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Who Needs Turkey?

We have alternatives for your Thanksgiving centerpiece, as well as sides to fill out the meal. Here’s a Thanksgiving confession. During the first year of the pandemic, when our little family of three celebrated the holiday with no flock of relatives to feed, we replaced the usual 12-pound turkey with a diminutive roast duck. I posted this on my Instagram and got a blizzard of positive responses.

There are, of course, many, many families who never serve turkey for Thanksgiving. Some are vegetarian. Some don’t want to go to the trouble or expense of dealing with an extremely large and cumbersome bird. Some simply don’t like turkey.

If you’re among them, we have a wealth of fantastic turkey-less Thanksgiving recipes. You could make a burnished roast chicken with maple butter and rosemary, a skillet full of brawny pork chops with apples and miso caramel, a maple-baked salmon with a scattering of fresh cilantro, Alexa Weibel’s stunning new ombré gratin or her magnificent mushroom Wellington (above), which you can watch her make on YouTube. (Consider my classic beef Wellington, if you’re looking for something meaty.)

Or how about a large and glistening hunk of roasted pork at the center of the buffet table? Try a crispy Puerto Rican pernil, or a crackly porchetta pork roast filled with herbs. And let us not forget the hungry giddiness that always accompanies a perfectly glazed holiday ham.

No matter what you serve as your main dish, though, Thanksgiving is all about the sides for loads of people — especially if you’ve got vegetarians at the table. Two excellent, hearty meatless side dishes are Millie Peartree’s custardy Southern macaroni and cheese and Sarah Jampel’s deluxe broccoli cheese casserole. You could serve them both; I’m sure they’ll be devoured in record time. And yes, you are still allowed to put some buttery mashed potatoes on the table, too.

For something sweet, although I wrote all about Thanksgiving desserts that are not pie, I still endorse at least one flaky-crusted beauty at the table. ApplePumpkinPecan? You decide!

You do need a subscription for the recipes. Subscribing to New York Times Cooking supports our work bringing you thrilling new recipes every single week. And for a limited time this holiday season, you’ll get 50 percent off for your first year. (As a subscriber, you can now share up to 10 of your favorite recipes each month with anyone you’d like, and they’ll be able to view them for free.)

You can also check us out on YouTubeTikTok and Instagram, where you can learn how to make easy pecan pie truffles, a vegan recipe that could be just the thing for your Thanksgiving dessert spread. Also, something to be aware of: If you run into any day-of Thanksgiving bumps, our team at cookingcare@nytimes.com will be answering emails until 3 p.m. Eastern time. They’ll do their best to respond quickly, but keep in mind that they’ll be dealing with a higher volume of emails.

Now, about skipping the bird on Thanksgiving: Emily Dickinson wrote that Thanksgiving is a “Reflex Holiday” that is “Celebrated part at table / Part in memory.” That is, we eat Thanksgiving turkeys because we ate Thanksgiving turkeys. But, as Dickinson wrote on the back of a recipe for coconut cake, “The Things that never can come back, are several.” So, we can rest assured that she was happy to contemplate a menu change.

Dickinson found her way back to my night stand after pandemic disruptions. She’s just so good at finding the crack of light in the dark. Andrew Bird has just released an aching duet with Phoebe Bridgers of Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” which captures some of her queasy brilliance. But is it as good as “Because I could not stop for Death” sung to the tune of “Yellow Rose of Texas”?

Source : The New York Times