10 Timeless Thanksgiving Recipes

Cary, NC — Over the years, CaryCitizen and FoodCary have put together a collection of easy, unique and all-out delicious recipes to keep things fresh and festive each Thanksgiving.

For 2020, we’ve put together some of the best starters, sides, desserts and of course the big, showstopping turkey. To top it all off, check out recipe #10 for a seasonal mixology recipe — Pumpkin Pie Martinis!

Fear not if you’ve got some vegans or gluten-free folks in the family, we’ve got a few recipes for everyone and many can be modified to fit various dietary needs. Enjoy!

Starters

1. Harvest Butternut Squash Soup

Combat the colder weather with this warm, hearty soup that is perfect to make the night before and heat up as you gather around the table (or multiple, socially-distanced tables.)

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and diced
  • 1 large white onion, diced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Saute onions and apples in the butter until soft. Add squash, chicken stock, water and Old Bay seasoning
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer
  3. When squash is soft, remove soup from heat and let cool to room temperature
  4. When the soup is cooled, place in blender or food processor and puree
  5. Return soup to a pot and add heavy cream. Heat slowly until hot and salt or additional Old Bay to taste. Bring to a low boil and serve.

2. Pomegranate-Apple Kale Salad

This crisp, fresh salad is a great way to introduce greens to the table before the heavier, starchy dishes that are customary to most Thanksgiving meals.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 8 ounces kale (1 large bunch)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 medium Fuji apple
  • 2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Toss pecans with olive oil and sea salt. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the pecans on a baking tray. Toast them until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice to make sure they bake evenly. Remove the tray from the oven and set them aside to cool.
  2. Rinse the kale and sprinkle with sea salt and massage the leaves. Slice kale into ribbons (with or without stems).
  3. Transfer to a large salad bowl, and top with coarsely chopped pecans, sliced apple, and pomegranate seeds. Crumble the goat cheese over top.
  4. For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, and salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, and toss until evenly coated.

Sides

3. Vegan Stuffing

Thanksgiving Recipe

The base of this stuffing is cauliflower, which is commonly seen in vegan cooking. Cauliflower not only absorbs flavor very well but it is a great source of water and fiber, which is very helpful for the digestive tract.

Ingredients

  • One chopped cauliflower head
  • One chopped onion
  • Two chopped and peeled large carrots
  • Eight ounces of chopped mushroom
  • Half cup of chopped parsley
  • Two tablespoons of chopped rosemary
  • One tablespoon of chopped sage
  • Six tablespoons of olive oil
  • Half cup of vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. With a large pot, add in the olive oil and set it to medium heat.
  2. Add your onion and carrot (you can also add celery if you want) and sauté them in the oil until they get soft – about seven to eight minutes of cooking and stirring
  3. Add in your mushroom and cauliflower and add in your salt, pepper and any other seasonings you choose
  4. Again, sauté and stir until they start to soften up, which will take 10 minutes
  5. Add in your sage, rosemary and parsley, as well as your vegetable broth
  6. Pour the broth evenly to make sure the stuffing is all cooking together. (This will also help your vegetables, especially your cauliflower, absorb all the flavors. This should take another 10 minutes and then it is ready to serve.)

4. Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

This side is flavorful with a slight crunch and the hearty saltiness of some pan-fried bacon. To make vegan-friendly, remove bacon from the list and use olive oil in place of bacon grease.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 lb  sliced bacon
  • 1/2 cups small-diced onion
  • Pinch ground pepper

Directions

  1. Wash and cut the sprouts in half lengthwise
  2. Bring to boil 2 quarts of salted water. Place the cut sprouts into the boiling water and when they are tender remove them from the water and shock them in cold water to prevent them from further cooking
  3. In a sauté pan cook the bacon. When the bacon is cooked remove from the pan
  4. Add the onions to the bacon grease and simmer until cooked
  5. While the onions have been cooking, chop the bacon into crumbs
  6. When the onions are cooked add the cooked sprouts and bacon crumbs, add pepper and stir
  7. When all is heated, serve

