It started with a challenge: Could I come up with a streamlined Thanksgiving dinner using only one pot and one pan that could be made from start to finish in an afternoon?
Given my penchant for both culinary challenges and sheet-pan dinners, I took it on, knowing exactly where to start. I'd use a sheet pan for roasting turkey parts and vegetables at the same time, and a medium-size pot for everything else.
It took a few tests to get the seasonings and timing just right, but the resulting meal has all the flavors of the classic menu — made in three hours with a fraction of the work (and far fewer dishes).
It's perfect for small groups who might not want to roast an entire turkey but still yearn for the comfort of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner (and, you know, the leftovers). And its inherent simplicity makes it accessible enough for anyone who might be cooking the holiday meal for the very first time.
Of course, there's turkey, a chunk of boneless breast wrapped up in bacon that turns even more golden and crispy than turkey skin. (Bacon-avoiders can skip it, or use turkey bacon.)
To go with it, Brussels sprouts are roasted on the pan with the bird, absorbing all the bacon and turkey drippings, and singeing at their edges. There are sweet potatoes, baked individually, stuffed with molasses, spices and lots of butter, then topped with marshmallows to make the equivalent of adorable, personal sweet potato casseroles.
As for the pot, you will have to wipe it twice, but you don't need to wash it. A swipe with a paper towel will suffice. You'll use it to simmer first the cranberry sauce, then the gravy, and finally the stuffing, which gets baked still in the pot while the turkey roasts. (About that stuffing, yes, you do need to use one bowl. But just one.)
You'll end up with an enjoyable, satisfying meal that won't stress you out — which is, this year, exactly what we need.
One-Pot, One-Pan Thanksgiving
Yield: 3 to 4 servings, with leftovers
Time: 3 hours, plus marinating
For the turkey and sprouts:
1 (2- to 2 1/2-pound) boneless turkey breast
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
8 ounces bacon (not thick-cut)
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coriander or caraway seeds, lightly crushed
For the sweet potatoes:
4 small, slim sweet potatoes or garnet yams (about 8 ounces each)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
4 teaspoons molasses
Freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
For the cranberry sauce:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick or 1 star anise pod
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries or thawed frozen cranberries (3 cups)
For the gravy:
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 to 2 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock
For the stuffing:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for topping
1 small onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 quart torn day-old white or whole-wheat bread, not too crusty (see Tip)
3/4 to 1 cup turkey or chicken broth
1 large egg
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Marinate the turkey: If the turkey breast comes tied, untie it. Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Season the turkey all over with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, then rub with garlic and thyme leaves. Place turkey on a plate or in a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24.
2. Place a rack in the top third of your oven and another rack in the bottom third. Depending on your pace, you might want to have two timers at the ready.
3. As the turkey marinates, start the sweet potatoes: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap potatoes individually in two or three layers of foil so they don't leak, and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the top rack until very soft when you squeeze them (use oven mitts), 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let potatoes cool in the foil, and reserve the sheet pan for the turkey.
4. While the sweet potatoes bake, make the cranberry sauce: In a medium pot, combine sugar, orange juice, 1/4 cup water and cinnamon stick or star anise. Bring to a simmer, and add cranberries. Cook until the cranberries burst and the sauce starts to thicken, 12 to 18 minutes. It will be thin, but will thicken as it chills. Transfer to a serving dish, and let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate until serving. Remove cinnamon stick or star anise before serving.
5. Clean out the pot, and make the gravy: Melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat, then add the onion, and cook, stirring, until pale golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the flour, and cook until the flour turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the wine, and cook until it mostly evaporates, another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in 2 cups stock, letting it simmer until thick, 4 to 6 minutes. If the gravy gets too thick, add more stock as needed. Season with salt to taste. Transfer gravy to an insulated container, like a lidded coffee cup or Thermos, to keep warm.
6. Make the stuffing in the same pot: Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until soft and just starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in thyme and sage, and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in bread and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
7. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup broth, egg, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Fold gently into bread mixture, letting the bread absorb the liquid. If the mixture seems dry, add more stock a little at a time, using up to another 1/4 cup. Dot the surface of the stuffing with a few thin pieces of butter. Cover pot with a lid (or foil) and bake the stuffing on the bottom oven rack until lightly springy, about 20 minutes. Uncover, and continue to bake until golden brown, another 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer stuffing to the top of your stove, off the heat, and re-cover to keep it warm until the turkey is ready. Wash the bowl, and set aside for the sprouts.
8. While the stuffing bakes, roast the turkey: Brush or spread the mustard all over the turkey, then brush with the mayonnaise. Wrap the turkey in bacon, and place on a rimmed baking sheet pan. Roast turkey on the top oven rack for 20 minutes.
9. Put the Brussels sprouts in the medium bowl, and toss with enough olive oil to coat, coriander and a pinch of salt. Add the Brussels sprouts to the sheet pan with the turkey. Continue to roast until the sprouts are golden and tender and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the turkey registers 145 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer (for a total roasting time of 40 to 50 minutes). If the turkey is done before the sprouts, use tongs to transfer it to a cutting board, and lightly tent with foil. Leave the sprouts in the oven until done. (If the bacon isn't as brown and crisp as you like, broil the bacon-clad turkey — but not the sprouts — for 1 to 3 minutes.) Allow meat to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
10. Finish sweet potatoes: Cut a long slit in the top of the sweet potatoes, leaving them in the foil. Push their ends toward each other so that the middle opens up. Use a fork to mash their centers. Then mash 1/2 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon molasses and some grated nutmeg and salt into each potato. Divide the marshmallows among potatoes and place on the sheet pan after the turkey is done. (The potatoes can share the pan with the Brussels sprouts if they need more time.) Bake for about 5 minutes while the turkey rests. Serve.
Tip: If the bread for your stuffing isn't a day or two old, you can dry it out in a 250-degree oven for 10 to 30 minutes (depending upon how soft it is), tossing once or twice. It should be dry and firm, but not rock hard.