A holiday meal is typically an occasion for breaking bread and sharing the hearth with our family, friends and community.
While not everyone wants to cook for an army during the holidays, there is still something about having a traditional holiday meal that evokes a feeling of celebration and custom. It's not only the combination of foods particular to that holiday ritual that feeds the senses, but also the likelihood that the event offered an opportunity to share the workload increases the bonds of kinship and friendship.
For those passing a holiday alone or with one other rather than a crowd, there can be a sense of deprivation with the loss of the opportunity to partake in the traditional feast of the season of turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes.
Here is a great solution to getting the meal with all the trimmings without spending hours and hours in the kitchen or facing a week of leftovers. Because it is an "infused one-pot meal," each ingredient maintains its integrity during the cooking process and emerges separate, intact and infused with flavor, rather than merged into a stew or slab as with more familiar types of one-pot meals.
Best yet, you can spend a pleasant half hour or less in the kitchen with your dining companion while you wash, chop and layer the ingredients into the pot. Preparing food offers a great opportunity to chat across the cutting board and gives you each ownership for the holiday dinner success.
Just 45 minutes later, when sitting down to eat together, toast each other, toast the holiday and toast the easy answer to holiday dining: an infused one-pot meal.
One-Pot Thanksgiving Dinner
1/2-3/4 lb. turkey tenderloin or boneless breast filets
1/3 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 dash white pepper
1/3 cup shelled walnuts
8-10 pearl onions, peeled, halved
1 med. sweet potato or yam, scrubbed, 1/4" slices
2 cups broccoli florets
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray inside of 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven and lid with canola oil.
Set turkey pieces into base in a single layer, trying not to overlap pieces as much as possible. Lightly sprinkle with salt.
In a food processor or blender, pulse cranberries using chopping blade (shaped like a backwards "S") until berries are in large chunks. Add marmalade, lemon juice and white pepper and pulse two or three times to mix together. Pour in walnuts and continue to pulse until walnuts are roughly chopped and you have a thick, rocky paste.
Drop spoonfuls of cranberry paste onto turkey pieces until only about half is left. Toss in onions and layer in sweet potato slices. Again, lightly salt. Cover with rest of cranberry paste. Top with broccoli florets.
Cover and bake for about 40 minutes. You'll know it's ready 3 minutes after the aroma of a finished meal escapes your oven.
In a pinch, substitute pulpy orange juice for the orange marmalade. You'll just end up with more "gravy" at the bottom of the pot to spoon over the food when serving. 1/4 cup broth added to the cranberry-walnut paste will also increase the amount of gravy.
The turkey, cranberries and broccoli can all be used fresh or frozen (without thawing) and it won't change your cooking time or most things about your meal, though realize that frozen broccoli tends to emerge softer than fresh. The larger the broccoli pieces the crisper they will turn out at the end.
Add a kick to your meal with 1 fresh or roasted jalapeño pepper, destemmed, seeded and chopped.