This year we partnered with Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm to create a Thanksgiving menu inspired by new recipes and old rituals. Proprietor Sam Beall made his family’s customary two turkeys (one roasted, one fried), and the farm’s artisans brought inventive side dishes, desserts and cocktails. The result is an extraordinary meal that celebrates seasonal bounty and offers a new take on tradition. Here, we have all the recipes and entertaining tips you need to recreate it at home.
For a truly memorable occasion, begin the feast with an elegant cocktail hour. Mix one (or all!) of the signature cocktails from Blackberry Farm’s Beverage Manager Graham Case: The Harvested Apple, a bubbly drink with a hint of apple; The Barn Nail, laced with a spiced honey simple syrup; Thyme for a Drink, with a thyme-infused syrup and a sprig of fresh herbs; and The Sparkling Brew, which pairs a berry ale with sparkling wine. Accompany the drinks with a simple hors d’oeuvre that guests can snack on as they sip, such as these Crostini with Black-Eyed Pea Puree, which have been a staple on the farm for years.
For the main event, the Blackberry Farm team goes all out with two different kinds of turkeys. The first is a deep-fried turkey with a deliciously crispy skin that they cook earlier in the day to nibble on before the meal. Next, they have a cider-brined bird that’s injected with sweet-savory flavors and rubbed with a medley of spices before roasting. To accompany the turkeys, make their Sawmill Gravy, which incorporates cornmeal for a grainy texture and contains notes of strong coffee and piquant hot sauce.
The side dishes in the menu showcase all the traditional Thanksgiving ingredients, but with new flavors and preparations. This roasted brussels sprout and apple salad will make even skeptics love the tiny cabbages, with toasted walnuts and a sweet hot mustard dressing. A roasted squash and gingerbread panzanella puts a fall spin on a summer staple, while individual sweet potato and leek custards contrast sweet potatoes and tangy cheese in a beautiful presentation.
For a twist on the usual potato dishes, try this gratin with wild mushrooms and a mix of root vegetables, which skips cream for a lighter feel. Spoon bread with guanciale turns a Southern staple into an elegant and comforting side, and a smoky onion jam brings out the distinctive flavor of collard greens. Instead of dinner rolls, accompany with airy golden sage popovers.
Finally, for dessert we offer two recipes — and neither of them is a pie. This sweet potato cheesecake is topped with a marshmallow meringue for a clever tribute to the sweet potato-marshmallow dishes that earn a spot on buffets every Thanksgiving. This deconstructed apple crisp gives the classic apple crisp a creative makeover: The topping is transformed into oatmeal cookies that are served on top the apple filling in individual bowls. With a scoop of buttermilk ice cream, of course.
Here’s a schedule to help you pull off this sensational holiday meal. Don’t be daunted by the lengthy to-do list — remember, at Blackberry Farm a whole team of artisans and chefs is at work on it! Similarly, you can recruit family members and friends to handle different courses of the meal. After all, sharing and togetherness are at the core of Thanksgiving.
2 days ahead:
- Make the buttermilk ice cream to top the apple crisp and store in the freezer.
- Brine the turkey.
- Make the gingerbread for the panzanella.
- Make the spiced honey syrup and thyme-infused syrup for the cocktails; let cool, and refrigerate in sealed containers.
1 day ahead:
- Make the pea puree and the crostini. Let the puree cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. Place the crostini in a sealed container and leave at room temperature.
- Remove the turkey to be roasted from the brine and refrigerate.
- Apply the rub to the other turkey and refrigerate.
- Prepare the custards, filling the ramekins, and stop just before you are ready to bake. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Prepare and assemble the gratin (again, don’t bake), and cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Blanch the collard greens.
- Make the cheesecake, leaving off the meringue, and refrigerate.
- Bake the cookies for the apple crisp and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Make the apple filling, let cool, then cover and refrigerate.
- Make the gravy.
- Finish the cheesecake with the meringue topping and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Fry your first turkey (it will cook quickly; at Blackberry Farm, the team snacks on this turkey as the meal comes together).
- Apply the spice rub and roast the cider-brined turkey.
- Make the brussels sprout and apple salad; it can be served at room temperature.
- Toast the gingerbread and roast the squash for the panzanella.
- Prepare the batter for the popovers and refrigerate.
- Make the spoon bread; you can reheat it before serving.
Just before serving:
- Bake the custards and the gratin.
- Finish the panzanella and the collard greens.
- Reheat the spoon bread.
- Bake the popovers.
- Assemble the crostini and mix the cocktails — get guests involved!
Make your holiday celebration feel intimate with small touches. In place of grand candlesticks, arrange hurricanes and votive candles down the center of the table for ambiance. If you like, place small candles in mason jars for a rustic farm feel.
Similarly, decorate the whole table, not just the center, with seasonal fruits, vegetables and foliage, placing miniature pears and red berries in glass jars. Incorporate harvest-hued leaves and flowers into table arrangements and place settings; tuck a few bay leaves into tied napkins.
Experiment with creative serving pieces, such as rustic boards and a mix of beautiful heritage baking dishes and modern platters. Pair heirloom holiday salad plates with white porcelain dinner plates and metallic chargers for a presentation that’s personal and unique.
The table is the anchor of the celebration, but don’t forget about the rest of the space. Hang a garland on a mantel; light candles of different heights next to a fireplace; place seasonal pumpkins and gourds in all shapes and colors around the room.