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An Intimate Thanksgiving for Four

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Just because a Thanksgiving dinner is small doesn't mean it can't be festive.

If you’re having only a couple of people over, a stuffed boneless turkey breast feels special, keeps with the turkey tradition, and cooks quickly. The stuffing of dates, dried apricots and toasted hazelnuts makes a harmonious combo with the turkey, while a few strips of bacon adds some much-needed fat and flavor to the lean white meat. Instead of a gravy, a simple Marsala wine reduction is easy and quite delicious.

The Thanksgiving side dishes are also a twist on traditional elements: mashed potatoes get an earthy flavor boost from celery root; green beans are tossed with toasted hazelnuts instead of the usual almonds (which also picks up on the hazelnuts in the stuffed turkey); and the uncooked cranberry relish’s fresh tang comes from rice vinegar. For dessert, return to a true classic, with the ultimate apple pie.

Menu Timeline

Two Days Ahead:

  • Make the soup and store it in refrigerator; be sure to wrap and refrigerate the reserved bacon for garnish.

One Day Ahead:

  • Assemble and bake the apple pie, store at room temperature overnight.
  • Make the cranberry relish and refrigerate.
  • Toast the hazelnuts for both the stuffing and the green beans; store in an airtight container.
  • Make the dried-fruit stuffing for the turkey breast; cover and refrigerate.

Thanksgiving morning:

  • Stuff and tie the turkey breast and return to the refrigerator.

Two hours ahead:

  • Remove turkey breast from refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  • Make the potato-celery root purée and keep warm in a wide, shallow stainless bowl over a pot of water.
  • Prep the green beans and shallots and place them in a baking dish.

90 minutes ahead:

  • Remove the cranberry sauce from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  • Sear the turkey breast and begin roasting it.
  • Prepare the topping for the green beans and shallots and set aside.

30 minutes ahead:

  • Remove turkey breast from the oven; raise oven temperature to 450°F.
  • Roast the green beans and shallots.
  • While turkey breast is resting, make marsala glaze
  • Reheat the soup

Just before serving:

  • Toss the green beans with their topping.
  • Slice the turkey breast.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 lb. Cortland apples (about 4 medium)
  • 1-1/2 lb. Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium)
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2-1/2 lb.)
  • 1-1/4 lb. celery root
  • 1 lb. green beans
  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 6 medium shallots
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 large bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • 1 bulb garlic

Meat, Eggs & Dairy:

  • 1 boneless, skinless or skin-on turkey breast half (1-3/4 to 2 lb.)
  • 1-1/4 lb. unsalted butter
  • 10 slices bacon (about 1 lb.)
  • 1 large egg

Other Groceries:

  • 4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup pitted, dried dates
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 12 oz. (3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1-1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine
  • White pepper

Pantry Staples:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • Table salt
  • Black peppercorns

The Menu


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