Gobble gobble
November 17, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I only have 3 meat eaters coming for Thanksgiving. What can I serve to balance my desire not to have a ton of meat leftover that no one will eat vs. the desire to set a festive table and have a special meal?

I don't want to roast even the smallest turkey, first because it's hard to find anything even 10 pounds, and also because we're a mostly meat-free household, so I'm not going to want the carcass for stock.

I know I could just roast a chicken...or do just a turkey breast...but is there anything else I'm not thinking of? Or is there a really great recipe for one of those that will be super pretty and tasty for our holiday meal?
posted by BlahLaLa to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could do duck. I'm thinking maybe of a small turducken loaf, but just duck would be good too.
posted by yb2006shasta at 10:57 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are the meat eaters opposed to a vegetarian Thanksgiving? I'm an omnivore, but I would would be just as happy with a special vegetarian meal as I would a roast chicken or turkey breast.
posted by hrj at 10:57 AM on November 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

Cornish game hens? I've done this for small Thanksgivings. Everyone gets their own personal bird.
posted by treblemaker at 10:58 AM on November 17, 2012 [11 favorites]

Could you give the leftover meat and carcass to the meat-eaters to take home?
posted by erst at 10:59 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd say your idea sounds best - Either go with a chicken, or just get a small half-turkey.

That said, as a veggie myself, I wouldn't really want (or properly know how) to cook the thing at home, so I'd probably go with a pre-cooked half-rotisserie-turkey from the deli. Not exactly a gourmet meal, but think about some of what well-intentioned meat-eaters have tried feeding us for thanksgiving. :)

Though on preview, seconding hrj - Do you really need to provide meat? Most people love gorging themselves on the carbs at Thanksgiving anyway, they'd only really miss out on one (albeit iconic) part of their their normal feast.
posted by pla at 11:00 AM on November 17, 2012

Simplest is getting a turkey breast from Honeybaked Ham. They taste great.

Second, roast just a turkey breast. It's plenty enough for 3 people.

Good luck!
posted by Argyle at 11:01 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

The meat eaters are definitely not opposed to a veg-centered feast. I guess I'm just leaning toward having some sort of traditional, or neo-traditional centerpiece dish.

And logistically the meat eaters will not be able to take the carcass with them, though I could possibly fob it off on a neighbor.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:02 AM on November 17, 2012

this crockpot turkey great recipe is amazing. It's a stuffed turkey breast - you slice the breast before cooking, stuff it, and then wrap it in cheesecloth to cook it. This might be a good compromise as it has the traditional turkey + stuffing components and flavor profile, but it has a great presentation, seems fancy, and is secretly super easy.
posted by bq at 11:04 AM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you are a veg-only persons for ethical reasons but are willing to cook meat for this occasion I would maybe suggest you get an ethically reared chicken rather than a turkey breast. I think it'll be nearly impossible to find a non-factory farmed turkey.
posted by JPD at 11:05 AM on November 17, 2012

You could get just a turkey breast, rather than the whole bird. I've had my eye on this recipe for turkey day this year.
posted by Strass at 11:11 AM on November 17, 2012

I'd personally go with a couple of smoked turkey legs. No cooking for you, delicious for them, and you could incorporate it into some sort of big main course dish.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:16 AM on November 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I (vegetarian) always just get a little bit of pre-done turkey for my (non-vegetarian) partner and any guests. Unwrapping it and reheating is as much meat-cooking as I'm willing to do (and even then, I usually ask someone else to do touch it). I buy the herb-roasted turkey breast thing for Thanksgiving that Whole Foods has at their prepared foods counter, and everyone always says it's very good. I make everything else (vegetarian).

Non-veg guests are usually willing to try whatever vegetarian thing I've done for the "centerpiece" (I like the Quorn turkey roast best), but they always say they're happy the WFM turkey is there.
posted by lysimache at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2012

Turkey breast or leg is a nice option. Peel some carrots, onions, parsnips and potatoes to put under it for roasting; it keeps it out of the juices, and the veggies taste fantastic roasted in turkey juices. You can mash the potatoes and make a little bit of gravy with the juices, for any traditionalists.
posted by theora55 at 11:50 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a meat eater, I would think blessings were falling upon me if either a neighbor or the person cooking thanksgiving wanted to gift me with turkey carcass. As a datapoint.

That said, Cornish game hens are also incredibly delicious and serve the same roasted-bird purpose.
posted by corb at 12:16 PM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Screw turkey. Grill some steaks for your carnivores. Fast prep, easily controllable portions, etc.

