There are pros and cons to planning a Thanksgiving for two—the pros being less work and, well, fewer people. The cons, however? Many cookbooks assume you’re making dishes for extended family or a large group of people, causing a lot of unnecessary effort and creating waste. Look, leftovers are wonderful. But be honest: can you really eat sweet potatoes for seven days straight?
So for those having a solo, or intimate, gathering this year, Vogue decided to ask the expert: Klancy Miller. Author of Cooking Solo, she has long championed the culinary joy of compact creations. While most recipes out there have a serving size of four to eight, Miller’s recipes are for one to three (so, perfect for those celebrating by themselves or with one other person). Ahead of November 24, she shares her top tips on how to execute a tiny, yet memorable, Thanksgiving—as well as her perfect holiday dessert recipe for mini chestnut cakes.
Be Honest With Yourself
“Do you feel like having an elaborate (i.e. large) holiday meal if you’re celebrating solo or with one other person? If you are up for a big meal—go forth and make all your favorite festive dishes (ask your relatives and friends for their best recipes),” says Miller. “[But] If you’re not really into a massive holiday meal this year but have the energy to cook (let’s face it, cooking fatigue is real) then focus on just one or two things to make it feel special.”
Make Your Own Rules
Thanksgiving meals are often dictated by what we think we should eat—turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. If you’re gung-ho about those things, go for it! But if not, now’s your chance to break from tradition. “If you’re dining solo for the holidays, I would recommend you go over the top in indulging yourself with whatever you want to eat. Start with dessert? Why not?” says Miller. “Take advantage of not having to please anyone else and please yourself with whatever kind of meal you feel like eating.”
Splurge—And Plan Another Great Meal With the Leftovers
Planning a big group meal is expensive. But with only a few months to feed, why not finally get that gourmet cut of meat, or expensive wine? “Think of things you’ve been meaning to cook or splurge on and make them. If you’re a carnivore but have never cooked a rib-eye, do that,” says Miller. “Cook two and if you don’t completely devour them, the leftover meat can be used to put in tacos the next day.”
Miller also says to consider swapping your birds: “A whole chicken is faster to cook than a turkey and the leftovers can be used for sandwiches, soup, chicken stock, and salad,” she says.
Take In the Takeout
Hate cooking? Then don’t! Plenty of local restaurants offer gourmet holiday meals to go that are perfect for a Thanksgiving for two. “Ordering take-out could also be a wise choice if you’re completely overcooking right now. If that’s the case, support your favorite restaurant by ordering out and tip generously,” suggests Miller.
Plenty of restaurants also stay open for the holidays, offering gourmet multi-course Thanksgiving meals. The beloved eatery Sant Ambroeus, which has locations in New York, Palm Beach, and the Hamptons, will be serving up the holiday classics with an Italian twist. (Think pumpkin stuffed tortelli pasta and turkey roulade stuffed with veal and porcini ragù.) Meanwhile, Polo Bar is embracing classic Americana with dishes like roasted organic turkey with chestnut-sage stuffing and cranberry-apple chutney, sweet potato gratin, and Charleston bourbon pecan pie.
Go All in on the Tablescape
Spruce things up by crafting an elaborate, picture-perfect tablescape. “Splash out on aesthetic touches like your favorite flowers and candles—I’m obsessed with candelabras and have them at my table even for non-holiday dinners,” Miller says.
Love the idea and don’t know where to start? Vogue asked top tastemakers for their table-setting tips, here. (Definitely heed Alice Naylor-Leland’s advice: “Plan ahead. This means you can then enjoy your day. Get that table laid the day before if possible.)
For those who don’t have the time, interest, or talent to execute such a visual feat, don’t fret: Chic tablescape companies like Misette offer holiday bundles.
Side With the Sides
A turkey is meaty, and arguably too much if you are only one or two people. So skip the bird and make a bunch of the smaller Thanksgiving classics instead. It’ll still feel festive, and you won’t run out of Tupperware. “I often prefer sides like stuffing and sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables. Make your favorite side dishes and call it a meal.” Miller’s favorites? Stuffing, sweet potatoes, and roasted vegetables.