Ideas for Your Thanksgiving Feast


Looking to add some oomph to this year’s Thanksgiving feast? More power to you, but bear in mind that Thanksgiving standards are classic for a reason, and everyone loves — nay, expects — to see them on the table in some form or another.  Luckily, there are endless variations on those standards, and we found three local chefs to share their twists on the classics with you.

(Just in case these tasty dishes inspire you to leave the entire task to the pros, a list of local restaurants offering a fabulous holiday spread follows the recipes.)

Roast Butternut Squash with Apples and Pecans
Chef Kevin Fonzo, K Restaurant

Serves 6

1 butternut squash, peeled, skinned and diced
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 each granny smith apple, diced same size as squash
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup pecans

1 Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2 Toss cleaned and cut butternut squash in medium size bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on cookie sheet and roast in oven for approximately 30-40 minutes or until tender.
3 Remove from oven. Add apples and pecans to pan of squash and place back in oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven and add to bowl. Drizzle maple syrup over mixture. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

cranberry-sauce_honestfare.com_Cranberry Skillet Cornbread
Blogger Gabrielle Arnold,

Serves 8

1 cup cranberry sauce (recipe below, or use leftover)
4 Tbs butter, olive oil, lard or coconut oil
1 1/4 cup medium grind cornmeal
1/2 all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar or brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed

1 Preheat oven to 375°F
2 Put fat in 10 inch cast iron pan or 8 inch square baking pan. Place in oven.
3 Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix eggs into milk and stir into dry ingredients. Add a little more milk if the mixture seems dry.
4 Carefully remove hot skillet with oil in it from the oven. Pour in the cornbread mixture and spread oil that rises to the surface evenly across the top of the batter.
5 Add dollops of cranberry sauce to the top of mixture.
6 Return to oven to bake for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cranberry Sauce
1 12-oz bag cranberries
3/4 cup water
juice from 2 oranges
large piece of orange zest (about 2″ long by 1/2″ wide)
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
dash of brandy or rum

1 Bring water and orange juice to a boil.
2 Add sugar, cranberries, cinnamon stick, orange zest and liquor.
3 Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until about half the cranberries burst (about 15 minutes).
4 Stir every couple minutes.
5 Turn off heat and allow to reach room temperature, stirring every few minutes to release steam/extra moisture.
6 If you like a thick and jam-like sauce, put a couple spoonfuls of the liquid from the hot cranberry sauce into a separate bowl and dissolve a couple teaspoons of cornstarch in it.
7 Return to pot of cranberry sauce and stir in. It will continue to thicken as it cools.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Chef Chris Windus, Hamilton’s Kitchen

Serves 6-8

1 butternut squash

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon sea salt

½ cup butter

¼ cup flour

4 cups chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup maple syrup

salt and pepper to taste


1 Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking pan with parchment.

2 Cut squash lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds, leave the skin on.

3 Mix brown sugar and sea salt. Rub mixture on flesh side of squash.

4 Place the squash on baking pan skin side up. Dice butter into ½-inch cubes and distribute evenly over squash.

5 Bake for 45 minutes. Let the squash cool, then peel off the skin.

6 Transfer peeled squash into a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients, making sure to get all the liquid. Over medium heat, cook the squash for five minutes while stirring.

7 Add flour and cook for two minutes while stirring. Slowly add chicken stock swhile pureeing with a handheld (immersion) blender. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook five more minutes.

8 Add heavy cream and maple syrup and stir until just heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.


Hand the Reigns Over to a Restaurant

Orlando Marriott World Center is serving up traditional fare with some twists in three of its restaurants, with the prix fixe menu at Siro Urban Italian Kitchen showcasing herb-roasted local turkey with house pancetta stuffing, sweet potato gnocchi, creamed greens and cranberry giblet gravy ($50 per person for three courses; 5-11pm). Hawk’s Landing Steakhouse is keeping it classic with turkey and traditional sides of green beans, cauliflower and sweet potatoes (main courses $48/sides $8 each; 6-10pm). Solaris will offer a buffet featuring seared salmon with rainbow chard, honey-vinegar leg of lamb and ham with tangerine honey along with classic roasted turkey, and a selection of soups, salads, desserts and a chef’s table with artisan cheeses, meats and antipasto ($65 adults/$30 kids aged 13-17/$20 kids aged 4-12; 1-8pm). Call (407) 239-4200 x85152 for reservations.

Turkey does a cameo in every course except dessert on the a la carte menu at Emeril’s Orlando, which includes a confit turkey flatbread with butternut squash and bacon and a salad spiked with deviled egg and turkey cracklin’. At Emeril’s Tchoup Chop veggies take center stage in the starters, which include a ginger squash bisque and a spinach salad with goat cheese, golden beets and crispy shitake mushrooms. Both restaurants will be open for lunch and dinner.

The Boheme Restaurant at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando will start guests off with a Golden Pumpkin cocktail and a Pilgrim’s Plate of hors d’oevures before they embark on a three-course meal with choice of grouper, filet mignon, roasted turkey or Berkshire pork roulade ($79 per person; 1-7pm). There will also be a classic buffet in the hotel’s Johann Strauss Ballroom with displays of antipasti, shellfish, crab cakes, desserts and even breakfast favorites in addition to traditional Turkey Day fare ($69 adults/$30 kids aged 5-12; 10am-4pm).

Disney diners will find Thanksgiving options alongside their favorite attractions in addition to special menus at Disney Resorts. At Downtown Disney, Raglan Road will serve up a turkey glazed with Bunratty Mead alongside Brussels sprouts, whipped potatoes and an apple, sage and sweet onion stuffing ($27.95 per person; 11am-11pm).

Planning to forgo the festive fowl? No problem. Plenty of restaurants will continue to offer their regular menu along with Thanksgiving entrees, including Hamilton’s Kitchen at The Alfond Inn in Winter Park, Mitchell’s Fish Market in Winter Park, and Seasons 52 in Orlando and Altamonte Springs.

(Images courtesy of