So we felt up for a challenge. Can you serve a lavish Thanksgiving dinner—from cocktails to pie—to ten guests for less than $100? We certainly think so. The classic Thanksgiving dishes are made from frugal ingredients (who ever heard of potatoes breaking the bank?), allowing room in the budget for a few splashy details that make this menu anything but meager.
For additional tips and recipes, we turned to Diane Worthington, author of Seriously Simple Parties."If you're really trying to watch the budget, potluck was made for Thanksgiving," Diane suggested. "It's easier on the budget, and it's easier on your mental state because you're not doing so much. You can be very mindful about what you're cooking."
Ask one guest to bring a selection of cheese and crackers if you like, another to bring a second pie, and put everyone else on wine duty—this is a party, after all!
Related: A Stress-Free Thanksgiving for First-Time Hosts
Classic Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Winter Squash
OUR TWO CENTS: Set the table several days ahead of time. Not only is it a pretty sight, says Diane, but it's one less thing to do the day of. Lay out all the serving dishes, trivets, and utensils you'll need. Feeling super organized? Use post-it notes to mark which recipe will go where.
The Arrival: Prosecco
The sound of a cork popping out of a bottle of bubbly is the warmest, most festive welcome a host can offer. Pass out glasses as guests slip out of their coats.
Chicken Liver PateRecipe: Harvest Pâté
This luscious pâté brings a luxurious touch to the start of a Thanksgiving meal, but the ingredients are surprisingly humble.
15 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound chicken livers, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and pale-green parts only (about 3 scallions)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add livers, mushrooms, scallions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until livers are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Add thyme. Reduce heat to low; cover. Cook until mushrooms are very soft, about 10 minutes. Let mixture cool completely.
Process mixture and remaining 12 tablespoons butter in a food processor until smooth. Stir in 1½ teaspoons salt. Transfer pâté to serving dish and cover with plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight. Serve with crackers and maple apples (recipe follows).
Cost: $7.14 pâté, $3.39 crackers
OUR TWO CENTS: Add the leftover fresh thyme to the turkey cavity.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 juicy, sweet-tart apples, peeled and cut into 12 wedges each
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add apples; cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 5 minutes total. Stir in syrup and salt; reduce heat to low. Simmer until apples are soft, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Related: 5 Instant, No-Cook Appetizers
Recipe: Roast Turkey
If an organic bird is a priority, look at a big box store like Costco where they can work directly with farmers to get quality birds at a decent price, Diane suggests. If you're out to find every deal possible, go with a regular bird and keep your eyes peeled for grocery stores that offer free turkeys once you spend a certain amount at their store. Calculate one pound to one and one-quarter pound per person if you like leftovers.
OUR TWO CENTS: If you buy one thing for your kitchen this year, make it an instant-read thermometer, suggests Diane. "There's nothing worse than raw or undercooked turkey."
Recipe: Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
adapted from Seriously Simple Holidays
Simplify life by doing most of the work for this gravy up to two days ahead of time, "so you're not in the kitchen freaking out about your gravy," says Diane. On Thanksgiving Day, add the pan drippings from the turkey to give the gravy its rich flavor. If you don't want to buy a budget bottle of wine for the gravy, you could add sauteed mushrooms, 1/2 cup more stock, and finish with a 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups store-bought chicken or turkey stock, warmed
1/2 cup red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Defatted drippings from a roast turkey
In a heavy large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, watching carefully so it does not burn. Add the flour slowly and whisk briskly until bubbles form. Continue whisking for a few minutes until the mixture thickens and turns a golden brown color. The color of this roux is important, because it determines the final color of the sauce.
Add the stock and wine and whisk until the roux is completely blended into the liquid. Continue cooking the gravy on medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is thickened and no taste of flour remains. Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
After you remove the turkey from the oven, strain the pan drippings into a gravy separator and pour the defatted drippings into the gravy. Warm the gravy over medium heat and season to taste.
OUR TWO CENTS: If you still have leftover wine on Thanksgiving Day, offer it to guests who don't care for prosecco or serve with dinner.
Mashed PotatoesRecipe: Mashed Potatoes
5 pounds baking potatoes (such as russet or Yukon gold), peeled and quartered
1/2 cup butter
about 1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
Cook potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt, covered, in enough boiling water to cover for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender; drain. Mash with a potato masher. Add butter. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Gradually stir in enough milk to make mixture light and fluffy.
OUR TWO CENTS: Potatoes in the loose bin may cost $.89 cents per pound, while the five-pound bag could cost as little as $2.49. Sometimes paying a little more up front can save you in the long run, but be sure to check the unit price (or do a little simple arithmetic) to make sure you're saving and not just spending.
Recipe: Old-Fashioned Stuffing
1 1/2 cups chopped or sliced celery (3 stalks)
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage
1/4 tsp. black pepper
12 cups dry bread cubes
1 to 1-1/4 cups chicken broth
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large skillet cook celery and onion in hot butter over medium heat until tender but not brown. Remove from heat. Stir in sage and pepper. Place bread cubes in large bowl; add onion mixture. Drizzle with enough chicken broth to moisten; toss lightly to combine. Place stuffing in a 2-quart casserole dish. Bake, covered, for 30 to 45 minutes or until heated through. Top with fresh sage.
Related: 4 Mistakes That Ruin Stuffing
Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, and GravyRecipe: Homemade Cranberry Sauce
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
makes 2 1/4 cup
Four ingredients-three of which you already have on hand-go into this ridgeless cranberry sauce that can be made up to a week ahead of time. If you use frozen cranberries, just pick through them as directed and add about 2 minutes to the simmering time.
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 12-ounce bag cranberries
Rinse cranberries in colander, discarding any soft berries or stems. Bring 1 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boil in medium saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir in cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until cranberries are saucy and slightly thickened, and about two-thirds of berries have popped open, about 5 minutes.Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
*If you have frozen cranberries on hand, don't defrost them before use; just pick through them as directed and add about 2 minutes to the simmering time.
Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Winter Squash
adapted from Seriously Simple Parties
You'll make a brussels sprouts fan out of anyone with this recipe, which leaves them browned on the outside and just cooked through.
2 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, outer leaves and end removed
2 1/2 pounds peeled winter squash, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
3 leeks, light green and white parts only, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the Brussels sprouts, squash, leeks, salt, and olive oil in a shallow roasting pan (a 12-x-17-inch jelly-roll pan works well) and toss to coat. Season with pepper.
Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes. Move them around so they will cook evenly, and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and lightly browned. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Recipe: Autumn Salad
The bite of something fresh and just slightly bracing adds welcome brightness to the carb-heavy Thanksgiving table. This salad uses fresh seasonal grains, grainy mustard, and maple syrup.
2 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2 large lemons)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 cup olive oil
2 bunches leafy greens such as Swiss chard or lacinato kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
Stir mustard, lemon juice, salt, and maple syrup together in a small bowl; whisk in oil until emulsified (or shake in a jar). Toss chard and/or kale. Pour in dressing; toss to coat. Serve.
Pumpkin PieRecipe: Easy Pie Crust
OUR TWO CENTS: Consider buying baking ingredients like butter, flour, vanilla and nuts in bulk and sharing the cost with a friend, suggests Diane.
Recipe: Pumpkin Pie
The remainder of the milk purchased for the mashed potatoes goes into the pumpkin pie custard.
1 15-oz. can pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 slightly beaten eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
For filling, in a large bowl combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Add eggs; beat lightly with a fork until combined. Gradually add milk; stir until combined.
Carefully pour filling in pastry shell. To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie crust with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes more or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate within 2 hours.
Grand Total: $99.18