Host Thanksgiving Dinner Like A Pro
Food and Drink

Host Thanksgiving Dinner Like A Pro

It’s that special time of the year as we gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Are you planning to host Thanksgiving dinner this year and not sure where to start? Once you know how many people will be there, it’s time to decide on the menu. Keep things simple and try not go overboard!

Pick the turkey: At least two weeks in advance, order a fresh turkey or buy frozen and keep in the freezer. Depending on the guest list size, you may need to include another meat. Ham always goes well with turkey. Secure the ham at the same time as the turkey. Smoked ham on the grill is simple and always a hit.

Plan the menu: Pick your favorite turkey recipe and plan the side dishes. We suggest serving 1-2 appetizers, 3-4 sides and 2-3 dessert options. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, people will be happy to bring a side dish, rolls, or dessert. This will take away some of the stress as you host the big day. Just be sure everyone doesn’t show up with sweet potato casseroles!

Prepare the meal: If your turkey or ham is frozen, start the thawing process at least 24 hours in advance. The turkey and ham can be cooked in the oven or smoked on the grill.

Casseroles and side dishes can be assembled the day before. Desserts should be prepared ahead of time as well. Bake casseroles and reheat sides while turkey is cooking and resting. Remember, your outdoor grill is an extension of your indoor oven, be sure to utilize this extra cooking capacity for baking and reheating. Enlist help from your guest so that things come together smoothly.

Here’s a few recipes to consider as you start planning the menu. Get ready to host Thanksgiving dinner like a pro!

Baked Jalapeño Crab Dip

Excerpted from The Ultimate Sports Fans Cookbook, by David Bowers, Skyhorse Publishing/January 2014

"Crabmeat’s delicate flavor can get buried if you mix in too many strong flavors. The creamy sauce in this dip has just a little bite from a fresh jalapeno, letting the finished dish highlight the sweet seafood instead. While fresh crabmeat is always delicious, this recipe works well with frozen or canned crabmeat. With a glass of white wine and a green salad, this rich dip can become a light main course."

Makes: 6 servings


1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup buttermilk

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 jalapeño, finely minced

1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over, any shells discarded

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 1-quart baking dish. In a mixing bowl, blend the cream cheese and mayonnaise with an electric mixer on medium speed. Blend in the buttermilk, lime juice and salt until the mixture is smooth. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold in the crabmeat. Turn the mixture into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the mixture is golden and bubbling. Serve with salted white corn chips or rounds of sliced baguette.

Grilled White Mushrooms, Bacon and Parmesan

Excerpted from Grill It! by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby used with permission from DK Publishing. Photography courtesy of DK Publishing

"Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. This is one of the great side dishes of the grilled repertoire. It’s rich, it’s earthy, it’s cheesy and crisp and a little bit hot, and it’s just plan delicious. Your friends will be asking you to make this one every time they come over, no matter what else is on the menu."

Serves: 4 as a side dish


4 oz. bacon, diced small

11/4 pounds white mushrooms, stems trimmed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

On the stovetop, cook the bacon until crisp in a sauté pan over medium heat (6–8 minutes). Drain well and set aside.

Build a fire in your grill. When the coals are all ignited, the flames have died down, and the temperature is medium, you’re ready to cook.

Combine the mushrooms, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper in a bowl and toss until evenly coated.

If the mushrooms are small, thread them onto skewers. Put the mushrooms on the grill directly over the coals and cook until they are moist all the way through— about 10 minutes.

Put mushrooms into a large bowl and immediately add the bacon, Parmesan, parsley and butter, tossing gently until the mushrooms are evenly coated with butter and cheese.  If necessary, season with more salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Cajun Deep-Fried Turkey

Recipe courtesy of John McLemore. Excerpted from “Dadgum That’s Good! ”Kickbutt Recipes for Smoking, Grilling, Frying, Boiling and Steaming by John McLemore. Used with permission of Concept Inc.

"Frying a turkey in hot oil calls for a cool head and a fair measure of caution. Fortunately, Masterbuilt developed the Butterball® Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer so you can perfect this great recipe with peace of mind. You want to start with a turkey that’s fully thawed and dry; oil and water do not mix. Just follow the safety instructions included in the operation manual closely and you’ll fry a turkey so good, you’ll never want to roast one in the oven again."