 Serves 12

5. Maple Acorn Squash

Nothing says fall like roasted acorn squash. The color is gorgeous and a touch of cinnamon makes this one smell delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large acorn squash
  • 1 cup maple syrup (pure or imitation)
  • 8 ounces dark brown sugar
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground nutmeg
  • 8 ounces butter, melted

Directions

Notes on prepping the squash:

When working with Acorn squash be very careful, they are very hard to cut when raw. Use a very sharp knife. Cut off the stem by cutting off the top of the squash as well, this will be the base during cooking. On the other end cut off the pointed part, this is the base for that side as well. Then cut the squash across the center to create two “bowls”. Remove the seeds and discard.

  1. In a deep roasting pan place the four “bowls” so that they don’t touch the sides of the pan
  2. On the edges of the squash drizzle the maple syrup and then the melted butter so that the excess drains to the center
  3. Sprinkle on the brown sugar and spices to taste and place in a 375-degree oven and bake until soft
  4. Remove and let cool
  5. Pour out the syrup into the roasting pan
  6. Peel the squash and cut into large pieces
  7. Place these pieces in your serving dish
  8. Mix together all the “sauce” from the roasting pan and pour over the squash
  9. Heat and serve

Serves 12

Mains

6. Apple-Cider Brined Turkey

Ingredients for Brine:

  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 6 strips of orange rind
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 gallon cold water

Ingredients for Turkey:

  • 1 (12 lb) turkey, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons sage
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • ½ onion, sliced

Directions:

  1. Prepare the brine – combine all of the ingredients, except water, in a large pot over high heat. Cook until salt dissolves, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1 gallon of cold water. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Remove the giblets and neck from turkey. Trim excess fat. Add turkey to brine. Refrigerate 18 – 24 hours, turning occasionally.
  3. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry and loosen the skin from the turkey.
  4. Combine olive oil, rosemary, sage, and black pepper. Rub the mixture under loosened skin and over turkey. Place in a roasting pan and bake at 375 for 1 hour. Cover loosely with foil and bake for an additional 1 hour. Allow more time for a larger bird
  5. Mix ½ cup apple cider and ¼ cup bourbon in a saucepan. Cook over medium high heat; boil 3 minutes. Drizzle over turkey.

7. Citrus-Herb Roasted Turkey

This recipe requires brining, which needs to be done overnight. The upside? All you have to do is throw it in the oven for two hours on the big meal day.

Ingredients

  • 1 (10 to 12-pound) turkey
  • Brine, recipe follows
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 large orange, cut into eighths
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Few whole sage leaves

Brine

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange rind
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves

Make the Brine:

  1. Dissolve the salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a non-reactive container (such as a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag.)
  2. Add the orange rind, lemons, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns and bay leaves.

Note: If you have a big turkey and need more brine than this, use 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup brown sugar for every gallon of water.

To Cook The Turkey:

  1. Remove the neck, giblets, and liver from the cavity of the turkey and reserve for the gravy
  2. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water
  3. Soak the turkey in the brine, covered and refrigerated, for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours
  4. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
  5. Remove the turkey from the brining solution, and discard all the liquid. Pat dry with paper towels
  6. Place breast side up in a large, heavy roasting pan, and rub on all sides with the butter
  7. Season lightly inside and out with salt and pepper
  8. Stuff the turkey with the onion, orange, celery, carrot, bay leaves, and thyme
  9. Loosen the skin gently from the turkey breast, and place whole sage leaves between the skin and the meat
  10. Loosely tie the drumsticks together with kitchen string
  11. Roast at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and cook (without opening the oven door!) for 2 hours, until a meat thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh reads 140 degrees
  12. Remove from oven, lightly cover with foil, and allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving

Desserts

8. Gluten-Free Pecan Pie

We won’t lie, this one takes some time to piece together, but the outcome is packed with sweet, flaky and nutty goodness. Pairs well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or non-dairy & vegan frozen dessert alternatives.

