The Perfect Holiday Table — Alternatives to brighten your holiday feast

June 2014 View more

NMAG1112_Feature_Large_MainNostalgia and tradition are always present at our Thanksgiving tables. But the holidays are also an opportunity to invite some newer guests to your celebration, including fallís hottest decor trends to brighten the festivities and add a personal touch to your favorite holiday meal.

Decorating Delights

From the latest colors, to expressions of style, what you enjoy in your home is also what you can bring to your table scape. This fall, rich, vibrant color tones are not just this season’s interior decor picks for upholstery and accents, but are also a great palette from which to choose your holiday table color scheme. Want a little holiday flair? Top designers recommend using contrasting colors like plum and amber, with deep green for a little drama. If a softer glow is more your style, try selecting complimentary colors like saffron and spice, paired with cream and a little chartreuse green.

Natural Elements

Natural elements never go out of style and have always been part of the holiday decorating scene. But this year’s particular penchant for rustic elements invites rougher-hewn harvest tables to the dining room, as part of a move toward a homier, more relaxed look. In addition to natural accents for the harvest table, such as branches of bittersweet and seasonal foods like figs, nuts, and gourds, “homey” might also mean brightening the table with antique pickling jars, votive candles, or filling the base of hurricane lamps with white beans to anchor a bouquet of wheat or artfully-arranged dried grasses.

Part of our desire for a more relaxed look also includes a relaxed attitude toward mixing styles of modern with traditional. Modern metallic accents, very popular this season, (such as gold-toned bowls or whimsical metal salt and pepper shakers) incorporate beautifully with rustic elements. Adding a collection of modern chairs, like mismatched aluminum around a barn wood table, is a decorating combination sure to invite your guests to relax and enjoy their holiday feast.

Glitter Galore

All that glitters, doesn’t have to be gold or have a price tag to match. Arranging an assortment of your favorite collection of silver or pewter containers and filling them with fall flowers on a runner interlaced with branches, is a great way to incorporate your personalized touch, while introducing that must-have metallic sparkle to the scene.

Metallic tones can even be manufactured. Gold spray-painted acorns filling the base of a cylindrical vase to anchor a tall candle is a simple but beautiful way to add a metallic touch to a natural element. Pinecones, gourds, and nuts also look wonderful on display with a similar flush of gold.

Tried and True

When it comes to decorating your table, some hard and fast rules still apply. First, do what you enjoy, regardless of the trends. Do what reflects who you are and what will make your guests feel welcomed. Then there are the tried and true rules, like making sure displays are kept low so guests can comfortably see one another across the table.

Another helpful key is to ensure that all candles at the table are unscented so that they do not detract or overwhelm the aromas of your meal. For those situations where a centerpiece needs to be removed to make room for dishes, arrange your centerpiece on a serving tray or platter that can be easily removed and returned.

The Main Centerpiece

Nothing rivals the centerpiece of the holiday table than the turkey. Always on the hunt for the perfect bird, recipes over the years have taken us down the path of deep fried, stuffed, and brined and basted. Here are two recipes sure to add something new and memorable to your holiday feast:

NMAG1112_Feature_Large_2Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs and Shallot-Dijon Gravy

For a new twist on an old idea, try dry brining. This salt rub
technique draws moisture from inside the bird to the surface where
it combines with the seasonings and is reabsorbed by the meat,
giving it an unrivaled flavor. This recipe, adapted from Bon Appetite, is not only simple, but turns out a beautifully browned, seasoned bird.

Herbed salt ingredients

  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves, coarsely torn
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Turkey filling

  • 1 14-16 pound turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 whole lemon, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup unsalted softened butter
  • 3 cups turkey stock


  • 3 1/2 cups turkey stock
  • 2/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary


Rinse the turkey inside and out (do not dry). Sprinkle the outer bird with the salt-herb mixture. Place the bird in a bag, sealing tightly and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven at 325F. Rinse turkey and pat dry, inside and out, before filling the cavity with the turkey filling mixture. Secure the neck skin under with a skewer. Tuck the wing tips under, tie legs together, and place bird in a roasting pan. Coat the turkey with butter and place it on a rack on the lowest position in the oven. Roast for 45 minutes before basting with the pan juices. Basting every 45 minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170F (tent loosely with foil if it begins to get too brown). Remove when done and let the turkey rest, covered for 30 to 45 minutes.

Pour pan juices into a measuring cup and spoon off oil, reserving 1/2 cup of fat. Add turkey stock to the degreased juices to equal 5 1/2 cups. Saute shallots in the 1/2 cup reserved fat in the roasting pan and whisk in flour, cooking until it becomes light brown. Add wine, stock, mustard, and fresh rosemary. Whisk and boil until the gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

 Cider Brined and Glazed Turkey

Wet brining requires a little more effort than its dry brine cousin. However, itís still one of the best ways to infuse a turkey with flavor. This recipe, adapted from Epicurious, with its cider glaze and applejack brandy gravy, is a flavor-packed winner.


  • 4 quarts apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whole allspice
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • 1, 20-pound turkey

 Sage broth

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 onion, quartered
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into fourths
  • 8 fresh sage leaves


  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter


  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup applejack brandy
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream


In a 20-quart pot, simmer 1 quart of apple cider, salt, allspice and bay leaves for five minutes, stirring frequently. Cool. Add 3 quarts of cider, 4 quarts of water. Place washed turkey in the brine, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

For the sage broth, bring all ingredients to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid in a bowl.

Reduce 2 cups of cider in a saucepan to 1/4 cup (about 15 minutes). Whisk in the butter. Cool.

Place the drained turkey (patted dry) in a roasting pan, tucking in the wings, and tying the legs loosely together. Roast for one hour on the lowest rack at 350 degrees. Brush with glaze and repeat (roasting one hour, basting with glaze) until beginning to brown. Cover with foil. Continue to roast, basting every 30 minutes with glaze until the temperature in the thickest portion of the thigh reaches 175 degrees (about 3 more hours). Remove turkey from the oven and let it rest, tent under foil for 30 minutes.

Pour pan drippings into a measuring cup, draining off the fat (reserve 3 tablespoons). Mix a roux of flour, sage leaves and reserved fat in a saucepan and stir over medium heat for one minute. Pour the sage broth and pan drippings into the roasting pan, deglazing the pan, over medium heat and whisk in the roux. Add applejack and cream. Boil until the gravy thickens. Season and serve with the turkey.