My west coast family has been doing carne asada for Thanksgiving for a couple of years, and my east coast family is considering grilling steaks after the two traditional Thanksgiving stalwarts passed away this year.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:27 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You mentioned a turkey breast in your question, I think this is the way to go. They're substantial enough to look really amazing on a table, but won't leave you with a month's worth of leftovers.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 12:43 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Goose, if you're willing to spend the time cooking it.
posted by brujita at 12:45 PM on November 17, 2012

I made this duck breast recipe one year at Thanksgiving, instead of turkey. It was a huge hit. Duck is special enough to have a real wow factor for Thanksgiving.
posted by ambrosia at 12:50 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Cornish game hens. They're fun and festive, and seem special. And everyone gets their own little bird, so there's no fighting over white or dark meat and you can make as many (or as few) birds as you have people to eat them.
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2012

Do you have a grocery store with a particularly good meat counter? Ask about pre-ordering a boneless rolled lamb shoulder. Our local store makes a boneless rolled chicken and a even a turducken roll. They're smallish and present well when carved.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:13 PM on November 17, 2012

A small duck will serve exactly three to four people, but cooking whole duck is not for the novice; it takes some skill/experience to render all the fat out of it while not overcooking it.

Seconding other small game birds - pheasant and quail are also tiny and festive and maybe easier than duck since they have less fat under the skin, but they're still very tasty.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:27 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you buy a small already-roasted turkey and then parcel out the leftovers? I don't think meat is necessary for Thanksgiving. I do, however, think that if the bird's not a turkey there's not much point in a Thanksgiving bird.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:10 PM on November 17, 2012

This turkey breast recipe looks delicious.
posted by xmts at 2:54 PM on November 17, 2012

For my family of three, I cook a turkey breast in my crock pot. It's perfect for a big dinner and only a little bit of leftovers (sometimes I wish it were more leftovers).
posted by upatree at 3:11 PM on November 17, 2012

Roasted butternut squash halves provide a very festive looking presentation (and are pretty too) if you go the veggie dinner route.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2012

Pumpkin soup served in a pumpkin is a pretty centerpiece dish. If you want to serve meat but don't ordinarily cook meat in your home, lots of places (grocery, deli, restaurants) will sell you a pre-cooked turkey or turkey breast.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:26 PM on November 17, 2012

Lay slices of prosciutto on a board.

Cut open a turkey breast so it's nice and flat. Lay it lengthways on the prosciutto.

Make a simple stuffing: sweat onions and celery in plenty of butter, moisten with a little vermouth; add coarse fresh breadcrumbs and parsley, stir through some chopped pistachios.

Spread the stuffing over the breast. Roll so the prosciutto is on the outside. Tie. Roast or panfry. Slice, fan. Serve with a simple gravy and/or a 50/50 mix of cranberry sauce and peach jam.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:47 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Turkey breast loaf, or maybe a small pork roast.
posted by Doohickie at 6:33 PM on November 17, 2012

A pork tenderloin of the size I usually find at the grocery store is easy to cook, a good amount for 3 people, and works well with Thanksgiving type flavors. No carcass in your trash, no reaching inside a dead bird. Rub with spices, sear the outside on the stove, roast until done.
posted by lakeroon at 6:56 PM on November 17, 2012

Stuffed roast pumpkin makes a great centerpiece - I've done it just stuffed with a rice stuffing, but there are many ways that would work. Or stuffed butternut squash halves, etc.
posted by Lady Li at 7:12 PM on November 17, 2012

I, an omnivore, would greatly prefer to be vegetarian for Thanksgiving than to eat turkey made by someone who doesn't really know how to cook turkey and would rather not be cooking it.

I don't really like turkey, even when made by people with a lot of experience, and I was a vegetarian for years, so I might be the exception, but I think Thanksgiving is really all about the side dishes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:32 PM on November 17, 2012

I would do the cornish game hens too. Duck is so fatty, and I wouldn't feel comfortable serving it to someone if I wasn't very well practiced at preparing it, and if I wasn't absolutely certain that they liked it. But I'm a little picky that way as a host.
posted by vignettist at 11:17 PM on November 17, 2012

Thanks for the ideas, everyone. I'm leaning toward just doing a turkey breast, possibly this recipe.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:38 PM on November 18, 2012

A vegetarian friend once made me a baked turkey leg for Thanksgiving since I was the only meat eater at a group dinner. I was over the moon about it. Oooooweeee, what a treat.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:12 PM on November 19, 2012

Also, I just made this super, duper delicious vegetarian gravy -- I'm sure this going to please the veggies and meat-eaters alike!
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:43 PM on November 21, 2012

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