An untraditional Thanksgiving

2020 is a turkey of a year

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I love Thanksgiving! My annual routine starts with the Macy's Parade. Parked in front of the TV with a roaring fire, I'll pour a huge cup of coffee and allow my turkey to come to room temp while the parade hosts speculate wind speed and whether or not the balloons will fly.

I make my traditional spread and take my time decorating my table with candles, autumnal fruits, and ephemera. Once guests have gathered, we talk about feeling blessed and thankful and then dig in and eat. My favorite moment is the silence that follows that first bite; the moment that everyone is tasting the feast. 

Even though this year Thanksgiving will look different--quieter--than in years past, my favorite holiday will still happen. True confession: I have toyed, in the past, with the idea of making something other than turkey, but my family has always shot down deviating from the traditional menu. 

But now, this is the year to go shrug off tradition and play with the menu. 

I offer two main course options for this very untraditional Thanksgiving. I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving, and that next year we can all gather with friends and family and enjoy the feast and the embrace of those we love in a more traditional Thanksgiving setting.


Butternut Squash Lasagna

I really like the idea of a vegetarian holiday. I love autumnal squashes, woodsy scented mushrooms and herbs, and recipes that embrace the flavors of the season. This lasagna makes great leftovers, too! 

For the sauce

6 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 ½ tablespoons flour

2 cups whole milk, gently warmed

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons sea salt

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sweat shallots and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add flour and whisk to create a paste.
  2. Cook the roux for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, to prevent a raw flour flavor.
  3. Add warmed milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Continue whisking until the sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Set aside.


For the lasagna

Extra virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 cups sliced mushrooms

Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds butternut squash (about 5 cups) of peeled and ¼ inch-thick sliced squash

1-ounce dried porcini

3 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1 cup vegetable stock or water

2 15-ounce containers of ricotta cheese

2 eggs, lightly whisked

3 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1 cup parmesan cheese

1-pound cooked lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350F.

  1. Heat a large sauté pan, lightly coated with extra virgin olive oil, over medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté onion and mushrooms, batches, until golden brown. Season each batch with salt and pepper. Add garlic to the final batch.
  3. Transfer cooked mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside.
  4. To the same pan, add more olive oil, squash, porcini mushrooms, sage, and thyme. Sauté briefly and add vegetable stock or water. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and allow squash to cook until soft but still holding its shape about 12-15 minutes.
  5. Lightly brush an 13x9 inch casserole with olive oil. Smear bottom of casserole with several tablespoons of Bechamel sauce. Cover bottom of casserole with lasagna noodles, overlapping slightly. Add a layer of butternut squash pieces, top with mushrooms, and top mushrooms with ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Top cheese with a layer of noodles in the opposite direction, being sure to overlap slightly. (reversing directions of the noodles helps the lasagna to stay gorgeous and Instagram worthy when sliced!). Repeat layering with squash, mushrooms, and cheeses.
  7. Add one final layer of noodles and top cheeses. Pour remaining sauce over the lasagna and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes until browned and bubbly.


Standing Rib Roast with Orange Scented-Horseradish Crust

Cooking a large piece of meat to the perfect, tender juiciness starts with bringing the meat to room temperature before cooking.

The center/eye of the meat should be at room temperature or it will be undercooked with the outer layers being overcooked. Your goal is a large medium rare eye of the meat with a thin browned layer on the outside.

Take the time to allow the meat to come to room temperature, which should be about one hour or so.

Something magical and delicious happens when sharp horseradish cooks. The pungent root becomes sweet with a nutty, savory flavor. I am obsessed with horseradish paired with orange zest. The citrus flavor and aroma are a mouth-watering counterpoint for the heady garlicky meat.

I scatter the bottom of my roasting pan with small cipollini onions, and whole heads of garlic. The onions and garlic cook to a delicious caramel-gooey texture and make a great schmear for the meat. Divine! 

Serves 8-10

6 rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped and chopped
8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 6-ounce jars of prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons freshly cracked pepper 
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Zest and juice of 2 oranges
8-8½ pound bone-in rib roast
2 cups small onions (such as pearl onions or cipollini), peeled
2 whole heads of garlic, cut in half crosswise

1. Place the rosemary, garlic, horseradish, salt, pepper, olive oil, zest, and juice in a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a paste.

2. Schmear the paste, generously, on the roast and allow the roast to stand at room temperature for an hour or refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the meat in a roasting pan, or on a bed of onions and garlic, meat facing up, and roast for 30 minutes.

4. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook, occasionally spooning the juices over meat, until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat and registers 125 degrees F (about 1 ½ hours) for medium rare. (I go a little under to account for carry over cooking, so I prefer to pull the meat at 115 degrees F.)

4. Allow meat to rest for about 15 minutes before cutting meat off the bone and slicing.

5. Skim fat off pan juices, squeeze cooked garlic out of the bulb, and mash into a bowl with pan juices and spoon over meat.

Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef, a cookbook author, and Culinary Director for a media company. Currently, she serves as Director of Catering at Circle of Life catering at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.

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