us in celebrating Thanksgiving 2023 with a menu that’s as flavorful as it is meaningful, creating memories that your family will cherish for years to come.
The Thanksgiving Centerpiece: Heritage Roasted Turkey
When one thinks of Thanksgiving, invariably, the first image that springs to mind is a beautifully roasted turkey, golden-brown, and radiating enticing aromas that promise a feast to remember. In 2023, as we gather around the table, let’s pay homage to this iconic centerpiece of Thanksgiving — the heritage roasted turkey.
The Historical Heart of Thanksgiving: The tradition of serving turkey on Thanksgiving dates back to the early days of American history. While it’s debatable whether turkey was actually served at the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, by the time Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the 19th century, turkey had become a mainstay in the celebration. This bird, native to North America, was prized for its size and the convenience of feeding a large crowd, making it the perfect choice for a communal feast.
- Whole turkey (5-6 kg / 11-13 lbs)
- Unsalted butter (200g / 1 cup)
- Fresh thyme (30g / 1 oz)
- Fresh rosemary (30g / 1 oz)
- Garlic (30g / 10 cloves, minced)
- Lemon (1, zested and juiced)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Olive oil (50ml / 1/4 cup)
Preheat and Prep: Begin by preheating your oven to 325°F (163°C). While the oven warms up, take your turkey out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about an hour, reaching room temperature.
Flavor Infusion: In a small bowl, mix softened butter with minced garlic, lemon zest, chopped thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Gently loosen the skin from the turkey breast and spread a generous amount of the herb butter under the skin.
Seasoning the Turkey: Brush the outside of the turkey with olive oil, and then season it liberally with salt and pepper. To enhance the flavor, you can also sprinkle lemon juice over it.
Roasting: Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Tuck the wings under the body and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Roast the turkey in the preheated oven. Baste it every 30 minutes with the pan juices. The cooking time depends on the size of the bird but usually takes about 3 to 4 hours.
Rest and Serve: Once the turkey is cooked (the internal temperature should be 165°F/74°C), remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, ensuring a moist and flavorful meat.
Chef’s Reinvention: For those seeking a modern twist, Chef Gordon Ramsay offers an exquisite version of the classic roast turkey. His recipe involves a luxurious bacon, onion, and lemon stuffing, creating a rich interplay of flavors. Experience his culinary genius here.
The Harmony of Flavors: Classic Thanksgiving Stuffing
Stuffing, or dressing as it’s known in some parts of the United States, is as essential to Thanksgiving as the turkey itself. This dish, with its humble beginnings, has evolved into a complex melody of flavors and textures, reflecting the diversity and creativity of American cooking. In 2023, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s delve into the rich tapestry of this beloved side dish.
A Storied Side Dish: The history of stuffing dates back centuries and crosses many cultures and continents. In the context of Thanksgiving, stuffing began as a simple mixture of herbs and stale bread, used to infuse flavor into the turkey during cooking. Over time, it has transformed, with each region and family adding their own twist — from the addition of sausages and nuts in the South to the incorporation of wild rice in the North. The versatility of stuffing allows it to be a reflection of the diverse culinary landscape of America.
- Dry bread cubes (450g / 10 cups)
- Unsalted butter (115g / 1/2 cup)
- Onion (1 large, diced)
- Celery (4 stalks, diced)
- Garlic (3 cloves, minced)
- Fresh parsley (1/4 cup, chopped)
- Fresh sage (2 tbsp, chopped)
- Fresh thyme (1 tbsp, chopped)
- Chicken broth (475ml / 2 cups)
- Eggs (2, beaten)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
Dry the Bread: If you’re not using pre-dried bread cubes, cube your bread and leave it out overnight to dry, or lightly toast it in the oven.
Sauté the Vegetables: In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and garlic, cooking until they are soft and fragrant.
Herb Infusion: Stir in the parsley, sage, and thyme, cooking for an additional 1-2 minutes. This step infuses the butter with the rich flavors of the herbs.
Combine and Moisten: In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes with the sautéed vegetable and herb mixture. Gradually add the chicken broth and beaten eggs to the bread, gently stirring until the mixture is evenly moistened.
Bake to Perfection: Transfer the stuffing to a greased baking dish. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crispy.
Chef’s Reinvention: For a gourmet twist, Chef Ina Garten offers a stuffing recipe that includes apples, sausages, and cranberries, adding sweet and savory notes to the classic dish. Her recipe can be found here.
