A few years ago for Thanksgiving, I spent the holiday with my friend and her husband. When I arrived at their house, everything looked familiar. The table was set with an autumnal cloth, there were decorative gourds scattered about, and I could hear Dallas Cowboys football playing on the living room TV. But something was off. Their house didn’t smell like turkey. That’s when I remembered: my friends are pescetarians (at least, they’re vegetarians during most the year, and pescetarians on holidays).
I have to admit, I was skeptical about a Thanksgiving without turkey, but the Thanksgiving dinner they served was honestly one of the best holiday dining experiences I’ve ever had. In other words, I’ve come to love my new pescetarian Thanksgivings traditions.
Oven-Roasted Dungeness Crab
One of the happy coincidences of Thanksgiving for seafood lovers is that November marks the start of Dungeness crab season, meaning that the freshest, tastiest crab is available right when you need it. Dungeness crab is incredibly delicious, making it a great way to indoctrinate newbies into pescetarian holiday meals. These crabs are native to the Pacific coast, but if you find a good online seafood market you can have fresh crabs sent to your door no matter what side of the country you’re on.
In my opinion, roast crab is the best choice for a holiday main dish since it’s easy, but also makes a naturally attractive presentation. This recipe makes four, but you can double or triple it according to the crowd you have. The basic rule is one crab per person.
Start by preheating your oven to 500 degrees. In a large skillet mix the following ingredients:
- 1 stick of butter, melted
- 4 tablespoons of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoon of shallot
- 3 teaspoons of dried crushed red pepper, stirred in
- 4 large Dungeness crabs, cleaned and cracked
- 2 tablespoon thyme, chopped and sprinkled over crabs
- 2 tablespoon parsley, chopped and sprinkled over crabs
Stir to combine all those ingredients. Place the skillet in the oven and roast the crabs for 8-10 minutes, stirring one time about halfway through. Transfer the crabs to a platter with tongs, and then add 1 cup of orange juice to the same skillet, boiling until the sauce is reduced by half, which should take about 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the crabs, and sprinkle again with thyme and parsley.
Pairing Side Dishes with Your Dungeness Thanksgiving Dinner
- Traditional Sides: Creamed corn and mashed potatoes. It’s another happy coincidence that the two best side dishes to pair with oven-roasted Dungeness crab (in my opinion) are already standard on many Thanksgiving tables. I love baked potatoes and corn on the cob with oven-roasted crab as well, but creamed corn and mashed potatoes have more richness as well as a more traditional Thanksgiving feel.
- Non-Traditional Sides: Hush puppies and garlic bread. Are your guests more adventurous than traditional? Then try going off the map completely and serving the Dungeness crab with hush puppies and garlic bread, two dishes that go perfectly with this dish but don’t usually show up at the Thanksgiving table.
Salt-roasted branzino is a viable turkey replacement for two reasons: fantastic taste, and a built-in impressive presentation. It’s a holiday, remember, so ceremony and circumstance matter. The big talk in the kitchen during most Thanksgiving preparation is usually about how moist the turkey will be. Salt-roasting a branzino is guaranteed to seal moisture into the fish.
This recipe calls for about 2 pounds of fresh branzini, which you can easily order online to save yourself the time and frustration of hunting for a fresh whole fish in the store. Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.
Pulse the following ingredients in a food processor:
- ¼ teaspoon of black peppercorns
- 1 small bunch of thyme
- 12 sprigs of parsley
- 4 cups of Kosher salt
The end result should be green. Afterward, beat 4 egg whites until foamy and then combine with the mixture. Take 2 whole branzini, gutted but with head, tail, and scales intact. For each fish, get a piece of foil twice as long as the fish and place a cup of the salt mixture on it. Stuff the fish with one thinly sliced lemon and place the fish on top of the salt mixture. Put another cup of salt mixture on the fish and pat it so it forms a cocoon around the fish’s body, making sure to leave the head and tail exposed. Bunch the foil around each fish, transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes. Before you serve this dish, be sure to crack the salt crust with the back of a fork and gently peel both away both the salt crust and the skin. This serves four to six.
Pairing Side Dishes with Your Branzino Thanksgiving Dinner
- Traditional Sides: Boiled potatoes and green beans. These are your safest plays. You can jazz them up if you want, but even in their most basic form these will compliment the flavor of the fish and make the meal feel complete.
- Non-Traditional Sides: Sautéed greens. This is my all-time favorite side dish to pair with salt-roasted branzino. A combo of spinach, kale, and beet greens would work well here and would offer even more protein and fiber for health-conscious diners.
If they’re anything like me, your guests will probably forget all about turkey after a meal like this. The best part is, with the ease of ordering seafood online and having it shipped to your door by a reliable online seafood distributor like Daily Fresh Fish, you’ll have extra time to spend chatting with your guests. Since it’s a subsidiary of Pucci Foods, which directly supplies wholesalers, Daily Fresh Fish brings you fresher fish and shellfish than any in the supermarket, with no driving around. And they only sell seafood that has been sustainably raised or caught, which helps support the ocean and those who make their living from it.