Thanksgiving Dinner for Two
Making a Thanksgiving dinner for two sounds daunting and not worth the effort, right? It’s hard to imagine wanting to put in the energy to make a million side dishes, or roast a whole turkey for just two people. And yet you still want those familiar and comforting smells to fill your home! Ugh…so what do you do? I think I have the solution for you.
When we first moved out to California, we weren’t able to “go home” for the holidays, so we were on our own, JUST THE TWO OF US (cue Will Smith). At first I decided we would do the restaurant thing (gasp). It was unreasonably warm that day, and since I didn’t have any cooking to do, we donned our shorts and flip flops and walked to a local coffee shop. We sat outside and sipped our iced coffees…in silence. My guess was that people were home COOKING.
It made me SO SAD that I got up immediately and decided we were going to the grocery store, and I was going to cook for us after all. Since I didn’t plan out our feast for days in advance, I just grabbed what I saw there, and that was Cornish game hens. Perfect! I knew they would look like miniature individual turkeys, filled with stuffing, but take less time to cook. And of course I also had to bust out a few easy sides.
It did take the rest of my day to cook everything, but we were so happy in the end, and it was totally worth it. So today, I wanted to recreate that meal that I remember and look back at so fondly. But you can see how I make all of these easy and scrumptious dishes in EPISODE 3, our “Thanksgiving Special,” of Bits & Pieces Season 2 below:
First things first. If your birds are frozen, like mine were, be sure to defrost them in the fridge for at least 2 nights, or maybe longer. Or you can do the cheating thing like I did and dunk them in a bowl of cold water for a couple hours to speed up the process. But you want to make sure those suckers are completely thawed. Then rinse them inside and out, and pat them dry well. The drier they are, the better they will brown. If they go into the oven wet, they’ll steam instead, and look a little pale.
Since Cornish game hens have good flavor on their own, I knew I could keep the seasonings simple with nothing more than salt and pepper. But you can go to town with them and add spices and herbs too if you wish. Their skins crisp up in the oven if you give them a chance to brown without any oil first. They render out their own fat and baste themselves! You could probably share one hen if you wanted to, but who doesn’t like Thanksgiving leftovers? So go ahead and make two while you’re at it anyways.
And what’s “turkey” without stuffing and cranberry sauce? So I made a cornbread stuffing with hot Italian sausage, and all those traditional aromatics like celery, onions and thyme. When you stuff your birds, they really look like mini-turkeys. So adorable! When they cook in the oven, the smells put you into a trance.
The cranberry sauce couldn’t be any easier. It’s almost a crime not to make it. It’s a wonderful sweet and tart condiment that pairs well with the rich savory taste of the birds. There’s no need for gravy.
And even though I didn’t want to sweat to the oldies making a ton of side dishes, I still opted to make just a couple more. I wanted to “cover my bases” with flavors and textures so I wouldn’t feel like we were “lacking” anything. I wanted a creamy component, which I made in the form of a cauliflower gratin. You mix together a couple ingredients and boom! Creamy and crunchy with a crispy topping.
Lastly, I made easy speedy garlic green beans. They’re seasoned simply, but are the perfect last savory crunchy veggie that rounds out the meal.
So if you’re making Thanksgiving dinner for two this year, I hope I provided you some inspiration. But truth be told, you can make this and eat this on a casual weekend too. This dinner is simple yet special, and you definitely don’t have to wait for a holiday to make it!
And let me just say that I’m thankful for you, because you took the time to read this entry and watch our video. Let me know in the comments what you’re thankful for, because sometimes it’s nice to be reminded. Happy Thanksgiving!
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 Cornish hens (1-¼ to 1-½ lbs each)
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 link hot Italian sausage, removed from casing
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 2 cups cornbread, broken up into large chunks
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Make the cornbread stuffing first. Brown the sausage in a pan, making sure to break it up into crumbles. Add the butter, along with the onion and celery. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until softened. Add the chicken stock and thyme. Off the heat, add the chicken stock and thyme. Allow to cool slightly. Place the pieces of cornbread in a bowl. Add the chicken stock mixture to the cornbread. Add parsley, salt and pepper, and mix together until moistened.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the sliced onion on top of a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Remove any giblets from the hens, and rinse them inside and out. Pat the outsides dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the inside of the cavities with salt. Pack the cavities of the hens with the cornbread stuffing. All of it should fit.
- Tuck the wing tips under the body of the hens. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Generously sprinkle the outsides of the hens with salt and pepper and use your hands to rub and evenly distribute the seasoning around the entire surface. Place the hens breast side down on top of the onions. Roast until backs are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
- Flip the hens breast side up and continue to roast for 15 minutes. Remove hens from oven and crank the heat up to 450 degrees F. Brush the tops with a little olive oil and pop back into the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the skin is browned and the breasts register 160 degrees F and the thighs register 175 degrees F. Transfer hens to a serving platter or cutting board and allow to rest uncovered for 10 minutes before slicing into them.
- 1 ½ cups fresh cranberries
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- Bring all ingredients in a pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Serve chilled.
- ⅓ cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 10 ounces cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ (5.2 ounce) package spreadable Garlic & Herbs cheese (such as Boursin)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine Panko and oil to a small pan and toast while stirring until golden, around 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl to cool.
- Microwave cauliflower florets and water in a bowl for 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Drain the water. Sprinkle florets with a little salt while still hot. In a separate bowl, microwave the spreadable cheese, cream, red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper together for 1 minute. Stir together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed. Pour over the cauliflower and toss to coat.
- Transfer to a small baking dish and top with the bread crumbs. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until bubbly and hot. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch sugar
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Microwave garlic, oil, red pepper flakes, and sugar in a small bowl until garlic is softened and fragrant, about 40 seconds.
- Add 2 teaspoons garlic oil, green beans, and water to a nonstick skillet, cover, and cook until green beans are bright green, about 2-3 minutes. Add remaining garlic oil and cook covered, without stirring, until green beans are spotty brown, about 2 minutes.
- Uncover and continue to cook, while stirring, until green beans are crisp tender, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Off heat, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.