A Comforting Classic: Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Mashed potatoes, a dish synonymous with comfort and warmth, hold a special place in the Thanksgiving feast. This simple yet sublime side dish, with its creamy texture and buttery richness, has the power to evoke memories of family gatherings and festive cheer. As we approach Thanksgiving 2023, let’s take a closer look at this beloved dish, tracing its roots and exploring how to craft the perfect bowl of mashed potatoes.
The Humble Beginnings: Mashed potatoes may seem quintessentially American, but their history spans across the ocean. Potatoes, originating from South America, were brought to Europe in the 16th century and eventually made their way to North America. They were initially met with skepticism but soon became a staple. The dish of mashed potatoes as we know it likely originated in the UK and Ireland, but it was in America that it found its place as a Thanksgiving staple, symbolizing comfort and abundance.
- Potatoes (2 kg / 4.4 lbs), preferably Yukon Gold or Russet
- Heavy cream (240 ml / 1 cup)
- Unsalted butter (120g / 1/2 cup)
- Salt (to taste)
- Ground black pepper (to taste)
- Optional: Garlic (3 cloves, minced) or chives (1/4 cup, chopped) for flavor
Prepare the Potatoes: Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal-sized chunks. This ensures they cook evenly.
Cooking: Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking until the potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).
Drain and Dry: Once cooked, drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Let them sit over low heat for a minute or two to evaporate any remaining water.
Mashing: Mash the potatoes using a potato masher or ricer. For an ultra-smooth texture, pass them through a fine sieve.
Add Creaminess: Warm the heavy cream and melt the butter. Gradually add them to the potatoes, mixing until you achieve the desired creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Final Touch: For added flavor, you can stir in minced garlic or chopped chives.
Chef’s Reinvention: Chef Gordon Ramsay elevates this simple dish to a gourmet level with his addition of mustard and creme fraiche, giving it a tangy twist. His unique recipe can be found here.
A Sweet Twist: Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potato casserole, a dish that brings a delightful blend of sweetness and warmth to the Thanksgiving table, is a testament to the holiday’s spirit of comfort and joy. As we look forward to Thanksgiving 2023, this dish not only offers a delectable taste but also embodies a rich culinary history that intertwines with the heritage of American Thanksgiving.
Roots in Tradition: The sweet potato, native to the Americas, was a staple for many Indigenous tribes long before European settlers arrived. Its integration into Thanksgiving fare, particularly in the form of a casserole, is a relatively modern culinary development. The dish gained widespread popularity in the 20th century, particularly in the Southern United States, where it became a quintessential holiday dish. Its evolution from a simple, savory root vegetable to a sweet, marshmallow-topped casserole is a fascinating journey, reflecting changing tastes and culinary creativity.
- Sweet potatoes (2 kg / 4.4 lbs), peeled and cut into chunks
- Unsalted butter (115g / 1/2 cup)
- Brown sugar (200g / 1 cup)
- Heavy cream (120ml / 1/2 cup)
- Vanilla extract (5ml / 1 tsp)
- Salt (1 tsp)
- Ground cinnamon (5g / 1 tsp)
- Eggs (2, beaten)
- For topping: Mini marshmallows (200g / 2 cups) and pecans (100g / 1 cup, chopped)
Cook the Sweet Potatoes: Boil the sweet potatoes in a large pot of salted water until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and let them cool.
Mash and Mix: Once cooled, mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Add in the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, and beaten eggs. Mix well until the mixture is smooth.
Prepare the Topping: In a separate bowl, mix the mini marshmallows and chopped pecans.
Assemble the Casserole: Spread the sweet potato mixture into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the marshmallow and pecan mixture evenly over the top.
Bake to Perfection: Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and caramelized.
Chef’s Reinvention: Renowned chef Alton Brown offers a unique version of this classic, incorporating a crunchy cornflake and pecan crust, which adds a delightful texture contrast. His innovative take on the sweet potato casserole can be found here.
Crisp and Savory: Garlic Butter Green Beans
Green beans, often the unsung heroes of the Thanksgiving table, bring a much-needed balance of freshness and color to the hearty, indulgent spread. As we approach Thanksgiving 2023, let’s shine a spotlight on this vibrant and healthy side dish, celebrating its simplicity and the subtle art of its preparation.
