When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, few people are willing to consider a meal made up of anything but turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. This tradition dates back to the mid-19th century, according to TIME, despite the fact that nobody knows for sure where it started. Some believe that this large bird simply made sense to feed the extended families that eat together on Thanksgiving while others state it’s the most American bird you can eat. Bald eagles not only are endangered, but Benjamin Franklin supposedly thought they weren’t as respectable as the turkey!
Traditions are great, but you’re not the first person seeking your online culinary certificate who wants to experiment with Thanksgiving dinner, and you won’t be the last. Whether you’re seeking a vegetarian-friendly alternative or just don’t want to be limited to the traditional meat we’ve all come to expect, here are a few other options you can keep in mind this holiday:
Cornish game hens: Maybe you’re hosting a small get-together as opposed to big family gathering this holiday season. If this is the case, roast a few Cornish game hens instead of having to deal with pounds of leftover turkey. This recipe from Martha Stewart keeps true to the holiday flavor by incorporating cranberry stuffing into the dish. Each bird serves about one person, so you can cook up quite a few in a single pan. You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, though, as this will pair with those mashed potatoes perfectly!
Lamb: The Tomato Tart came up with the most seasonally-appropriate way to serve lamb at your Thanksgiving dinner. Rather than roasting a rack of lamb, consider making individual lamb meatloaves with breadcrumbs and plenty of seasonal herbs, served right inside small pumpkins. Not only does this allow guests to enjoy the tasty squash along with their entree, but it makes for easy serving as well! You can also make a delectable sauce made up of yogurt, mint, garlic and salt to complement the taste of the lamb without clashing with the pumpkin flavor.
Duck: Duck is another option that’s great for a small Thanksgiving gathering. Bon Appetit suggests serving this elegant dish with shaved black truffles and a sauce made with broth and Pinot Noir. Such a rich, decadent dish is perfect for the holidays, since you probably wouldn’t put this much thought and care into your regular weeknight meal! In addition to the black truffles, bake the duck on top of a bed of chicken wings, as well as celery, carrots and shallots.
Pork loin: If you’re tired of all of the classic flavors of the Thanksgiving season, try taking a suggestion from Babble and stuffing a pork loin with a mix of dried cherries, roasted almonds and stuffing made with wild rice, garlic, onion, parsley, thyme and rosemary. It’s much quicker to cook than a turkey, only taking about an hour and serving six people. You can serve it alongside your typical Thanksgiving fixings, or fill up on all of the delectable stuffing!
Risotto: If you’re a vegetarian, you surely want options aside from the bland tofurkey of years past. Cookie and Kate suggests embracing the flavors of the season by preparing a savory roasted butternut squash risotto. This dish, made with squash, brown rice, onion, garlic and white wine, is hearty enough to be served as the entree of your Thanksgiving dinner, and you can make as big of a batch as you need.