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups pecan halves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend, recipe follows, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated shortening, 1/2 cup cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

Gluten-Free Flour Blend:

  • 3 cups white rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups tapioca flour
  • 3/4 cup potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Instructions:

  1. Make the Gluten-Free Flour Blend, whisking together in a large bowl the rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthan gum and salt. Will yield about 5 1/4 cups.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together 1/4 cup of the pecans, 1 cup of the flour blend, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt
  3. Add the 1/2 cup chilled butter pieces and pulse until coarse crumbs form, about 5 seconds
  4. Drizzle in the ice water and pulse to combine.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk
  6. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes
  7. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round
  8. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and cut the excess dough to leave a 1/2-inch overhang
  9. Using your fingers, roll the dough edge under and crimp
  10. Prick the bottom of the pie shell with a fork; refrigerate for 15 minutes
  11. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  12. Line the shell with foil and pie weights or dried beans and bake for 15 minutes.
  13. Remove the foil and pie weights, reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for another 12 minutes
  14. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk together the remaining 5 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt with the coconut sugar, maple syrup and vanilla over medium heat until melted and smooth. Cool the mixture slightly, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisking constantly, add the sugar mixture into the beaten eggs. Stir in the remaining 2 1/2 cups pecans. Pour the filling into the crust and bake until set, about 25 minutes.
  15. Cool the pie completely before slicing.

9. Fried Pies

This recipe has a lot in common with an Indian dish called samosas. Try these bite-size delicacies as after dinner sweets. Individual pies filled with dried fruits could even be great for breakfast or on-the-go for Black Friday.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups dried apricots and apples (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1.25 cups apple cider
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2/3 cup cold buttermilk
  • 6 Tbsp. shortening (it’s the only time I use it)
  • sifted powdered sugar

To Make:

 For the filling:

  1. In a saucepan, combine dried fruit and apple cider. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
  2. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes until the fruit is tender, and the cider is reduced.
  3. Mash slightly, and cool.

For the pastry:

  1. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor (if one is not available, this can be done in a bowl, with a pastry blender or two forks). Pulse in four short bursts.
  2. Add pieces of cold butter and pulse four times, until the butter is pea-sized in the flour mixture.
  3. With the food processor running, pour the buttermilk in a steady drizzle until the dough just comes together. Do not over-process the dough, or the pastry will be tough and dry, instead of buttery and flaky.
  4. Form dough into a ball, and roll out using only light pressure into a 15″ circle.
  5. Using a 4″ round cutter, cut the dough into 12 circles, re-rolling dough as needed.
  6. Place about 1 Tbsp. prepared fruit on half of each circle.
  7. Moisten the edges with water, and fold over into a half moon shape.
  8. Seal edges with the tines of a fork.
  9. In a skillet, heat 2 Tbsps. of shortening at a time to fry the pies, turning them over once, until they are golden brown.
  10. Drain on paper towels
  11. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.
  12. These can be made and frozen ahead of time. Bake from frozen in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until heated through.

The After Party

10. Pumpkin Pie Martinis

This cocktail recipe caught our attention, both for its seasonal flair and its creativity. It’s from Joanne Dagostino Hendrickson, food and beverage manager of Reflect Restaurant and Bar at the Cambria Suites hotel over by RDU.

You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/4 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1 1/4 ounce Butter Shots
  • 1/4 ounce Gold Rush Cinnamon
  • Dash of Grand Marnier
  • A dollop of whipped cream
  • Sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice

Shake Bailey’s, Butter Shots, Gold Rush, and Grand Marnier with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

Tell Us About Your Thanksgiving!

Please add comments to this story if you try out one of these recipes, or if you have a favorite you’d like to share with our readers. We’d love to hear your family favorites.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at CaryCitizen & FoodCary!


This variety of recipes includes contributions from Hal Goodtree, Lindsey Chester, Silvana Nardone, Chef Randy Goldberg of The Matthews House and Joanne Hendrickson of Reflect Restaurant & BarPhotos by Ashley Kairis, Alice HennemanJess, Kimberly Vardeman, Edsel Little, Ally J, Joe F. and Ralph Daily.

FoodCary has been serving up Cary’s food scene since 2014. Subscribe by email.

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