A Vegetable of Many Virtues: The history of green beans at the Thanksgiving table is not as storied as some other dishes, but their role is no less important. Originating from Central and South America, green beans have been cultivated for thousands of years. They made their way to North America in the 16th century and have been a staple in gardens and kitchens ever since. While the iconic green bean casserole is a mid-20th-century creation, simply sautéed green beans have been a classic side dish for much longer, valued for their crisp texture and grassy, slightly sweet flavor.
- Fresh green beans (1 kg / 2.2 lbs), ends trimmed
- Unsalted butter (60g / 1/4 cup)
- Garlic (15g / 5 cloves, minced)
- Lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- Salt (to taste)
- Ground black pepper (to taste)
- Almonds (50g / 1/2 cup, sliced and toasted) for garnish
Blanch the Green Beans: Start by blanching the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes. They should be bright green and tender-crisp. Immediately plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve their vibrant color.
Sauté with Garlic: In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until it’s fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute.
Toss and Season: Drain the green beans and add them to the skillet. Toss them with the garlic butter, cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Garnish and Serve: Transfer the green beans to a serving platter and sprinkle with toasted almonds for an added crunch.
Chef’s Reinvention: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver adds a gourmet twist to green beans with his recipe that incorporates feta and cherry tomatoes, bringing a Mediterranean flair to the dish. His innovative approach can be found here.
The Quintessential Thanksgiving Dessert: Classic Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie, with its rich, spiced filling and flaky crust, is the grand finale of many Thanksgiving feasts. As we embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving 2023, this iconic dessert stands as a symbol of the season’s abundance and warmth. The story of pumpkin pie is deeply intertwined with the history of Thanksgiving itself, making it a dish that resonates with tradition and nostalgia.
A Slice of History: The pumpkin, native to North America, has been a part of the continent’s diet for thousands of years. However, the pumpkin pie as we know it today—a smooth, spiced custard in a crust—was a creation of European settlers in America. The first recorded recipes for pumpkin pie appeared in English cookbooks in the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the dish became a Thanksgiving staple. Today, pumpkin pie is synonymous with the holiday, celebrated for its creamy texture and the blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves that evoke the essence of autumn.
- For the crust:
- All-purpose flour (250g / 2 cups)
- cold unsalted butter (110g / 1/2 cup)
- salt (1 tsp)
- ice water (60ml / 1/4 cup)
- For the filling:
- Pumpkin puree (450g / 1 lb)
- heavy cream (240ml / 1 cup)
- brown sugar (150g / 3/4 cup)
- eggs (3, large)
- ground cinnamon (5g / 1 tsp)
- ground ginger (2g / 1/2 tsp)
- ground nutmeg (1g / 1/4 tsp)
- ground cloves (0.5g / 1/8 tsp)
- salt (1/2 tsp)
Pie Crust: Begin by making the crust. Combine flour and salt, then cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add ice water, stirring until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Rolling and Shaping: On a floured surface, roll out the dough to fit a 9-inch pie dish. Place the dough in the dish, trim the excess, and crimp the edges.
Filling Preparation: Whisk together pumpkin puree, heavy cream, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt until smooth.
Assemble and Bake: Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 50 minutes, or until the filling is set but still slightly wobbly in the center.
Cool and Serve: Allow the pie to cool completely before serving. This lets the filling set and flavors meld.
Chef’s Reinvention: For a contemporary twist, renowned chef Martha Stewart presents a version with a homemade graham cracker crust and a dollop of maple whipped cream. Her unique recipe can be found here.
As we reflect on the delectable journey of our Thanksgiving 2023 menu, from the succulent heritage roasted turkey to the comforting embrace of creamy mashed potatoes, the vibrant freshness of garlic butter green beans, the sweet allure of sweet potato casserole, and the classic charm of pumpkin pie, we are reminded of the true essence of this cherished holiday. Thanksgiving is more than just a feast; it is a celebration of togetherness, gratitude, and the rich tapestry of traditions that make up our shared culinary heritage. Each dish we’ve explored carries with it a story, a piece of history, and a touch of love, making our Thanksgiving table a place of warmth and shared joy.
As we gather around our tables this Thanksgiving 2023, let’s also extend our thoughts and actions towards those less fortunate. This holiday season, we encourage each of you to share the spirit of Thanksgiving beyond your homes. Consider donating to local food banks, volunteering at community kitchens, or simply sharing your Thanksgiving meal with someone who might otherwise be alone.
Share your experiences and acts of kindness on social media using #ShareTheFeast2023, inspiring a wave of generosity and compassion. Together, let’s make Thanksgiving not just a day for giving thanks, but also a day for giving back.