The key to a delicious and audience-approved Thanksgiving is balance (isn’t that the key to all things in life?). Balance of flavors, of textures, of sweet and savory, warm and icy, belligerent uncle and sweet grandmother. We at Countryman would like to add that it’s also about a balance between traditional recipes for comfort and nostalgia and funky, fresh ones to keep things interesting.
The recipes below will start you off on a great Thanksgiving, taking the old and mixing in just a dash of different, so that this Thanksgiving, you’ll satisfy (almost) everyone.
From The Up South Cookbook: a savory sweet potato pie. Sweet potato is the original kale: always on trend, always healthy, and always delicious. Georgia native Nicole Taylor’s recipe takes your buttery, creamy sweet potato pie and adds a savory kick that does the job—cheese and warm spices are the secret ingredients here.
From Comfort and Joy: a cozy eggnog for two. Drinks are a highly underrated element of the Thanksgiving table. Dessert for Two blogger and Countryman author Christina Lane’s eggnog recipe is made, surprisingly, without raw eggs, which is always a tricky ingredient to deal with. This recipe is designed for two people, but can be easily scaled up for a big party.
From An Old Fashioned Christmas (breaking tradition here to use a Christmas recipe for Thanksgiving, gasp!): a roasted turkey! Because it isn’t a guide to Thanksgiving without a turkey recipe.
What’s unconventional about our turkey recipe? It contains less than ten ingredients! The turkey doesn’t have to be the headache! God knows there are enough other headaches around the holidays (read: smug cousins who are always somehow doing just a little better than you).
From The Classic Slow Cooker: adorable and delicious candied baby carrots.
We all know how crowded the stovetop can get during Thanksgiving, so if you have a slow cooker, this one’s a real help (and if you don’t, you really should invest in one). Brought to you by The Midnight Baker’s Judy Hannemann.
And now for everyone’s favorite part: dessert. And where better to go to than the too-pretty-to-eat spiced pinecone cakes from our most whimsical author, Seton Rossini and her devastating dessert cookbook, Sweet Envy?
You know the way Japanese bento boxes look so picturesque, you can’t imagine tearing into them? These cakes are like that, except they smell and taste so good, the not eating won’t be an issue.
P.S. For more inspiration, the New York Times has a great menu planner that helps you choose recipes based on your criteria (small or large party, seasoned or new cook, etc.). Onwards and upwards!
Savory Sweet Potato Pie
Yams are not the same as sweet potatoes. Just like Moleskines are not regular notebooks. My local corner market has many varieties of yams. All are hairy, large, and fibrous. Very different from Jewel, my favorite sweet potato variety. Garnets are an option and approved for this savory pie.
- 3 large sweet potatoes (about 3 cups)
- 1 (9-inch) Butter Pie Crust
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup shredded manchego cheese (about ¼ pound)
- ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese (about 1 ounce)
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¾ teaspoon fresh sage
- ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ ground black pepper
- Small pinch ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup chopped spring onions (about 2 onions)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Using a vegetable brush, rinse and scrub grit off potatoes.
- Using a baking sheet with parchment paper, roast potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour. They should be soft to the touch.
- While potatoes are baking, roll out prepared butter pie crust dough into a tart pan and parbake for 8-12 minutes. Remove and convert to cooling rack.
- Remove potatoes from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, let cool a bit, and remove skins.
- Add potatoes, butter, cheeses, eggs, spices, and onion into a large bowl. Stir mixture until smooth and combined.
- Fill the pie crust with filling. Bake for 40 minutes.
- Let cool for 15 minutes and serve.
Two Mugs of Eggnog
This recipe doesn’t contain any pesky uncooked eggs, so you can serve it to anyone. The traditional version includes beaten egg whites, so I give you that option, too. I think it tastes like melted ice cream, and I’ve been known to drink it chilled in the summer!
Yields 2 mugs
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ to ¾ cup heavy whipping cream (see tip below)
- ¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
- 2 shots bourbon whiskey
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow and tripled in size. I do this by hand with a big balloon whisk, and it takes about 1 minute. Whisk vigorously.
- Meanwhile, in a 1-quart saucepan, heat the milk, ½ cup of the cream, and ½ teaspoon of the freshly grated nutmeg to boiling. Remove from the heat.
- While whisking continuously, very slowly stream the milk mixture into the egg yolks. Go slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs.
- Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan, and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Optional: If you want to be traditional and fold egg whites into your eggnog, go ahead and whip the two remaining egg whites to stiff peaks. When the eggnog reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the heat and gently fold in the beaten egg whites.
- Chill the mixture thoroughly if you want to serve it cold. Before serving, divide it between two mugs, add bourbon to taste, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg.
TIP: If folding the leftover egg whites into the mixture, use ½ cup of cream. If not, use ¾ cup of cream.
- 1 (14 to 16 pound) fresh young turkey
- 1 red apple, sliced
- ½ onion, sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup white wine
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 6 leaves sage
- Canola oil
- Steak seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
- Mix the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and wine in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add this to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil and steak seasoning.
- Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. A 14- to 16-pound bird probably needs about 2 to 2 ½ hours of roasting. It is cooked when it reaches 161 degrees, but I take mine out at around 155 degrees, because it will keep cooking on the counter for a few minutes. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl, for at least 15 minutes before carving.
Candied Baby Carrots
I just love these carrots. My mom used to make them on the stovetop, but they are perfect for the slow cooker as well. They pair nicely with pork and chicken and also make a great side at Thanksgiving for those who aren’t crazy about sweet potatoes. I start with the ready-to-cook bags you buy in the produce section because it eliminates peeling and cutting, but if you don’t mind the extra steps and don’t want the added expense of the bagged variety, then use regular carrots.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Cooking time: 2 to 4 hours on high or 4 to 6 hours on low.
- 2 pounds peeled baby carrots
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, cut up
- ½ cup water
- Place carrots in a 4- to 6-quart lightly greased slow cooker. Mix cinnamon and brown sugar; distribute evenly over carrots. Distribute butter pieces evenly over top of carrots and add water.
- Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, or high 2 to 4 hours.
Spiced Pinecone Cakes
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then real pinecones will feel truly humbled by these little cakes. These delectable spice cakes are adorned with sliced almonds and instantly transformed into realistic-looking pinecones.
Makes 6 individual cakes
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 (6 ounce) bags of sliced almonds
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-by-13 inch pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg, and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated. Then add the vanilla.
- With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk until the batter is completely mixed and smooth.
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely, then crumble the cake into a large bowl and set aside.
- Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper and set aside. Combine the cream cheese, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and the milk in a large bowl, and mix until smooth and creamy.
- Add the cream cheese mixture to the crumbled cake and stir until fully incorporated. (You may want to use clean hands here, as it’s much easier). The cake crumbs should clump together and hold its shape.
- Scoop out a handful of the crumb mixture and mold it into a large egg shape. Place the cake standing up on the lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining crumb mixture. You should have six cakes. Chill for about 10 minutes to firm.
- Starting at the bottom, stick the almonds (pointy side in) into acake to create a row around the entire cake.
- Continue to create rows, overlapping the almonds, until the whole cake is covered and resembles a pinecone.