Creative Thanksgiving Ideas for a Wine Country Dinner Table
As this strange and unsettling year finally draws toward its welcomed close, I think we all share a deeper appreciation for cherished relationships with friends and family. Some of us will be able to gather together with closest family or friends while others will be sheltering at home, but keeping the ritual of giving thanks at the dinner table this November is as essential as our face masks. That’s why we’ve put together a Thanksgiving dinner menu to help bring a taste of wine country to your table. Each recipe has been created with ease and wine pairing in mind to take the stress of holiday dinner planning off your plate. We hope this Thanksgiving dinner menu wows the small group of loved ones you’ll be celebrating with because if there’s one thing we’ve all learned from 2020, it’s to take time to celebrate the little things in life. Food and wine are always a great conversation starter.
Wine Country Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Fresh oysters farm-raised along the Pacific Coast are an elegant and easy appetizer for a Thanksgiving dinner with wine country style. For those who don’t live in the Bay Area, Hog Island Oyster Company now ships its beautiful bivalves right to your doorstep. You can even buy their shucking kit online. Order a few dozen Hog Island Sweetwaters to serve with our Sonoma Coast Mignonette Sauce recipe, and your Thanksgiving is off to an indulgent start. We recommend pairing these fresh oysters with a sparkling wine or Champagne, such as the Jordan Cuvée by Champagne AR Lenoble; a crisp sauvignon blanc, such as Sancerre; or a bright, elegant chardonnay that has been aged in oak barrels, such as white Burgundy or a young Jordan Chardonnay. The addition of salt-cured olives softens the perceived astringency of wine’s tannins due to their high-fat content.
Give your traditional cheese platter a delicious twist to elevate the wine pairing. Aged goat cheeses have a thickness and flavor complexity that makes them an ideal candidate for a marinade of Jordan Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil, citrus peels and fresh herbs. The lemon and orange notes make the stone fruit flavors in a young Jordan Chardonnay pop, while the creamy texture of the small-batch olive oil and the cheese complement the round mouthfeel of an oak-aged chardonnay.
When my wife and I are in charge of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, there’s only one way we want to prepare our bird: spatchcock style. Spatchcocking is a preparation method before cooking where the turkey’s backbone is removed, which flattens the bird before it goes in the oven. Spatchcocking cuts about hours off the oven cook time of traditional, full-size turkey–it is ready in less than two hours, rather than 8-12. The presentation may not be as striking as a golden, whole bird, but a spatchcocked turkey is much easier to serve, and you can dress your platter with savory herbs, edible flowers, small persimmons and other fall foliage to create a beautiful presentation. My go-to recipe for a fast and easy spatchcocked Thanksgiving turkey comes from Serious Eats. I also prefer to dry brine rather than wet brine turkey for three reasons: dry brining produces more flavorful, juicy meat, it makes the skin browner and crisper and it takes far less space in the refrigerator than a salted bath of a wet brine. Serious Eats also has a great post on how-to dry brine turkey. Using their techniques, I simply add the Jordan dry brine to make this fowl more red wine-friendly. This Dry Rub for Red Wine Lovers features thyme, rosemary and porcini powder, which are all known for complementing the earthy notes and dark fruit flavors in elegant cabernet sauvignons like Jordan or a fine Bordeaux. Simply apply this rub generously to your spatchcocked turkey and let it rest uncovered in the refrigerator overnight so the meat absorbs all these wine-friendly flavors. This dry brine works on a traditional oven-roasted turkey as well.
The addition of just a few herbs, spices and alliums can turn a classic mushroom stuffing into a lovely cabernet sauvignon pairing. A little sauteed pork also works wonders. For our Jordan Thanksgiving homemade stuffing recipe, we use rosemary instead of sage to bring out the dried herb notes in an elegant cabernet. Grilled shallots also contribute a savory flavor that helps the food stand up to the tannin and oak in the wine. But the medley of mushrooms–and the addition of Jordan Chardonnay in the recipe–means this recipe can go red or white. It pairs really well with both young and old wines, so if you are “drinking the cellar” as they say in 2020, we suggest the 2013 Jordan Chardonnay, 2002 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon or even older, but young wines will work too.
This classic American comfort food doesn’t always make its way onto Thanksgiving tables, but it should. Unlike traditional recipes, our simple, savory corn pudding version uses no eggs and no additional sugar, focusing on corn’s natural characters–starch for thickness and sugars for a touch of sweetness–to bring structure and flavor. The addition of Jordan Chardonnay to this savory corn pudding recipe brings bright acidity to balance out the sweetness in the corn. Corn pudding’s natural creaminess also complements the roundness of medium-bodied white wines, such as a Jordan Chardonnay with some bottle age.
Whether you’re opening white wines or red wines with Thanksgiving dinner–or hopefully both–add just a few ingredients to your favorite mashed potato recipe to enhance the wine pairing. For those who love Jordan Chardonnay, the addition of Meyer lemon zest to your white wine-friendly mashed potatoes makes the apple and citrus flavors in the wine sing. Toasted hazelnuts also bring out the subtle oak notes in this crisp, barrel-aged white. Mushrooms, grilled shallots and rosemary are three go-to ingredient additions for red wine-friendly mashed potatoes when Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux are on the Thanksgiving table. Both recipes can be found in our 3 Ways to Reinvent Your Best Mashed Potatoes Recipe blog, which also includes a recipe that substitutes acorn squash for potatoes.
As mentioned in my Thanksgiving wine-friendly recipe tips blog, Epicurious’ cranberry sauce recipe is much more wine-friendly than traditionally sweet cranberry sauce, which over-accentuates the alcohol and tannin in the red wines, making them taste hot and unbalanced. Balanced and not too sweet, this cranberry sauce has nice acidity to complement the acid in the wine, as well as dried cherries to elevate the fruit in medium- to fuller-bodied red wines like cabernet sauvignon. Shallots are also a wonderful bridge ingredient for cabernet sauvignon wine pairing. Young cabs pair best with this side dish, in my experience, so try with a 2016 or 2014 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon.
For those looking to surprise Thanksgiving dinner guests with a pumpkin pie alternative, we have a few favorites, but after a really big meal, our go-to is Pumpkin Panna Cotta. This egg-free dessert is easy to prepare, light and delicious–the perfect combination when you’re already full from the holiday buffet. Because our version doesn’t have eggs, the flavors are less rich, lighter and cleaner than the traditional Italian dessert. Because you don’t have to cook eggless panna cotta on a stovetop, it also takes less time. It can be prepared and plated the day before Thanksgiving, giving you more time–and more oven space–to focus on the other recipes.
We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Please share your dinner table photos with us #MyJordanTable.