Serves: 6 to 12


1 10–14 lb. fresh or frozen turkey

2 gallons cooking oil, preferably peanut oil

1 16 oz. bottle Butterball Buttery Creole Turkey Marinade

Butterball Cajun Turkey Seasoning



1 10–12 oz. bottle of your favorite hot sauce

1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, freshly squeezed

THAW TURKEY if frozen. To properly thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator, allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 pounds. Fill Butterball® Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer with oil to the MAX line; heat to 375°F. Remove giblets and neck. If present, remove and discard plastic leg holder and popup timer. Rinse turkey thoroughly with warm water or completely cover with warm water and soak for no more that 30 minutes to ensure cavities are free of ice.

PAT TURKEY completely dry on the outside and inside of cavity with paper towels. Using an injector syringe, inject ½ cup (4 ounces) Butterball® Buttery Creole Marinade in each breast. Inject ¼ cup (2 ounces) marinade into each leg and thigh. Sprinkle turkey generously with Butterball® Cajun Turkey Seasoning, completely coating the outside of the turkey and inside of the cavity. 

PLACE TURKEY breast side up in fryer basket. Slowly lower the basket into hot oil, being careful not to splatter hot oil. Fry turkey for 3 ½ to 4 minutes per pound. Lift the basket from the hot oil slowly, hooking the basket’s drain clip into drain clip mounting hole to stabilize as you check doneness. Insert a meat thermometer in the meaty part of the breast; turkey is done when it reads 165°F. If the turkey is not done, lower it carefully back into the oil for an additional 5 minutes. Once the turkey reaches the desired.

Grilled Buffalo Asparagus

Recipe and photo courtesy of Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, from Grill It!, DK Publishing

"Asparagus, quite delicious grilled all by itself, is also a very adaptable vegetable, compatible with a wide range of flavorings that actually bring out, rather than mask, its subtle but distinctive taste. Okay, so you might think that the “buffalo” approach, with the intensity of hot sauce and blue cheese, is going too far. You might think so, but you would be wrong. Somehow these flavors all work together, and this is one of the most popular side dishes we’ve come up with recently. It also makes an excellent appetizer. "

Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby
Serves: 4 as a side dish


24 asparagus spears, slightly larger in diameter than a pencil, trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 cup of your favorite hot sauce

3 tablespoons soft butter

1/4 cup blue cheese

Build a fire in your grill. When the coals are all ignited, the flames have died down and the temperature is medium, you’re ready to cook.

Rub the asparagus with oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, then put on the grill directly over the coals (you can use skewers to keep them together if you wish). Cook until the spears are browned and tender (4–6 minutes).

Combine the hot sauce and butter in a large bowl, mashing until smooth. Add the asparagus and toss gently to coat with the sauce. Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter, crumble the blue cheese over the top and serve.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Praline Brûlée Topping

Courtesy of Chef Tony Matassa, BBQ Guys Grill Master

"A Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole is always a comforting and familiar side. How about topped with praline brûlée? This sweet potato casserole recipe can fit in a large serving pan for family-style feasting as well as multiple smaller pans for individual portions. It’s all about making holiday dinner work for you!"

Prep Time: 45 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour


2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed

7 T unsalted butter, diced

3/4 tsp coarse salt

3 T water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 + 1/3 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1 1/2 heavy cream

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

8 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

Combine sweet potatoes, 2 T unsalted butter, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 T water in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 8 minutes. Stir well and then microwave another 5 minutes.

Prepare Pecan Topping: Heat 1 T water, ½ cup brown sugar and ¼ granulated sugar in a small pan. Stir just until the sugar completely dissolves. Pulse pecans in a food processor a few times. Add to the pan with sugar mixture. Stir well to combine, then add 2 T unsalted butter. Spread the mixture out on some parchment paper and let it dry.

Lightly spread butter over the surface the baking pans of your choice. Sprinkle granulated sugar over the butter and shake it around to coat well.

Remove sweet potatoes from the microwave and drain off excess water. Pour the bowl into a food processor or high speed blender. Add 3 T unsalted butter and 1/4 tsp salt. Puree the mixture until smooth.

Pour the heavy cream, dark brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar into a saucepan and set to medium-low. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and turn off the burner. Remove about 3/4 cup of the mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and slowly drizzle in the ¾ cup of hot cream while constantly whisking.

