When it comes to America’s annual feast and football day, there’s little new under the sun. Thanksgiving’s about tradition, not innovation. But when it comes to spending your time and money, you have some choices. How fancy do you need to get? How much convenience are you willing to purchase? Do you need to sliver your own almonds for the green beans? Will your family still love you if you serve a store-bought pie? With less than two weeks until Thanksgiving, we surveyed a few options – from a gourmet spread to a fully prepared offering at a local restaurant. The meals below are for six to eight people, and they don’t include wine.
The $80 dinner
Epicurious.com has a menu for a complete, “lavish” Thanksgiving dinner for an estimated $79.79. That allows for a 14-pound bird at $1.14 a pound – a good price, but you can often do better on store specials close to the holiday.
Menu: Roast turkey with oranges, bay leaves, red onions and pan gravy; herbed bread stuffing; Brussels sprouts hash with caramelized shallots; cloverleaf rolls; butternut squash soup with cider cream; pecan pumpkin pie. See more here: epicurious.com/articles guides/holidays/thanksgiving/budgetmenu.
Upside: It’s affordable – though someone less concerned with caramelized shallots and other similar touches could likely beat this price with mashed potatoes and green beans on the side.
Downside: It feels a little light on side dishes. No mashed potatoes, which seems wrong to those of us who live in or near Idaho. The dressing is pretty straightforward – no sausage chunks or diced apples hiding among the bread cubes.
No holds barred
Gourmet magazine put together this menu for an American Heartland Thanksgiving dinner. With a fresh turkey, this menu would cost around $150.
Menu: Roasted chestnuts; bourbon chicken liver pate; turkey with cider-sage dressing; wild rice, apple and dried cranberry stuffing; jellied cranberry sauce; shredded Brussels sprouts with maple hickory nuts; creamed pearl onions; potato parsnip puree; brandied sour cherry and pear tartlets; pumpkin ginger rice pudding.
For more, go to gourmet.com/recipes /menus/2008/11/all-american- thanksgiving-menus?mbid=yshine_gmt.
Upside: Great variety – two kinds of dressing and two desserts – and a nice mix of traditional Thanksgiving dinner elements with elegant touches. It sounds like it’d be delicious, and there might be some bourbon left over from the pate to help pass the hours and hours required to prepare the meal.
Downside: Expensive in time and money – some of the work needs to begin three days before the big day. For some people, of course, all that effort and attention is part of what they love about the holiday. Also: parsnips in the potatoes.
Reheat and watch the game
Various grocers and restaurants sell ready-made Thanksgiving dinners with “all the trimmings.” Here’s one typical restaurant option, which costs $119.99.
Menu: Turkey, dressing, yams, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetable, cornbread, pie, coffee.
Upside: All that time regained. This meal needs three hours of reheating – not three days of cooking – leaving you time to play with the kids, watch the parade, nap, set the table.
Downside: You’re taking your chances with the variety of Thanksgiving food pitfalls – turkey dryness, gravy clumpiness, etc. May offend some people’s sense of propriety.