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Southern Stories
Jan 27/17

Small Batch Thanksgiving: Non-Traditional Recipes Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

Thanksgiving. It is hard to imagine another meal that gets as much attention and fuss. To those of us who obsess over food, we’re planning next year’s meal while other people are lining up for Black Friday sales. It’s just what we do.

But what if you are not one of those people? What if you just want to enjoy that third Thursday in November, have a few friends over to sit around the dining room table (the one in that room you only use three times a year), and enjoy each other’s company? What is it about that damned bird that makes people laugh, cry, curse, rejoice or come-apart?

These may be questions best saved for your therapist. Let’s just stick to the issue at hand, which is putting together a delicious and enjoyable meal that’s meant to be savored with friends and family. Each of the following recipes feeds 6 to 8 guests.


This is your first opportunity for gratitude this holiday: when a guest or family member offers to bring something, just say, “Thank you. That would be lovely. Perhaps an appetizer?” Confirm their offer the day before the big meal and ask if they will need the oven for their dish or a special serving piece. You will be ready.

Want to err on the side of caution? Prepare a few ramekins of this dip, which can be baked in a jiffy. Inspiration comes from a venerable source, the Junior League of Birmingham’s Food for Thought cookbook:

Hot Bacon & Swiss Dip

  • Combine 1 8-ounce package cream cheese (softened) with ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 cup grated Swiss cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions (white and light green parts only). Place in prepared 1-cup ramekins and top with equal amounts cooked and crumbled bacon, and crushed butter crackers (like Ritz) – about ½ cup each. Bake at 350* for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with crackers.

Thanksgiving is a meal to linger over, allowing everyone the chance to catch up and relax. Offering your meal in courses lets you do just that. We like this soup because it can be prepared in advance and leftovers freeze wonderfully.

Roasted Red Pepper & Artichoke Heart Soup

  • In a large stockpot, heat 1tablespoon olive oil and sauté 2 minced garlic cloves, ¼ cup diced yellow onion, 1 peeled and diced carrot and 1diced celery stalk. When vegetables are soft and translucent, add 1.5 quarts chicken stock, 1 5-ounce jar roasted red bell peppers (drained), and 1 14-ounce can brined artichoke hearts (drained). Stir to combine and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool and puree. Return soup to pot and add ½ quart heavy cream and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Heat gently and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve in shallow bowls or espresso cups. Garnish with chopped chives.

 The Main Course

Brace yourself: we’re proposing a mild shake-up this year by banishing the bird in favor of that other white meat, pork. It might sound heretical but hear us out. A rolled and stuffed pork loin can be prepped in advanced, cooked when you’re ready and is gorgeous in its presentation. What’s more is that the stuffing is part of the dish, meaning one less course to prepare.

 Thanksgiving Pork Roast

  • Ask your butcher to butterfly a large pork loin, about 3 pounds. This process is relatively easy to do yourself, but letting the professional do it means one less item on your to-do list. Butterflying the loin turns a long round piece into a large flat one.
  • Make the stuffing: Remove the casing from three links Italian sausage and sauté over medium heat in a large skillet. Add 2 leeks (washed, chopped white and pale green parts only) and 2 minced garlic cloves. Sauté until leeks and garlic are softened. Remove from heat and add 1cup day old bread cubes, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, ½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary. Toss to combine and let cool while you prepare the pork loin.
  • Lay pork loin out flat on a large cutting board. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon sausage mixture over, leaving a ¼-inch rim of uncovered pork. (Note: you may have some mixture left over; bake separately in prepared ramekins if you choose.)
  • Working from the short side, gently but tightly roll up the pork loin. Use cooking twine to secure the roll by tying in 1-inch intervals. Note: This is a terrific recipe to prepare the day before, up to this step. Wrap the loin tightly in plastic wrap and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator at least one hour before continuing here. If you are cooking the loin right away, proceed with the next step.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • With pork loin at room temperature, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper outside of the loin. Using tongs, add loin to the skillet and sear on all sides, including the two ends. Once loin is browned, transfer to a roasting pan. Top with ¼ cup onion-garlic jam (we like Emily G’s Tipsy Onion and Garlic.) Roast for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to roast for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until an instant read meat thermometer reads 155 degrees.
  • Let the roast rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


What Southern meal would be complete without something cooked in a cast-iron skillet? None. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is the perfect surface for caramelizing vegetables. We like this one featuring seasonal favorite Brussels sprouts, adapted from The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes (2012, Oxmoor House).

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

  • Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Place Brussels sprouts (2 pounds fresh, bottoms trimmed and halved lengthwise) cut side down, in a single layer. Checking often, let the sprouts cook until they have achieved a deep golden brown color, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn.
  • Use tongs to flip the sprouts and brown the other side in the same way.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and sprinkle with 1tablespoon sugar. Toss to coat and combine evenly. Continue to cook over low heat until the sprouts are cooked through but not soft. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to an oven-safe serving dish, cover loosely with foil and keep warm (200-degree oven) until you are ready to serve.
  • You may garnish the sprouts with any of these toppings or let your guests create their own signature side by offering: ½ cup toasted pine-nuts, ½ cup cooked and crumbled pancetta or bacon, freshly grated lemon zest, ¼ cup grated ricotta salata or crumbled feta, ¼ cup dried currants, ½ cup fried onions or shallots, ½ cup toasted bread crumbs.


Thanksgiving dessert options abound and everyone seems to feel the meal is not complete without their childhood favorite. To those who would be crushed without Aunt Cece’s Sweet Potato Dump Cake or Grandmother’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie, tell them, “That sounds divine! Would you like to make that and bring it?” And smile when you say it. Because you will be making ONE pie:

Bourbon Pecan Pie

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Sprinkle ¼ cup pecan pieces evenly into a prepared pie shell (not deep dish). Bake 5 minutes. Remove and let cool while you prepare the filling.
  • In a large bowl, combine 3 eggs, 1 cup sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons melted butter, ½ cup dark corn syrup, ½ cup heavy whipping cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, ¼ cup good bourbon (not your Pappy Van Winkle), and 1 cup pecan halves. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with fresh whipped cream.

We’re not promising that this Thanksgiving meal will be stress-free but with a little extra planning, no one will need to have a come-apart.

Southern food and lifestyle writer Christiana Roussel lives in Birmingham, Alabama. When not enjoying the occasional biscuit festival or bourbon tasting, there are four chickens, three dogs, two children and one husband who keep her very busy.



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