A turkey breast is the most obvious option for those who enjoy the traditional feast but do not necessarily need 10 pounds of meat for two or four people at the table. But if the idea of not eating turkey does not wrinkle your feathers, let go of the hook. You just do not need to serve it!
As a food professional who could personally care less about the bird, I have spent the last few years serving something but a whole turkey at my Thanksgiving dinners.
It’s a very adaptable dish that can serve a crowd or just a few people – and not feel like you need to stick to turkey or even chicken. A vegetarian pie, filled with vegetables like potatoes, green beans, squash, corn and peppers, can be just as exciting and filling.
Stuffed peppers are for dinner in the evening – stuffed squash are showstoppers for Thanksgiving! Smaller squash varieties provide a beautiful individual presentation that would darken a turkey even if it was on the table.
Cut the top of the round squash, such as carnival or acorn, or halve the oblong squash as delicata lengthwise, then push the seeds and twisted insides out.
Main course stews
As someone who thinks stuffing is the cause of the season, I’m here to say it’s not a stretch to translate this classic Thanksgiving sidekick to the main course.
Think of it more as a salty bread pudding instead of a regular side with ingredients that increase its main meal potential with even more flavor. Like stuffed squash, you can take a casserole dish in almost any direction.
In many Italian American families, a plate of lasagna is a traditional appetizer or side dish along with the more commonly accepted holiday dishes. But why not flip the script and make lasagna the main attraction with a Thanksgiving twist?
Happy Easter or Easter
If your favorite holiday meal is Easter or Easter, there is no food law that says you only need to eat it once a year. The traditional ham or brisket that is at the center of the big parties can easily come over for Thanksgiving.
Either of these big-deal roast cuts goes well with the usual list of Thanksgiving sides, from mashed potatoes to the casserole with green beans to roasted sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.
So if you have a beloved family recipe on your breast or just would rather have a ham, make that meal for yourself at all.
macaroni and cheese
Listen to me. Once made from scratch, mac and cheese are a dish of indulgence even on a typical day. But if you have the opportunity to make it more special, why not go all the way?
Bake a stewed mac-and-cheese without shelf life with real dairy products and crispy breadcrumbs, and then top it with something even more decadent, like fried onions – hey, if they are good enough for the green beans, be sure they ‘here it will be good. Or go southern style with grilled pork or brisket.
In fact, brisket mac and cheese is what my husband and I are going to have on our two-person Thanksgiving this year. At a time when all bets are off, why not go for the comfort food you love the most?
Casey hairdresser is a food writer, photographer and illustrator; the author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made of Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats”; and editor of the website Good. Food. Stories.