Your Thanksgiving meal is tired, unchanged, and uninspired. Sure, that’s part of the tradition: The first Thanksgiving, after all, was dedicated to the fact that the pilgrims had food to eat at all. But why let that stop you from trying something different? Our vote would be to look to Italy for inspiration, a country that does giant communal meals better than any.
The first thing Italians would do with the traditional American feast is take a “less is more” approach. There’s far too many plates passed for optimal enjoyment on any given Thanksgiving. The approach to the plates being served can be simplified as well, creating an overall easier experience for the hosts and a more satisfying one for all the palates gathered around the table. Here is your pared-down, tasty Italian perspective on our favorite food holiday (all recipes based on serving 12).
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Starter: Chicken Liver Crostini with Pickled Shallots
1 lb chicken livers, drained/dried/trimmed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp dried sage
1/4 cup cognac or red wine
3/4 lb shallots, peeled and sliced into 1/4’’ rounds
1 12-oz bottle of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
1 large baguette, sliced into 1/3’’ rounds
For the livers:
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
Saute the onions until soft.
Add chicken livers in an even row; season with salt and pepper.
Cook without moving until thoroughly browned (4–5 minutes).
Flip to other side; season with salt and pepper.
Cook until browned (2–3 minutes).
Deglaze with cognac or red wine.
Toss and transfer to a food processor (scraping out as much liquid from the pan as possible).
Pulse processor while adding a thin stream of the remaining olive oil (as needed).
Steady blend until smooth.
Remove to a bowl.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the shallots:
Pour the vinegar into a small, deep saucepan.
Add the salt and sugar, stir until dissolved.
Add the shallots.
Bring to a boil; remove from heat.
Let rest for 20 minutes.
Remove shallots from the mixture.
Spread each slice of baguette with a healthy spread of liver. Top with shallot rounds.
Credit: Getty Images
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Main Course: Herb-Garlic stuffed Turkey Breast with Olive Oil & Honey Glaze
2 whole bone-in turkey breasts, 6 1/2 to 7 lbs each
10 cloves of minced garlic
3 tbsp of chopped thyme leaves
3 tbsp of chopped rosemary leaves
4 tsp of kosher salt
1 tsp of black pepper
4 tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of honey
2 cups of liquid (chicken stock or white wine or water)
Preheat oven to 325°.
Combine garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a bowl. Mix.
Place breasts, skin-side up, on a rack in a roasting pan.
Gently loosen the skin with fingers and spread as much of the herb mix as possible directly onto the meat without tearing the skin.
Spread the rest of the mix onto the outside of the skin.
Add a cup of liquid to the bottom of the pan.
Roast the breasts until the skin is just brown and crisp (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours).
Combine remaining olive oil with the honey.
Remove breasts from the oven and quickly spread the olive oil–honey mix over the skin using a pastry brush.
Return to oven and roast (15–20 minutes) until the skin is golden.
Remove, cover loosely with foil and let breasts rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Spoon accumulated juices over the meat and serve.
Credit: Dolphia Nandi / Getty Images