Thanksgiving for Two

Thanksgiving brings to mind images of large gatherings, complete with a huge roasted turkey. But what if you are keeping it simple this year? What if your Thanksgiving table has just two places set? While many people in this situation will find themselves invited to share the bounty at a friend or extended family member's home, no one should feel as though this is the only option available.

Couples can celebrate Thanksgiving with all the style and elegance of any party of twelve. The first step is to realize that a whole turkey may not be the ideal choice for you. This is especially true if you haven't got a huge freezer at your disposal for storing large amounts of leftovers. The recipes in this article for people in this situation.

Using a combination of choice cuts of turkey, juicy Cornish game hens and perfect chicken breasts can make the spread at a couple's Thanksgiving table just as succulent and tempting as any other in the nation. The major difference is the amount of food and, by opting for a smaller spread, you can take advantage of the versatility that comes with it. For instance, why settle for a simple turkey dinner when you can enjoy moist turkey breast cutlets covered in tasty asparagus and shrimp and smothered in creamy hollandaise sauce? Or, if chicken is more your style, why not spruce it up for the holiday by serving it with a creamy champagne sauce featuring leeks and mushrooms? The possibilities are endless.

Since the main course in a couple's Thanksgiving menu is likely to be elegant, yet slightly untraditional, the possibilities for side dishes blossoms. Try serving Smoked Salmon Stuffed Mushroom Caps and Pesto Cream Soup as starters. Some Whipped White Beans and Garlic and Peas with Lettuce, Parsley and Chervil can make wonderfully unique accompaniments to any of the recipes in this article. The sky really is the limit with these menus.

Another advantage of using recipes to suit two for Thanksgiving is the huge amount of time that will be saved preparing them. Even though some of these recipes involve special steps, they pale when compared to the time it takes to roast an average turkey. Take advantage of the time savings to plan more elaborate accompaniments and a special dessert. Maybe it's time to try your hand at Vanilla Crème Brulee or take it easy with a sinfully delicious helping of Balsamic Berries -- just make sure you get truly ripe berries!

To help you out with main dish ideas, here are four recipes that have been served for various celebrations -- from Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day -- at my table. Enjoy them!

Whatever you choose to serve, be creative and enjoy the many blessings you've enjoyed during the year. Perhaps the most important one is gazing back at you from across the table!

Turkey Tenderloins

This easy turkey recipe will leave you without leftovers and with enough time to put together a nice assortment of side dishes.
  • 1/2 lb. turkey tenderloins
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. Dijon-style prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

Place the turkey tenderloins in a resealable plastic bag and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, mustard and rosemary. Pour the mixture over the turkey tenderloins, seal bag and shake the bag to coat the turkey. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 4 hours -- shaking once or twice. Preheat the broiler in your oven. Remove the turkey from the marinade and place it on the rack in the broiler pan. Broil 4 inches from the heat, turning once, for 20 to 22 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and when pierced with a fork the juices run clear. Slice the tenderloins thinly and serve with cranberry sauce.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time

Turkey A La Oscar

This quick main dish is made particularly easy by using frozen asparagus and prepackaged sauce mix. If you want to spend a little more time, feel free to use fresh asparagus and make the hollandaise sauce from scratch. There's a great hollandaise sauce recipe in the archives.
  • 7 oz. frozen asparagus
  • 2 tsp. water
  • 1 tsp. margarine
  • 2 turkey breast cutlets
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1-1/2 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/3 packet hollandaise sauce mix

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the asparagus and water to a boil. Continue to cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, then drain.

Melt the margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the turkey 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until browned and no longer pink on the inside. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Place the garlic and shrimp in the already heated saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes or until the shrimp is no longer pink.

Prepare the hollandaise sauce according to the package directions.

Place each turkey cutlet on a plate. Top the cutlet with the asparagus and shrimp. Pour the hollandaise sauce over the top and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Variations on Cornish Game Hens

Cornish game hens make an excellent choice for couples wanting to have that traditional feeling for Thanksgiving. Two birds will be more than enough to serve two people. Choose the flavoring option that appeals to you most. If you find two favorites, save one for another special occasion -- Christmas, Valentine's Day or a birthday perhaps. Basic Instructions
    Start with two hens weighing 1 to 1-1/4 pounds each and one of the flavoring options below. Roast the hens at 375 degrees for about 1 hour, or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife and a meat thermometer inserted in the hen registers 170 degrees.
Apricot Spice Glaze
    In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup apricot jam, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon honey. Roast hens as directed. Brush the apricot glaze over the hens during the last 15 to 20 minutes of roasting.
Garlic-Herb Rub
    Mix 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, and 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage. Loosen the breast skin of each hen and rub one half of the mixture under the skin of each bird. Roast as directed.
Lemon-Basil Flavoring
    Rub the outside of the hens with a cut lemon and brush with melted butter. Place one lemon half and sprig of fresh basil into each cavity. Roast as directed.
Mustard-Herb Rub
    Coat the outside of each hen with about 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Sprinkle with a mixture of dried tarragon, basil and thyme. Roast as directed. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup white wine and serve with the pan juices.
Orange Glaze
    Mix 1/8 cup thawed, frozen orange juice concentrate, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 1 tablespoon honey until well blended. Brush the glaze over the hens during the last 15 to 20 minutes of roasting.
Oriental Glaze
    Mix 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon chicken broth, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Brush the mixture over the hens and pour a little into the cavities before roasting as directed above.
  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 1 hour and 10 minutes

Chicken Breasts in Champagne Sauce

What could be more festive than a rich, creamy chicken dish featuring champagne? Try serving this dish with seasoned brown and wild rice and a tart cherry and cranberry sauce. You won't even notice that there's not a turkey on the table!
  • 2 chicken breast halves, boned
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/4 c. finely diced celery
  • 1/4 c. finely diced white part of leeks
  • 1/2 c. finely diced mushrooms
  • 1/4 c. chicken broth
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1/3 c. champagne
  • 1/3 c. heavy cream

Remove the skin and any bits of fat on the chicken breast halves. Season them lightly with salt and pepper on both sides, then place the breasts between 2 sheets of wax paper and flatten lightly and evenly with a meat mallet.

In a large skillet, heat the butter and sauté the diced vegetables over low heat for 1 minute, stirring. Add the broth, cover, and cook very gently for about 5 minutes, or until almost tender; check to see if more broth is needed -- the vegetables should not brown. Carefully move the vegetables to the sides of the pan.

Quickly dredge the chicken breasts in flour, shaking off any excess, and add them to the pan. Sauté them gently 30 seconds on one side, then turn them, strew the vegetables on top, and add the champagne. After the mixture has boiled for a few seconds, stir in the cream, cover, reduce the heat, and cook gently for 5 minutes. The sauce will have thickened; if it is too thick, stir in a little more broth or cream. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes