A Sweet, Simple Menu of Thanksgiving Recipes for Two

Tiny is the new big this holiday season, and making a small meal can be just as festive — and a whole lot easier — than a feast.

By Melissa Clark

The whole point of Thanksgiving is to go big: a huge turkey surrounded by a bevy of sides and what’s never too many pies, all devoured by relatives who may or may not be under the influence of free-flowing wine. That’s the way the holiday usually goes.

Not so this year. Given the pandemic, current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rate small Thanksgiving dinners confined to members of your household as the lowest-risk way to celebrate the holiday. Tiny is the new big for Thanksgiving 2020, and, for many people, that means dinner for two.

But a Thanksgiving for two can be just as festive and delicious as a feast for 12 — with the distinct advantage that there’s a lot less to clean up when it’s over. It’s simply a matter of scaling the proportions way down.

That’s what I did in this menu, which delivers all of the autumnal charm and traditional flavors in a smaller package. And it still leaves room for a favorite family recipe, if you can’t possibly live without Cousin Jessie’s mac and cheese or Uncle Lou’s jiggly salad, the one with the cream cheese and pecans.

The hardest thing about scaling the turkey was deciding whether to go with white meat or dark. I chose thighs, which are a lot easier and forgiving than the more finicky breast. But if you prefer white meat and would be happy for the extra leftovers, you can substitute a roasted breast. Pair the meat with quick-pickled onions and cranberries, which, with their fuchsia hue, add a welcome bit of color that could replace or brighten the usual jamlike cranberry sauce.

Stuffing is arguably the next most important dish on the table. This one, filled with sautéed shallots and plenty of herbs, is fairly classic: buttery soft in the center; golden and crunchy on top.

You’ll also need something sweet and orange and something spunky and green to round it all out. Here, I offer winter squash doused in a mildly spicy maple glaze, and roasted until velvety and browned at the edges, and sautéed greens, flavored with slivers of garlic and a dash of smoked paprika.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with baking a pie for dessert, and savoring the leftovers for a few days after. But if that seems excessive, try these rich little date and pumpkin sticky toffee puddings, imbued with a brown sugar toffee sauce and topped with crème fraîche for some much needed tang.

Even if it’s just the two of you, you can still eat until your stomach aches and the only sensible course of action is a bracing walk or a cozy nap (or both). Because even if we are celebrating a little differently this year, some holiday traditions remain sacred.

Recipes: Turkey Thighs With Pickled Cranberries and Onions | Herby Bread-and-Butter Stuffing | Maple-Roasted Squash With Sage and Lime | Sautéed Greens With Smoked Paprika | Pumpkin Sticky Toffee Puddings for Two

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