Popular Topics

BACK TO Holiday & Entertaining Planning a Perfect Thanksgiving, Big or Small

Planning a Perfect Thanksgiving, Big or Small

If this year’s Thanksgiving guest list is smaller than usual or bigger than it’s been in years past, no problem. Here are some recipes, general guidelines and helpful hints for making a deliciously memorable dinner for an intimate group or a big crowd, without compromising any of the traditional foods you love.

A Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner
  • For smaller gatherings, think about roasting a turkey breast (or turkey thighs if you prefer dark meat) instead of a whole bird (which can be hard to find in small sizes). Weighing in at five to eight pounds, turkey breast is perfect for smaller crowds, plus it cooks a lot faster than a whole bird, usually in 90 minutes to two hours. If, however, you have a lot of people on your guest list, roasting a turkey breast alongside a whole bird is a great way to supplement the menu without having to roast two turkeys. If your dinner is very small, for two or four, consider roasting a whole chicken, Cornish game hens (one per person), or even chicken breasts rather than a turkey breast; you could even use turkey cutlets! You’ll get the same wonderful Thanksgiving “taste” but in a lot less time and with fewer leftovers.
  • Consider serving salad or soup as a first course. Salads are easy to scale up or down to accommodate however many people are on your guest list, and any extra soup can easily be frozen to eat after the holiday.
  • Generally speaking, mashed potatoes, stuffing and side dish recipes can be halved for smaller parties or doubled for larger groups without requiring much adjustment to the ratios. Sometimes, though, when making triple batches of recipes, the amount of liquid will need to be reduced, so leave a portion of the liquid out, adding it as necessary during mixing to achieve the consistency you desire. It’s also a good idea to hold back on the seasonings when multiplying recipes so the flavor of, say, sage or black pepper doesn’t overwhelm the dish. Remember: you can always add seasonings but you can’t take them out once they’re in!
  • To lighten the workload, don’t feel guilty about relying on prepared products like dinner rolls from the bakery, canned cranberry sauce, or Campbell’s® Turkey gravy (a great option, especially with turkey breast where there may not be enough drippings to make gravy from scratch). Prepared items can help you create a fabulous meal without requiring an all–­day cooking commitment. It’s also perfectly acceptable (and fun!) to ask guests to assist by bringing a dish, especially if you’re expecting a lot of people. Friends and family love to help and are always willing to pitch in.
  • Don’t let dessert be a dilemma if your guest list is short this year. Bakeries often sell “half pies” which are the perfect size for two or four people but if you prefer to make a homemade pie this recipe is outstanding. Or how about a less traditional (but still delicious) option of bread pudding or warm pumpkin muffins (either homemade or purchased) topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce? Serve leftovers for breakfast the next day or freeze extras for a holiday brunch.