Practicing self-gratitude: Thanksgiving dinner, party of one

Thanksgiving can be a shape-shifter holiday. One year featuring a relaxed meal with immediate family can be followed by a year with a chaotic, four-day whirlwind navigating airport crowds, motorways and family dynamics.

Regardless, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to show some love through special food and attention to the day’s details. If you find yourself celebrating solo style this Thanksgiving, use the day as an opportunity to appreciate yourself and your own company. A table set for one should be just as nourishing as a table set for a crowd. Make your Thanksgiving one to remember with special touches, amazing food and self-gratitude.

Wow yourself

Focusing on the details of the day will allow you to shower yourself in compassion. As I see it, the holiday is all about gathering. And while you might not be gathering family and friends, there is no reason to forgo the joyful collecting.

Gather gratitude by making a morning list of things you’re thankful for. A cozy bed to wake from, warm socks on your feet and a cup of coffee would make for an excellent trio to set a thankful tone. Larger items can go on the list, too. Memories of holidays past, the sun in the sky and life itself warrant a thankful shoutout.

Gather the best quality and freshest local ingredients you can afford. We have extraordinary purveyors in our area. From the meat departments at Draeger’s in Los Altos and Zanotto’s in Sunnyvale to our abundantly diverse farmers’ markets, gathering the food for your feast can be a delight in and of itself.

Gather favorite songs for the ultimate Turkey Day soundtrack – you’re totally in control of the playlist, after all.

Gather some greenery from your neighborhood to assemble a table bouquet. Sure, you can purchase flowers, but a reason to walk around where you live paying attention to the changing foliage of the season is downright wonderful.

You may even want to gather new and special kitchen gear or tableware for your celebration.

A feast worthy of you

Making a meal that includes the seasons and fare that define Thanksgiving while cooking just enough for one – with maybe a day or two of leftovers – is a celebratory way to care for yourself.

Thanks to the sizzling sound of the browning turkey, the luxurious aromas wafting from your oven, the playful feeling of rolling out the sweet potato gnocchi and the deeply satisfying multitude of flavors, this menu will delight all your senses.

I love serving Champagne with Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a wine synonymous with celebration and pairs with everything. Plus, the fact that you can purchase quarter bottles, called splits, makes it ideal when sipping for one.

Draeger’s has a great selection of special splits to choose from. If you’re a red wine fan, I recommend the Saldo Zinfandel 375 mL Half Bottle for $20. With robust berry aromas and a deep garnet hue, this wine is the autumn season in a glass.

Thanksgiving Turkey Osso Buco

Osso buco is as comforting as it gets. Slow braised and richly seasoned, this turkey version of the famous Italian dish traditionally made with veal is a show-stopping centerpiece. It’s a main course featuring all the attributes we love about turkey dinner but with a unique personality twist.

  • Olive oil
  • 2 pounds turkey drumsticks, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch-thick pieces – this is most definitely a job for your butcher. Ask at your grocer’s meat department. They’ve got the right tools and skill.
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dried sour cherries
  • 1 cup turkey or chicken stock (more as needed)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Set large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a good glug of olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, set seasoned turkey pieces in pan. Brown on all sides, approximately 2-3 minutes per side. Remove turkey from pan and set aside. Add additional olive oil and then onion and celery. Cook until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add herbs and dried fruit. Then add stock. Place turkey pieces back in pan and cook in preheated oven 2-2 1/2 hours (checking periodically and adding more stock if needed).

When done, remove from oven and let rest a few minutes before serving.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

For me, Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving if I’m not eating sweet potatoes. This special preparation is another spin on Italian comfort food. I love the extra sweetness of the maple syrup and the spicy punch of the Aleppo pepper that elevate the pillows of potato goodness. This dish can be partially made ahead by roasting the sweet potato the day before.

  •  1 pound sweet potato
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 cups flour (more for dusting)

For Spicy Maple Butter:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Pinch of Aleppo pepper
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • Salt

Heat oven to 425 F. Using knife, pierce a few holes in sweet potato. Roast 45 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool and then peel. Add to large bowl and mash with potato masher or fork. Fold in ricotta cheese, salt and flour. Next, start the fun. On well-floured countertop or cutting board, grab handfuls of gnocchi dough and roll out to long, inch-wide ropes. Using pastry knife, cut into dumplings. Place on floured dish towel and cover while you make the rest.

Make butter in small shallow bowl by incorporating ingredients together using fork. Set aside.

Bring pot of well-salted water to boil. At the same time, add maple butter to nonstick frying pan and melt completely. Add gnocchi to boiling water and simmer until dumplings float to top. Use slotted spoon to remove gnocchi and place them immediately into frying pan with maple butter. Toss to coat and serve.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranates

The quintessential, in-season Turkey Day side will be a dazzling addition to your plate with the sweet jewels of fresh pomegranate seeds and a drizzling of pomegranate molasses.

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (quartered if very large)
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, peeled and sliced thick
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pomegranate molasses (available at Middle Eastern markets and the international aisle of grocery stores)
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

If you have two ovens, set one to 425 F for this dish. Otherwise, roast these along with the Turkey Osso Buco. Then, while turkey rests, put brussels sprouts (after preparing them as directed below) under broiler to crisp up – being sure to keep your eye on them.

Toss prepared sprouts and shallots with olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and toss. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour vegetables onto pan and roast 20 or so minutes. When cooked and slightly browned, remove from oven. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and scatter pomegranate seeds through. Serve immediately.

Pear Blackberry Ginger Crisp

This is a menu for one, but it is especially critical to have a full-sized dessert. Especially when the dessert is a fruit crisp wafting with seasonal aromas. Leftover, cold crisp makes for a truly excellent Black Friday breakfast with a cup of coffee.

  • 4 ripe pears, peeled, seeded cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced candy ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blackberries, cut in half if very large
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted softened butter (plus more for buttering baking dish)
  • Heaping 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter 8- or 9-inch baking or gratin dish and set aside.

Add pears to saucepan along with sugar, ginger and salt. Bring to simmer and cook until pears begin to soften, add blackberries and stir to combine. After 1 minute, turn off heat and pour mixture into baking dish.

Use your hands to mix butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in bowl. Work mixture until it resembles small pebbles. Pour topping over fruit in baking dish.

Place baking dish on cookie sheet to catch any juices bubbling over. Bake 40-45 minutes. If you only have one oven, assemble crisp earlier in the day and bake while you eat dinner. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. 

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)


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