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Last Minute Thanksgiving Feast


I know Thanksgiving is this week and if you are anything like me, the cooking, and maybe also the grocery shopping, has not begun.  This happens almost on a yearly basis – the holiday always feels so far away, so I procrastinate.  I’m busy with a million things in life, which makes planning a menu for a large or small crowd, seem like such a task.  Luckily, most grocery stores are open Thanksgiving eve (which this year is also the first night of Hanukkah) and through most of the actual holiday as well.  Whole Foods closes their doors at 4pm.  And so the promised feast for my family and friends will happen, after all.

Rather than making what feels like a million side dishes, some compromised in taste and presentation due to lack of time, I’ve kept the number of dishes to a minimum with utmost attention to special flavors and pretty plating. The Pomegranate and Serrano Pepper Glazed Turkey was inspired by the season and my need for some heat.  A side of Roasted Vanilla Bean Butternut Squash with Manchego and Spiced Pepitas is from my heart with a nod to Spain, as is the simply Roasted Cauliflower with Seared Tomatillos.

Will this take you 30 minutes?  No, it will not.  But these recipes are simple enough to help you create a beautiful and interesting Thanksgiving spread.

Ingredients & Method

Pomegranate Serrano Pepper Glazed Turkey

  • 8 pomegranates, seeded
  • 3 Serrano Peppers, roughly chopped
  • Zest of 1 lime and juice of 2
  • Zest of ½ an orange
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar or honey
  • 4 Tablespoons cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons ground all spice or ground cloves
  • 3 Tablespoons salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 oranges, halved
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 8 sprigs of Rosemary
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine cumin, cinnamon, all spice or cloves, sugar and salt with softened butter, until thoroughly mixed.  Rub the compound butter all over the turkey and between the breast and skin of the turkey (be careful not to tear the skin).  Season the inside of the turkey cavity with salt and then stuff with halved lemons, oranges, rosemary and garlic.  Hold together with a skewer.   Place turkey in a roasting pan and place in oven for about 40 minutes to check for brown color.  If the bird is browning too quickly, loosely cover it with foil.

In a food processor, blend together pomegranate seeds, pepper, lime juice and zest and orange zest until as smooth as possible.  Pass the mixture through a fine sieve and transfer to a pot.  Reduce on medium-high heat until the juices begin to thicken (will be reduced by slightly more than half).  Add honey or sugar and reduce slightly.  Remove from heat.

About an hour into cooking, or once the turkey is golden brown, glaze it every 10-15 minutes, reserving about ½ cup for serving.  The cooking process will take about 2 hours or until a meat thermometer reads between 160-170 degrees.

Roasted Vanilla Bean Squash with Spiced Pepitas (serves 4-6)

  • 1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise, deseeded
  • 1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 4 cloves garlic, skins on
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Cup Manchego cheese, grated
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Cup pepitas, toasted
  • 2 Tablespoons Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Rub squash with about 2T oil, salt and vanilla bean, making sure to well coat the flesh and cavities. In a sturdy piece of foil, wrap garlic with remaining oil.  Place squash face down on a sheet tray with garlic packet and roast until squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Combine cumin, chile powder, garlic powder, salt and oil to form a paste.  In a small bowl, coat the toasted pepitas.  Spread on to a parchment lined sheet tray and place in same oven as squash for about 6 minutes.

With a spoon, remove flesh from squash and garlic cloves from their skins (they should be light brown and pop out easily).  Combine with cheese.  Season with more salt if necessary.  Garnish with spiced pepitas.

Roasted Cauliflower with Seared Tomatillos (serves 4-6)

  • 2 heads cauliflower cut into florets
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • ½ lb tomatillos, skins removed, halved
  • 3 gloves garlic, roasted and smashed into a paste
  • 2 Tablespoons mint, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons canola or any neutral oil
  • zest of ½ orange plus its juices
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss cauliflower with oil, paprika and salt and place on sheet tray.  Roast for about 25 minutes or until cauliflower is golden brown.

Place oil in pan and heat on medium-high until oil is very hot.  Place tomatillos flesh side down in pan until well-browned and soft, about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and cut each half in another half.  In a small bowl, combine garlic paste, mint, cilanto, orange zest, juice and salt.  Toss mixture with tomatillos and serve strewn over the cauliflower.

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