Add the egg/cream mixture back into the saucepan, drizzling it in while constantly whisking again. Next, add the sweet potato puree to the pan. Smash it out a little and add vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp coarse salt, cinnamon, ginger and fresh nutmeg. Whisk until smooth.

Place your baking dishes in a larger pan, then pour the mixture into your sugar-coated baking dishes. Level the tops using a spatula or spoon. Place the pans into an oven preheated to 325°F. Carefully add hot water to the bottom pan until it’s about halfway up the sides of the casserole dishes.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until they’re just set. Carefully remove and allow them to cool completely, which should take 3-4 hours. After they’ve cooled, spread out the pecan topping thinly over each dish. Followed by an even coating of sugar (2:1 mixture of brown & granulated sugar). Smooth it out with the back of a spoon, lightly packing it.

Brûlée the topping with an electric torch or the oven broiler. Let the topping harden for about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Herbed Dutch Yellow Baby Potatoes

Recipe courtesy of Chef Sally Cameron,

"Simple and satisfying, these baby potatoes work beautifully as a side dish for many dinners or cold the next day turned into potato salad . . . even with eggs for breakfast. If you want potato salad the next day, double the recipe. Halve cold potatoes, add finely diced celery, a little mayonnaise and a little finely chopped onion or shallot. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a little lemon zest for a fresh twist if desired."

Serves: 6


1 1/2 pounds Dutch Yellow Baby potatoes, cleaned and scrubbed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

2–3 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs—parsley, chives, thyme, oregano, chervil, rosemary; combine as you please

Place potatoes in a large saucepan with salted cold water. Bring almost to a boil, turn down and simmer on low until tender when pierced with a sharp knife tip.

When potatoes are tender, drain and set aside in a bowl. You may get the potatoes to this point several hours ahead. Keep at room temperature until ready to finish for serving.

To finish potatoes, warm olive oil and butter in a sauté or fry pan over medium heat. When the oil and butter is warm and bubbling, pour in potatoes and season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. As potatoes begin to brown, move the pan around so potatoes brown somewhat evenly. When they are hot and ready to serve, toss with the fresh herbs and serve.

Squash, Pecan, and Sausage Stuffing

Courtesy of Sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen, owners and founders of Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie bakery in Brooklyn, and

"Give the old Holiday standby an update with savory sausage, colorful squash, and the satisfying crispness of pecans. "

Serves: 9–12


1 ½ cups pecan halves, toasted

1 pound Italian sausage

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 celery stalks, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

12 ounces herb-seasoned, cubed stuffing

2 cups chopped and oven-roasted squash of your choice (kabocha, spaghetti, acorn, etc.), or more if desired

1/2 bunch fresh herbs of your choice, or more if desired

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish or baking pan.

In a large skillet, brown the Italian sausage, breaking it into crumbles. Drain on paper towels.

In the same pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Sauté the onions, celery, and garlic for 2–3 minutes or until soft.

In a large bowl, stir together the cooked sausage, sautéed onion mixture, stuffing cubes, roasted squash, toasted pecans, and fresh herbs. Add the melted butter and broth. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Transfer the stuffing to the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

Excerpted from MS. AMERICAN PIE: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bold Tails from the American Gothic House, by Beth M. Howard. April 2014/Race Point Publishing

"Put a new spin on the traditional Thanksgiving pie and wow your holiday guests. This Pumpkin pie is made with a zesty gingersnap crust. "

Serves: 9–12



2 1/2–3 1/2 cups gingersnaps (at least one whole box)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted



3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

Prepare the crust: crush the gingersnaps by placing them in a ziplock bag and grinding over them with a rolling pin until they are a fine, crumbly texture. (That’s how I do it, but if you must, use a blender or—I choke on the words—a food processor.)

Mix cookie crumbs with melted butter. Pat the mixture into your pie plate as evenly as possible, pressing the crumbs up onto the sides of the dish, as well.

Prepare the filling: Mix sugar and all the spices in a small bowl, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork or whisk. Add the pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture, and then whisk in the milk.

Bake at 425°F for 15 to 20 minutes, and then turn temperature down to 375°F and bake for another 30 minutes or until done. Do the “jiggle test” to see if liquid filling has firmed. Sticking a knife in it also helps for determining doneness; knife should come out clean. If the custard cracks, it is done—though preferably get it out of the oven before cracks appear.