Thanksgiving for two
November 17th, 2010
12:15 PM ET
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Over the next nine days – including yes, the very day of – we'll be sharing our time-tested hosting tips and recipes, as well as plenty from chefs, hospitality experts, celebrities (that's always fun, right?), hosts and home cooks we love. Our goal – sending you into Thanksgiving with a confident smile on your face, and seeing you emerge on the other side with your sanity intact.

There’s a bicycle built for two; two for tea (and tea for two); and everyone knows it takes two to tango – so what about a Thanksgiving feast for two? writer Lisa Respers France recently submitted this Turkey Day quandary to Eatocracy:

"Love Thanksgiving, but a bird seems wasteful for just the two of us and we are too far from family to just hop over and share a meal with them. Minus begging an invite from friends or trying to find folks to come over and eat with us to justify a huge meal, what are some alternatives for a couple who don’t want to settle for a rotisserie chicken this year?"

If anything, we are not afraid to be servicey - especially in the ever-dwindling days leading up to the big feast.

Point blank: you are not responsible for whipping up cranberry chutney for ten if there are only two of you this year. You can have your turkey and roast it too, without skimping on the fixings and gobbling up refrigerator space. Here’s how:

Skip the 20-pound bird
You don’t have to eat turkey for weeks on end – that is, unless you want to.

Forego the WWE wrestling match with a heavyweight Tom turkey and go with a smaller type of poultry: chicken, duck or Cornish hens. Even game birds like capon or quail work too. Because you aren’t entertaining anyone other than yourselves, feel free to get experimental when it comes to the main event.

In a moderate oven, Cornish hens bake for a little less than an hour; duck should be allowed 30 minutes per pound; and roasted chickens, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

If you’re sold on the idea of having turkey, you can buy individual turkey breasts at most supermarkets nowadays. If you’re a dark meat kind of guy or gal, ask the butcher to de-bone a couple of turkey legs or thighs for you.

Scale down the sides
It may seem more like a diet mantra - “everything in moderation” - but seriously, a feast for two is kind of just that. Scale back and you’ll be fine.

When it comes to vegetables, single serving size works wonders. Roast a whole sweet potato for each of you. Pierce each with a fork several times and bake on a foil-lined baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes - or until tender. When the potatoes are ready, slice them open and top with a tablespoon of butter, cinnamon, brown sugar or even maple syrup.

Or try roasting butternut squash: a half for you and a half for your counterpart. Roasting instructions and recipes can be found here.

If you’re really sold on casserole - just halve or even quarter the recipes, depending on the serving size. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here - nothing a little calculator or elementary division can’t solve. If you do halve any recipes, we recommend you do some mise en place - that is, get all your ingredients measured out before you cook. This ensures that you indeed avoid confusion and halve all your ingredients, and aren't left mixing in waaaaay too much thyme and not enough flour.

When you’re feeding a crowd of aunts, uncles, second cousins twice-removed and nervous fiancées, it’s easy to make every side dish imaginable in order to accommodate their various taste buds. Sweet potato casserole with marshmallows! Sweet potato casserole without! Green bean casserole! Cornbread stuffing! Stove Top! Giblet gravy! Bit-less gravy!

When there are only two of you, both of you need to decide which dishes it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without. Pick the two or three that are really sentimentally essential to you and your dining partner and go from there.

Don't be afraid to be cheesy
While a Thanksgiving meal for two is definitely a more intimate affair than a feast for say, thirty, don't skimp on the traditional toast. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate or formal: keep it short and sweet. A mere "thank you for sharing this meal with me," says enough.

Tomorrow: Thanksgiving appetizers

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. LovelyWife67

    I solved this problem years ago. To be thankful that we are no longer in the 'use teabags twice' part of our lives, my husband and I have a big baked potato topped with either baked beans, cottage cheese or just butter, salt and pepper. Instead of drinking from our excellent wine collection, we have water. For dessert we share a candy bar or just do without. Thanksgiving has got all out of control with people spending huge amounts on food (lots of which gets chucked), travel (airlines and their huge fare increases for this period of time: don't get me started) and decorating (?!?). The holiday should be about being thankful for your blessings (or whatever the non-religious version might be), simple as that.

    Hey, I think I just figured out how we can spend Christmas! Anybody else want to jump on this wagon? Donations to charity with what you'll save optional. No pounds to shed at the gym come January…tell me you aren't tempted!

    November 25, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  2. Even easier

    40 minutes in a hot oven for sweet potatoes? Posh! They'll be on the table in less than 5 minutes using a microwave.

    And you don't have to ask for special service to get turkey thighs or legs. They're sold individually.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  3. Cybersport

    What about Thanksgiving for one? I'm single and have to work Thursday until about 3 in the afternoon. My dinner will come from Boston Market

    November 22, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Justin Thyme

      Boston Market has some good food. Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

      November 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  4. hcnyc

    So sad ... .If you are making a dinner for two, but concerned that it is "too much" why not consider making a dinner that you can share? Donate to a nearby shelter, or offer to send dinner to a neighbor who is sick, elderly or alone? Or, since nobody is expecting you to whip up a meal for a large crowd, offer to help prepare & serve Thanksgiving dinner for the needy? There are so many other options to consider before you decide on the cornish hens (which are delicious, but, again ... seems like "
    settling" the way this article is written). Just a suggestion!

    November 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  5. Garry

    The last 2 years we have gotten a small young turkey about 7-10 lbs and that is more than enough for the two of us. We also bought a frozen sweet potato casserole that was perfect and very tasty. I did the cornbread dressing and deviled eggs and an apple pie for dessert. Sure there were leftovers, but nothing like it would have usually been if we had gotten a larger turkey.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  6. M.E.

    I did a meal for three last year and it was just fine with an 11lb bird. There were plenty of leftovers for everybody without being overwhelming. I'm going to kid of miss having a giant dinner his year, but my mom claims her oven isn't big enough to do a turkey, aka she's lazy and doesn't want to do it, lol. I think it'll be lemon artichoke chicken with capers, but who knows. Either way it should probably be good...hopefully.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  7. Elva

    We get a turkey breast instead of a whole bird. It cooks up really delicious and in half the time!

    November 18, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  8. Allie

    You can still have a whole turkey. Butterball offers a Lil' Butterball, which is a (fresh or frozen) whole turkey that's approximately 6 to 11 pounds. Perfect for two with a reasonable amount of leftovers. My husband and I have enjoyed Thanksgiving for two on several occasions and never missed out on a nice meal with all the fixings. When we can't find a Lil' Butterball, a grocery store in our area usually has a small fresh or frozen turkey that's around 12 pounds. Granted, that's a lot of meat, but we freeze those leftovers.

    November 18, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  9. Jdizzle "Doc" McHammerpants

    I'm having a Dodo bird this year, guess where I got one?

    You wish you had my time travel machine, "The DeLorean", to get one yourself. Fire up the flux capacitor, If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits eighty-eight miles per hour... you're gonna see some serious shit.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
    • RichardHead

      I swear,if Sarah's live Blog has anything to do with vegetables today I am going to HURL!

      November 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  10. Matt

    I haven't had cornish game hens in quite a long time. I need to get some here soon again. But for Thanksgiving my wife is making a Turkey for the fam, an organic pasture raised one no less!
    My blog

    November 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
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