With that said, thousands of unwanted turkeys are cooked each year because people follow the rules and make turkey on Thanksgiving. We have one response: there are no rules in your kitchen!!! If you’re making dinner, you should make what you like to eat.
That doesn’t mean you get to be boring! There are few days in the year dedicated to eating, so it would be a shame to waste this glorious opportunity. Since you already have the sides covered, let’s talk about the main attraction.
To us, the main dish at Thanksgiving dinner should feel no-holds-barred, all-out, fun, and festive. This is easily accomplished with a great big turkey, but there are so many other delicious ways to inspire the same feeling.
We picked our Top 5 Thanksgiving mains that aren’t turkey, but still feel just as festive. Each one of these dishes has a certain wow-factor, great for any celebration. Use these suggestions as inspiration for any special occasion, from birthdays to anniversaries, and, yes, especially for Thanksgiving!
Here’s a secret Chef trick: anything wrapped in a puff pastry gets a lot of, “Oh my!”s—and, even better, often a more PG-13 response—when you bring it to the table. The thing about the Wellie is it makes you work for it: you can’t just casually make a Beef Wellington.
It requires saucing, crepeing, pastrying, searing, wrapping, baking, and tons of other fun Cheffy things that you can’t just throw together on a Tuesday. For this reason, it’s really the ultimate festive dish as it checks the three boxes:
- Stunning presentation: that wow-factor
- Effort: your guests understand you went above and beyond to host them
- Deliciousness: or, what really matters in the end
If you’re looking for a dish to impress and you’re ready for a challenge, look no further than a Beef Wellington. Though it asks a lot of you, you’ll be rewarded with a dish that’s just as impressive as it is delicious, well worth the extra effort. Check out our Truffle Beef Wellington recipe here, or book an On-Demand Experience where Chef Connie guides you through each step.
Duck a l’Orange
For the average person, Duck is far from a typical Tuesday night dish. Making a pan-seared duck breast—and especially making it well—is a simple way to make a dish that feels just as luxurious as Thanksgiving turkey.
We especially love our Duck a l’Orange, a classic recipe inspired by the American queen of French Cuisine, pioneer of home cooking, and one of our idols Julia Child. The sauce walks a very fine line between sweet, savory, bitter and citrusy, resulting in a sauce so flavorful it sets off just about every taste bud, sending you on a culinary journey with every bite.
When drizzled over perfectly pan seared duck breast with crispy skin and tender meat, alongside golden brown roasted turnips, your guests will be saying, “Turkey who?”
Recipe: Check out our recipe for Brown Butter Truffle Honey Duck a l’Orange here, or cook along with Chef Tyler with our On-Demand Video Experience (coming soon, check back next week!).
Rack of Lamb
If you’re up for a splurge, rack of lamb is yet another way to achieve a festive feeling with minimal effort. A whole rack of lamb looks elegant and tastes delicious, and, best of all, requires very little active time, perfect for giving yourself time to focus on your Thanksgiving side.
- Preheat your oven to 450F.
- Marinate the lamb in olive oil and your favorite chopped herbs while it tempers. Score the fat, season with a healthy pinch of Balinese Truffle Salt and black pepper, and roast, fat side up, until golden brown and delicious, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 and continue roasting until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your lamb.
- Set on your cutting board, covered with foil, to rest for half the time it spent in the oven (about 15 minutes). Serve on its own, or with an herby sauce like chimichurri. Easy as that!
Whole Roast Fish
If you’re looking for a lighter or pescatarian Thanksgiving main, remember it’s all in the presentation. While a simple pan-seared filet of fish may give that weeknight feeling, there’s nothing that says special occasion more than breaking through a mountain of salt to forage for your dinner.
To salt-bake fish, first start with a large (4-6 pounds) thick-skinned fish, like branzino, black sea bass, or red snapper. While finding a whole fish at most grocery stores can be a challenge, many fishmongers will special order a fish for you if you call a week in advance. Ask them to leave the skales on (or even leave it ungutted if you’re feeling adventurous—just make sure to gut the fish before roasting!).
- Preheat your oven to 400F. Stuff your fish with your favorite herbs and a few lemon slices.
- Mix 5 pounds of kosher salt with ¾ cup of water.
- Make a fish-sized platform on a foil-lined baking sheet with the salt mixture, then set the fish on top. Cover with salt and pat to create a seal.
- Bake until the fish is cooked through, about 35-45 minutes for a 4 pound fish and 1 hour for a 6 pound fish.
- Remove from your oven and transfer to your serving dish. Bring to the table to impress your guests.
- Crack open the salt, remove and discard the fish’s skin, and top the flesh with Balinese Truffle Salt. Enjoy!
Surf ‘n’ Turf with Sauce Diane
To us, Surf n’ Turf is the pinnacle of luxury. It’s not trying to be elegant or subtle or austere, it’s trying to be raucous and boisterous and fun. It’s trying to go all out. In other words, it’s the perfect dish for any special occasion, especially Thanksgiving.
In fact, it’s the type of dish that requires little to no sides, is rather quick to make, and still takes the wow-factor to the next level. Secret chef tip: make sure to flambé the Sauce Diane in front of your guests for extra oohs and aahhs.