Skip to main content

Thanksgiving recipes in the time of Coronavirus. Fewer ingredients, more peace, no turkey

We have made it-ish. To the months that end in brrrr, thank goodness, to the end of the year, to more breaks (make them happen!), more rest, more excellent food.

I love themes for big meals, although usually Thanksgiving is a theme unto itself. This year, the theme of it all is nostalgia, comfort, safety.

In recognition of this moment in time, I created a Thanksgiving menu specifically for 2020. Small-batch side dishes, very few ingredients, and incredibly comforting flavors. One of the best things about Thanksgiving is that many dishes are fairly simple, but we do tend to complicate things by making 10 dishes for the big meal.

This year? A protein, three sides, and one dessert will do you. Big meals can happen with a bunch of people or with just a few, so these two recipes intentionally serve 4-6 people. If you’re hosting a larger event, feel free to double or triple the recipes to suit your needs.

Buttermilk Cornish Game Hens

Cornish game hens are a really fun alternative to turkey. Their size makes them ideal for small meals and using these hens instead of a turkey breast ensures lots of crispy skin and dark meat for anyone who wants it. Game hens are about 2 pounds each, so I portion 1 hen for 2 people. This recipe is easily multiplied, and Cornish game hens can be found in the freezer section of almost every grocery store year round.

Prep: overnight marinade  Cook: 1 hour  Serves: 4

2 Cornish game hens,

about 2 pounds each, thawed

32 ounces buttermilk

Kosher salt

Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl or container with a lid. Place the hens in the buttermilk. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to cook, prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (to avoid mess) and place a baking rack inside of the baking sheet. The layers will go baking sheet, parchment, rack. Preheat the oven to 425F.

Remove the hens from the buttermilk (let excess drip away and discard all of the buttermilk) and sprinkle them all over liberally with kosher salt. Place breast side up on the prepared baking rack.

Roast the Cornish game hens uncovered for 1 hour until the skin is dark and crispy. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

I cut the hens in half down the spine for serving, but you can remove the meat from the bones for easier eating, or portion 1 hen per person for larger portions and leftovers.

ŸIf you forget to marinate the hens, no worries! Even an hour in the buttermilk will be helpful for flavor and crispy skin.

Potatoes Romanoff

This is my version of the classic steakhouse dish, also sometimes called twice baked potato casserole. I love this for a holiday week because it uses leftover baked potatoes, which keep fine in the fridge for a few days. Have baked potatoes, make extras, have Potatoes Romanoff on Thanksgiving!

Prep: overnight (resting) plus 20 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes  Serves: 4-6

2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed

(about 1.5-2 pounds total)

¼ cup minced onion

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt


1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons melted butter

To bake the potatoes, pierce all over with a fork and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake the potatoes for 1 hour at 425F, then refrigerate still wrapped overnight. This is also a great use for leftover baked potatoes!

To make the casserole, very gently grate the refrigerated baked potatoes, skin and all, 

on a box grater.

In a shallow dish or large bowl, combine the grated potatoes, onion, salt, several grinds of pepper, cheese, and sour cream. Mix very gently – I like to use my fingers to do this. The idea is to mix the ingredients without mushing or breaking the potato pieces.

Transfer the potato mixture to a baking dish, heaping the mixture to mound in the center of the casserole. Pour the melted butter over the Potatoes Romanoff and sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper. This can be done in advance!

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F. Bake the Potatoes Romanoff uncovered for about 30 minutes until hot all the way through and lightly browned on top. YUM.

Refrigerating the baked potatoes achieves the texture needed for this recipe. Try not to skip that step! If it happens you’re still a good person and this will still be delicious, though.

To prep this dish, you can make the baked potatoes in advance OR make the whole casserole up to step 4, then bake right before eating.

If you are baking several other side dishes at the same time, this can be baked at 350, 400, really any other temperature, just until hot all the way through and lightly browned. The temp and time don’t matter as much as the hot + crispy top end result.