A 20-pound heritage turkey; an entire casserole for each and every vegetable; homemade and canned cranberry sauce (it’s polarizing!): These are the trappings of a typical Thanksgiving. This year, however, why bother? With the pandemic surging and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending against travel — there likely won’t be many folks at the table to eat the standard smorgasbord that defines the holiday.
But despair not, Thanksgiving cravers. You simply need a far simpler and pared-back plan.
Emily Stephenson, author of the new cookbook “Pantry to Plate” (Chronicle Books), has devised a few seasonal dishes that can be easily pulled together, even if only to satisfy a last-minute holiday craving for your very nearest and dearest.
“Maybe you want the Thanksgiving vibe, but are too exhausted or weary to cook the whole thing,” Stephenson, 34, told The Post. Her “quick and easy” selection — a savory sausage stuffing, comforting creamed spinach and a pumpkin-spice cream pie — can be whipped up with ingredients available at most bodegas or convenience stores.
Stephenson is certainly celebrating one of her favorite days of the year differently this year.
“I’ve actually hosted ‘Friendsgiving’ every year since I was 18,” said the woman who’s written the book on it, “The Friendsgiving Handbook” (2019).
This time around, though, the recipe developer, who has contributed dishes to books for Mark Bittman and Food52, plans to “cook a bunch of delicious food” and have a “cozy, long weekend” with her partner.
And despite missing her annual gathering with friends, she says she’s actually looking forward to a much-needed break.
“You know, the other great part about Thanksgiving is the really nice break in the middle of a crazy time of year,” she said. “So I think I’m just starting to get myself excited for those aspects of it.”
Read on for recipes that will give you a delicious taste of the holiday, stress-free.
Sausage and Cracker Stuffing
- 12 oz. crusty white bread, torn into bite-size chunks
- 2 tbsp. butter, plus more for greasing baking dish
- 1 lb. sausage, casings removed (She uses sweet Italian.)
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 ½ cups chicken stock, plus more as needed
- 8 oz. saltine crackers, crushed
- Fresh herbs (if you’ve got them)
Heat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast bread on baking sheet, tossing every 10 minutes, until crispy but not browned. Remove bread and raise oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, breaking into small pieces, and cook until browned, six to eight minutes. Transfer to a very large bowl using a slotted spoon. Grease gets used in the next step.
Lower the heat to medium and add the vegetables and seasoning. Cook until softened, at least 10 minutes. Add stock and bring to a brief boil, scraping the pan for flavorful bits. Remove from the heat.
Combine bread, crackers and sausage in large bowl, then pour vegetable mixture and toss. The bread should be pretty moist but not sopping. If it’s too dry, add a splash more of stock.
Transfer stuffing to baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Then, uncover and bake another 30 to 35 minutes, until top is golden brown.
Creamed Spinach or Greens
- 2 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 lb. frozen spinach or kale, making sure to tear large pieces
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- ¾ 1 cup half-and-half creamer
- ¼-½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (less if using Kraft to account for density)
Bring large pot of water with 2 tbsp. salt to simmer. Add the spinach and cook until thawed, less than a couple of minutes. Strain in colander and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle, then gently squeeze water out of greens.
In a large, heavy-bottom pot, melt butter over medium heat, then add garlic, remaining 1 tsp. salt and pepper. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring often, until fully incorporated and mixture is a light golden color, about three to five minutes.
Add half-and-half, and adjust heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching (no boil!), until sauce is steaming and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about two to five minutes. Add cheese and stir to combine. Fold in greens. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Caramelized Pumpkin Ice-Cream Pie
- 1 sleeve (about 1 ½ cups) graham crackers, crushed
- 6 tbsp. butter, very soft
- 4 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or ½ tsp. ground cinnamon)
- 3 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
Thoroughly combine the crushed graham cracker, butter and half the brown sugar in a bowl. Transfer to a pie plate and press mixture evenly along the bottom and sides. Freeze for at least one hour. (Or, skip this part and buy a completed graham cracker shell.)
Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Cook pumpkin with spices and remaining brown sugar, stirring constantly, until it’s glossy and smooth, about eight to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool until just warm. (You can avoid cooking, but you’ll lose depth of flavor.)
Fold together ice cream and pumpkin mixture just enough to see streaks of each, but not completely combined. Gently pour into the pie crust, smooth top, and freeze until set, at least 4 hours. Allow to soften several minutes before serving.