The Ultimate Maine Thanksgiving Feast

Your complete guide to the ultimate Maine Thanksgiving feast.

Photographed by Adam DeTour
Styled by Heather Chontos

Every family has their own Thanksgiving dinner traditions, but some common elements, like turkey, sweet potatoes, and a whole lot of butter, unite us all in mouthwatering anticipation. Larry Matthews, chef/owner of the iconic Back Bay Grill in Portland, likes to keep things simple and delicious, with dishes that allow for easy adjustment to accommodate a potentially increased guest list.

Expand to See Recipes

(All Recipes Serve 8)

Brined and Roasted Turkey
Ultimate Maine Thanksgiving, Recipes, Down East Magazine

Be sure to keep the bird refrigerated while brining and pat dry once removed.

The brine will both season your bird and keep it moist during cooking. For even more flavor, try the smoked turkey variation.

2 cups kosher salt

1½ cups brown sugar

1 (14-pound) turkey

3 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 medium onions, peeled and diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 ribs celery, diced

To brine the turkey: Dissolve the salt and brown sugar in 2 gallons of cold water. Add turkey and herbs, cover, and refrigerate for two days.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove turkey from brining liquid and pat with paper towels to dry. Stuff cavity with onion, carrot, and celery.

Put turkey in the oven and roast for 15 minutes to achieve a bit of color before dropping the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast until a digital thermometer reads 160 degrees. Remove the turkey and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes prior to carving.

Slice the turkey and serve.

For smoked turkey: Put the brined turkey in a smoker at 225 degrees for 2 hours or until the bird starts to take on some color. Transfer to a 350-degree oven and roast for about 3 hours more or until a digital thermometer reads 160 degrees.


Everyone has their own method for gravy, but this one is easy and delicious. If you choose to add pan drippings from the turkey, be sure to de-fat it first.

½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter

½ onion, diced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups warm broth, preferably turkey,
but chicken will work just fine

pan drippings from turkey (optional)

chopped fresh herbs (optional)

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over low heat and add the onion, cooking until translucent. Add the flour and stir constantly until the mixture takes on a light brown color, taking great care not to burn it. Add warm broth ⅓ cup at a time, making sure it’s completely incorporated and there are no lumps before adding more. Stir in the drippings, if using, and season to taste, adding fresh chopped herbs if you’d like.

Honey-Glazed Delicata Squash
Delicata squash is not only as rich and creamy as butternut, but it is also far more user-friendly as the skin is edible and delicious.

3 delicata squashes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

¼ cup good quality Maine honey

6–8 fresh sage leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squashes lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then cut into ½-inch slices. Arrange the squash in a roasting pan, in one single layer if possible (better to do in multiple batches if necessary). Add ½ cup water, to help with steaming. Cut the butter into squares and distribute evenly on top of the squash, then drizzle with honey and scatter with the sage. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes or until tender. Remove the foil and finish under the broiler until nicely browned. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Beer-Braised Cipollini Onions
Ultimate Maine Thanksgiving, Recipes, Down East Magazine

Sweeter than white and yellow onions, cipollini onions can be found at specialty markets.

The deep, rich flavors of porter complement the sweetness of the onions.

2 pounds cipollini onions, skin on

3 tablespoons butter

6 ounces porter, or similar dark beer

2–3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add onions. After 1–2 minutes, strain, and plunge onions into a bowl of ice and water — this will loosen the skins and make them easier to peel.

Chop the onions and sauté in the butter over medium heat until they start to brown (it’s important to use a big enough pan so as not to crowd them). Add the beer, thyme, and 2 ounces of cold water and bring to a boil before reducing to a simmer and letting them cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes or until desired tenderness. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Cranberry Chutney with Orange and Ginger
A slightly chunkier, more aromatic version of the classic that you may have grown up with, this goes well with pretty much everything.

1 cup sugar

juice from 2 oranges

1 pound fresh cranberries

2-inch knob of ginger, peeled
and grated

In a medium pot, cook the sugar on low until it turns a light caramel color, taking care not to let it stick.

Add the orange juice and stir to remove as many clumps as possible, but don’t worry if a few remain.

Add the cranberries and stir to coat. Press the ginger through a strainer or cheesecloth into the pan, discarding the solids. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop and the desired thickness is reached, adding water to thin if necessary.

Note: Chutney may be made up to 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.

Baked Stuffed Clams
Ultimate Maine Thanksgiving, Recipes, Down East Magazine

Baked stuffed clams get flavor and crunch from Parmesan cheese, smoky bacon, and an aromatic blend of herbs.

A play on the traditional oyster stuffing, this recipe benefits from fresh breadcrumbs if you have them.

5 strips thick, smoky bacon, diced

3 leeks, washed and diced

½ cup dry white wine

4 small (6½-ounce) cans minced
clams, strained and juice reserved

4 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs,
preferably homemade

3 tablespoons assorted chopped herbs
(parsley, chives, tarragon)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy, then add the leeks and cook for about 3 minutes more. Add the wine and reserved clam juice and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl, then add the contents of the sauté pan, the clams, and herbs. Adjust the consistency, if desired, by adding more crumbs to thicken. Place in a shallow roasting pan and bake until warm. Finish by sprinkling the Parmesan evenly over the top and broiling until it starts to brown. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Maple Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Ultimate Maine Thanksgiving, Recipes, Down East Magazine

This easy, addictive dish needn’t be a once-a-year treat. It pairs well with most meats (try it with pork!).

Everyone has a preferred method for mashing potatoes, and all of them will work just fine.

8 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and
chopped into cubes

½ cup good quality Maine maple syrup

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter

½ cup sour cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste

Place the sweet potatoes in a pot, fill with water until just covered,and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, strain, and return the potatoes to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients and whip by masher, mixer, or immersion blender stick — whatever you’d like — until thoroughly combined at the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, and add more maple syrup to taste.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Bacon
Ultimate Maine Thanksgiving, Recipes, Down East Magazine

The sweet, salty, and piquant combination of flavors here is irresistible.

It’s a bit labor-intensive, but the first part of this recipe will ensure that the brussels sprouts are pristine. The sweet, salty, and piquant combination of flavors here is irresistible.

2 pounds brussels sprouts,
outer leaves peeled

5 strips thick, smoky bacon, diced

½ cup dry white wine

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter,

3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Using a paring knife, make a deep x into the stem of each brussels sprout. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the sprouts, and cook for 3–4 minutes or until tender throughout — take one out to test. Strain and shock in ice water to stop the cooking. When they are cooled, cut into halves and return to the strainer for 35–40 minutes to drain.

In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan. Place the sprouts cut side down in the pan and return to the heat at medium high and cook until golden brown. Add the wine, butter, and mustards, stirring to combine and simmering until sprouts are thoroughly sauced. Remove to a serving dish, and sprinkle with bacon.

Roasted Parsnips
Because you can never have enough options when it comes to root vegetables.

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter

3 pounds parnsips, peeled and
quartered lengthwise

salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large oven-safe pan over medium heat. Lay the parsnips in, cut side down, and cook until browned. Flip the parsnips and add a ¼ cup of water to create steam in the oven. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until they are fork-tender. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Keep the feast going with pie and wine >>

What’s Thankgiving without pie?

The Best Thanksgiving Wines.



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1 Comment

  • January 7, 2016


    We tried this brined turkey recipe today with an 18# bird and while it was moist and tender, it was way, way, way too salty. I’ll try it again with half or a quarter of the salt.