Since the end of April, I have been pushing the idea that it is okay to eat nothing but snacks for dinner. Snacks aren’t just easier to prepare, they’re more fun to eat, and more suitable for smaller crowds (especially crowds of two or fewer).
As you’ve probably noticed, this year’s gatherings are going to be smaller, and fun in 2020 is a precious commodity. This is why I’ve created Snacksgiving—the Thanksgiving meal that is 100% snack-based. You can enjoy Snacksgiving as an appetizer (if you’re very hungry) or you can eat it instead of the usual turkey and dressing lineup. It also makes a great day-after spread, as many of the recipes can be made with leftovers.
Ah, the main course. This rillette is a good use for leftover turkey (especially any dry bits), but it can also be made with a few slices or roasted turkey from your local hot bar or deli. Just combine 6 ounces of turkey meat with 2 tablespoons of duck or chicken fat and 1 tablespoon of broth (almost any kind will do), and pulse in your food processor until you have a spread. Taste, season with salt and pepper if needed, and either eat immediately or cover and let chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
Cream of Mushroom Dip with Blanched Green Beans
Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without some iteration of the iconic green bean casserole. Here I have transformed the condensed soup portion of the casserole into a dip, except I didn’t use any soup—I used dried mushrooms and lots of cream cheese and sour cream. Pair that with barely blanched green beans (and fried onions, of course), and you’re there—albeit in a deconstructed fashion. To make it, you will need:
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms, any kind
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 8-ounce block of cream cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 big pinches of MSG
- 2 big pinches of white pepper
- As many fresh green beans as you like
- Fried onions for garnish (and snacking)
Heat the wine in the microwave for 3 minutes, add the mushroom to the hot wine, and let them rehydrate for 15 minutes. Strain away the wine and reserve it, then pulse the mushrooms into tiny little bits in the food processor. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a medium pan and cook until it is no longer foaming (you want it just about to start browning), turn the heat down to medium, add the mushroom bits to the pan, and cook until they darken in color and start to stick to the pan. Transfer them to a bowl and pour one cup of the reserved mushroom-infused wine into the pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the little browned bits, then let the wine reduce to a syrup (you should be left with about a tablespoon).
Add the cream cheese, sour cream, and reduced wine to the bowl with the mushrooms and stir with a spoon or spatula until you have a fairly uniform mixture. Add the seasonings and stir again. If you want your dip a little looser, splash in more mushroom wine. Cover and transfer to the fridge while you prepare the green beans.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss the beans in it until they are bright green (about a minute). Once they achieve that vibrant hue, plunge them into ice water to prevent any further cooking, Drain the beans, let them dry, and serve them alongside your cream of mushroom dip, which you should definitely garnish with fried onions.
Mashed Potato Dip
That’s right: We’re double dipping. This “recipe” involves nothing more than mixing an equal amount of mashed potatoes with an equal amount of sour cream, then adjusting the seasonings as necessary. I used these bagna cauda mashed potatoes, so no seasoning was needed, but a sprinkle of MSG, or my Thanksgiving seasoning blend would work quite nicely. Garnish with chives or green onion.
Pickled Cranberries and Cranberry Honey
Though cranberry sauce would be quite at home on a snack board, I think it’s fun to play around with the genre. Pickled cranberries are aggressively tart (think Warhead tart), while this honey is as sweet as…well, honey. Both look very pretty on a snack board, and both are very easy to whip up. To make the cranberry honey, you will need:
- 1 cup fresh cranberries, picked and rinsed
- 1/2 cup honey
Add honey and berries to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stir and cook until all the berries have popped open (about a minute or two), then strain the honey away from the berry solids (save them for yogurt or something). Let the honey cool completely before serving.
For the pickled cranberries, you will need:
- 2 cups fresh cranberries, picked and rinsed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 juniper berries
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 big pinch of salt
Bring everything except the cranberries to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cranberries, reduce to a simmer, and let them cook until they their skins pop. Pour into a heat-safe container and let cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge.
A snack board is not a snack board without cheese, so pick your favorite (or favorites). A sharp cheddar, a bloomy brie, a funky blue—all are acceptable options, but I personally would steer clear of anything too “on theme,” like pumpkin cream cheese or other such nonsense.
You’ll also need things to dip in your dip. I think sweet potato chips are a perfect choice, though an argument could be made for the supplemental baguette or rosemary focaccia. Crunchy extras are mandatory, and it’s hard to do better than pecans in that regard, but you could also try corn nuts (or have both). There’s no need to limit yourself on Snacksgiving. Feel free to add the spread as you see fit. Oh, and you should probably toss some fruit on the board, for health. Apple slices will do the trick.