The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Thanksgiving menu: Last-minute recipes

So you forgot Thanksgiving was coming up. It happens. Not to worry, however: These recipes can be made before company arrives, and your guests will be none the wiser. 

More Thanksgiving menus: Make ahead | Simple | With a twist | Americana | Cooking for two | Vegetarian | Vegan | Calorie conscious | WaPo Favorites

Oysters Gin and Tonic

Kumamotos are a breed of oyster farmed on the West Coast. They are smaller than most East Coast oysters and have a creamy texture. The raw oysters are complemented by the cucumber and herbal notes of gin.

We found kumamoto oysters at BlackSalt in the District. Call ahead to ensure availability.

You’ll need an eye dropper to measure and apply the liquids.

  • Crushed ice
  • 5 kumamoto oysters, shucked, on the half-shell (see headnote)
  • 30 drops tonic water, preferably Fever Tree brand
  • 30 drops gin, preferably Plymouth brand
  • Slivers of lemon zest
  • Sea salt

Fill a serving bowl with crushed ice. Arrange the oysters on the ice.

Use an eye dropper to dispense 6 drops of tonic water on each oyster, then add 6 drops of gin to each oyster. Top each oyster with a few slivers of lemon zest (to taste) and a pinch of salt. Serve immediately.

Celeriac Puree

French-style potato purees are very finely processed and often incorporate copious amounts of butter, so the resulting mixture is silky smooth. In this recipe, the addition of celeriac to the potatoes creates an extra layer of flavor.

Traditionally, in classic French cooking, white sauces are seasoned with white pepper instead of black, making the finished dish appear more refined.

Make Ahead: This may be prepared up to 2 days in advance and reheated on the stove top or in the microwave. If the consistency is too thick, add milk, butter or chicken broth to thin it.

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 pounds (1 large bulb) celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut in half and then cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 cups low-fat or whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • White pepper, preferably freshly ground

Combine the potatoes, celeriac and milk in a large saucepan, then fill with enough cool water so the liquid covers the vegetables by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat; season generously with salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes and celeriac are tender when pierced with a knife.

Drain the vegetables in a colander, discarding the liquid, and return them to the saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until a floury film forms on the bottom of the saucepan.

Use a ricer, food mill or potato masher to mash the vegetables in the saucepan until smooth. Add the butter, stirring vigorously until well combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Cream Soda Butternut Squash

The recipe was inspired by the chef Bryan Voltaggio’s experiments over the past few years.

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus a pinch
  • 6 pounds whole butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes (may substitute about 6 cups frozen/defrosted cubed butternut squash)
  • 12 ounces cream soda (do not use diet)
  • 1/2 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds, toasted (see NOTE)
  • Ground cayenne pepper
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Pumpkin seed oil, for garnish

Fill a large pot halfway with cool water.

Combine the butter and the pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just browned, whisking constantly to evenly disperse the milk solids. Immediately transfer to the pot of cool water; seat the bottom of the saucepan in the water to stop the browned butter from cooking further.

Transfer the browned butter to a large saute pan, over medium heat. Add the squash and stir to coat. Once the butter is melted to translucence, add the cream soda, stirring to dislodge any browned bits and deglaze the pan. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until the squash is fork-tender.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have a large rimmed baking sheet at hand.

Use a slotted spatula to transfer the squash to the baking sheet, spreading it in a single layer to cool. Pour the cooking juices/browned butter from the saute pan into a blender; add the remaining teaspoon of salt and puree on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes, then pour evenly over the squash. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until glazed and thoroughly warmed through.

Season lightly with pepper. Transfer to a serving dish; drizzle with pumpkin seed oil and sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds.

NOTE: Spread the pumpkin seeds in medium, dry skillet. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne and cinnamon. Toast over medium heat until they begin to pop and become fragrant and lightly browned. Cool before using.

Herb-Crusted Roast (Butterflied) Turkey

A generous sprinkling of herbs and salt (plus an aromatic pinch of ground fennel seed) seasons the bird, while periodic brushings of melted butter give the skin a fine, browned finish. This turkey cooks much faster than a whole bird, at higher temperatures; a 15-pound turkey would spend less than 2 1/2 hours in the oven.

SERVINGS: 12 – 14
  • 14 to 15-pound fresh turkey, neck, heart and gizzard reserved for another use
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fennel seed, toasted and then ground (see NOTE)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Set the turkey, breast side down, on a cutting board. Use kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbone, removing a strip about 2 inches wide; reserve this piece for making stock and/or soup. Turn the bird breast side up and use the heels of your hands to press down on both sides of the breast, flattening it slightly. Clean the cutting board; rinse the bird well, pat dry with paper towels and return to the cutting board.

Combine the salt, thyme, sage, rosemary and ground fennel seed in a small bowl. Use your hands to carefully loosen the skin and work the herb mixture between the breast and leg meat and the skin. Sprinkle the mixture all over the outside of the bird. Place the bird on a flat rack (or on top of whole carrots and celery). Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least 1 day and up to 2 days.

One hour before you are ready to roast the turkey, position an oven rack on the lowest level and preheat to 425 degrees. Place the bird on its rack in the roasting pan, skin side up. (If roasting with the stuffing under the bird, evenly spread the stuffing in the pan, then place the turkey on top of the stuffing skin side up; no rack is needed). You might need to bend the legs up a bit, and the drumsticks might overlap the pan’s edges; that’s okay. Tuck the wing tips behind the wings and massage half of the butter between the breast meat and its skin.

When ready to roast the turkey, melt the remaining butter and brush some of it over the top of the bird. Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and brush the skin with the remaining melted butter. Roast for about 1 3/4 hours or until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh meat registers 170 degrees and the skin is crisp and nicely browned. Transfer the turkey to a large cutting board. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.

NOTE: To toast fennel seeds, heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly browned and fragrant, 4 to 8 minutes.

Cranberry-Apple Crisp

You could easily serve it for dessert with vanilla ice cream, but this sweet crisp has always had a place on the main Thanksgiving buffet of Jane Black’s family as a replacement for, or to be served alongside, a traditional cranberry sauce or relish. Make Ahead: Bake 1 day in advance; cover and refrigerate. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and reheat in a 325-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

  • 4 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 4 cups total)
  • 2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the apples, cranberries and sugar in a large ovenproof casserole; mix until the fruit is well coated.

Combine the oats, brown sugar, butter and walnuts in a medium bowl to form a crumbly topping. Spread evenly over the fruit mixture and bake for 1 hour or until light brown and bubbly. Let cool slightly before serving; at this point, the crisp can be cooled to room temperature, then covered and refrigerated for 1 day.