I enjoy hosting Thanksgiving, but it can be taxing—especially on my wallet. Thanksgiving is all about abundance, and I want to keep it that way—without breaking the bank. So I’ve carefully selected my menu this year to include Thanksgiving recipes
that are affordable and delicious.
My rules for selecting the recipes were simple: I kept my main dish (the turkey) to under $3 per serving. For side dishes and desserts, I kept them at $1.50 or below. My entire meal is going to please my palate and, at less than $7 per serving, keep my wallet happy too. Now that’s something to be thankful for.
Here’s my menu:
Layered Mashed Potato & Mushroom Casserole ($1.42 per serving) Fancy up regular mashed potatoes with a layer of mushroom duxelle—a sauté of finely chopped mushrooms and shallots. We omitted the traditional butter in the duxelle and added chard for a nutritional boost. Serve this hearty side in place of mashed potatoes at any holiday feast or enjoy it as a vegetarian main dish.
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onions ($0.65 per serving) Fresh herbs, onion and bacon pair beautifully with Brussels sprouts. This vegetable loves the cool weather of fall and early winter. If you can find them still attached to the stalk, don’t be intimidated—buy them, as they’re likely more fresh. All you need to do is slice off each sprout with a paring knife. However you find them at the market, this is a delicious way to prepare them. (Recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.)
Creamed Onions ($1.50 per serving) A holiday staple in many households, creamed onions are usually bathed in a rich white sauce made with heavy cream. In this version, we roast the onions for an added layer of flavor and lighten up the sauce with low-fat milk. The result is a luxuriously silky sauce with a sweet roasted onion flavor for far fewer calories and less fat. We like the smaller size of pearl onions, but boiling onions also work well.
Cranberry Upside-Down Cake ($ .90 per serving) This rustic cake is a delicious alternative to pie and uses one of the tastiest fruits of the fall harvest—cranberries. The basic recipe is very versatile and can be made with apples, pears, peaches, plums or any full-flavored, slightly acidic fruit. Just arrange the fruit in the skillet before you pour the batter over it. The cake is best served warm; if you can, put it in the oven just before you sit down to dinner. (Recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.)
Brine-Cured Roast Turkey ($2.48 per serving) (see recipe below)
A big turkey is so spectacular you hardly need to do anything to embellish it. But brining can be that extra touch that makes it so juicy and flavorful that you’ll remember it for years to come. Brining the turkey takes 3 days so you’ll need to plan ahead, but the lengthy brining time really pays off with fabulous flavor. Make sure you start with an all-natural bird without any added water and sodium solution. (Recipe adapted from Alice Waters.)
Active time: 1 hour 10 minutes | Total: 3 hours (plus 3 days brining time) | Equipment: Pot, bucket or clean cooler large enough to hold the turkey (but small enough to fit in your refrigerator), kitchen string
3 gallons water, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup kosher salt
2 carrots, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
2 leeks, dark tops trimmed off, chopped
1 small stalk celery, chopped
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 star anise
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 12- to 14-pound naturally fed, free-range turkey
1 large sprig rosemary for basting
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for basting
1. Bring 1 gallon water to a boil in a large nonreactive pot that will hold your turkey and fit in your refrigerator (see Tip). Stir in sugar and salt until completely dissolved. Turn off the heat. Stir in carrots, onions, leeks, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander, crushed red pepper, fennel seeds, star anise and thyme. Add the remaining 2 gallons water. Place the turkey in the brine and weight it with a plate, if necessary, so it stays below the surface. Refrigerate for 72 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
3. Remove the turkey from the brine, brush off any briny bits and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (discard the brine). Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Place the turkey on a roasting rack set in a large roasting pan.
4. Roast the turkey until the skin starts to brown, 40 minutes. Use rosemary sprig to baste the turkey with oil. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue roasting the turkey, basting with more oil about every 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone registers 165°F, 1 to 1 1/2 hours more, depending on the size of the turkey. If the skin begins to darken too much, cover it loosely with foil.
5. Carefully transfer the turkey to a large, clean cutting board; let it rest, loosely covered with foil, for 20 minutes before removing the string and carving.
Makes 10 servings, plus leftovers.
Cost per serving: under $2.50
Per 3-ounce serving (without skin): 147 calories; 4 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 66 mg cholesterol; 0 g carbohydrate; 25 g protein; 0 g fiber; 96 mg sodium; 253 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Zinc (20% daily value).
Kitchen Tip: If you do not have a pot large enough to hold the turkey plus the 3 gallons of brining liquid, bring 1 gallon of water to a boil in a smaller pot, add the flavorings (Step 1), then transfer the brine to a clean large bucket or medium cooler (small enough to fit in your refrigerator). Add the remaining 2 gallons water and the turkey. To fit the brining turkey into your refrigerator, you may need to remove a shelf or two.
By Hilary Meyer
EatingWell assistant editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.