TBT – Happy Thanksgiving!

We know it’s not actually TBT yet, but since Thanksgiving is always on Thursday, we thought we’d get a head start. And we’ve seen some searches and had some requests for last year’s Galley Pirates’ Thanksgiving dinner. It was quite an event with tons of tasty local traditions, so here it is again for those of you asking.

turkey presented 5

We’ll be anchored out this Thanksgiving holiday, but you can still expect your usual weekly recipe. So check back in with us Friday morning! And let us know how YOUR Thanksgiving goes!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Galley Pirates!

We’ve known many sailors who shy away from making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on board, saying it’s too much work…the galley is too small…the oven won’t fit a turkey…. But no doubt there are many of you sailors that can prove them wrong, right? Well, that’s just what Galley Pirates set out to do as we “pre-gamed” Thanksgiving dinner last weekend.

Join us as we sail you through, step by step, a galley-friendly Thanksgiving dinner.

turkey close up

Roast Turkey with Oyster Stuffing

Oysters are a tradition on the Chesapeake. But what used to be the most valuable fishery in the Bay is now a mere fraction of the size.  Many volunteers…kids, schools, locals…have been pitching in recently to help seed oyster “gardens” to boost the populations. So in appreciation of our most precious bivalve, my co-pirate and I are tag-teaming to celebrate The Oyster with America’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.

Chesapeake Bay Sausage & Oyster Stuffing

The (obvious) secret to a successful Thanksgiving dinner from a sailboat galley is to buy an itty bitty turkey. Try to find one under 12 lbs.

1 lb pork sausage
2 onions, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 16 ounce jar of shucked oysters
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/2 packages (~21 ounces) Herb Seasoned Stuffing
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

oyster stuffing ingredients

It’s time for Thanksgiving and I couldn’t resist buying the Amish Roll Butter…2 lbs worth. Looks just like the butter my Mom and I used to make with Grandpa Foster’s cream. (minus the Sea Salt. Morton’s – If it Rains, It Pours was the go-to in the early 60s.) I figured this would get us through Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Amish butter

Preheat your galley oven to between 325-350 degrees. Roasting pans take up a lot of room on a sailboat so for this Thanksgiving dinner we put the turkey in a (cheap) disposable foil pan and placed it on a cooking sheet for added support.

Light your burner and heat up your largest sauce pan. Saute the sausage until just brown. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and saute celery and onions for 5 minutes. Add seasonings and oysters, with their juice. Cook until oysters start to firm up, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and stuffing mix. Toss stuffing mix in the broth until it is moistened. Turn off you burner and continue to toss for another minute or so.

stuffing in pan

Carefully stuff your turkey, one large spoonful at a time. We had lots of room in the pan today so stuffing was added all around. The stuffing soaks up the drippings so if you add stuffing all around, it gives you little grease to make gravy. It also makes it harder to baste the turkey. Today we sacrificed the gravy and basting for the stuffing.

uncooked turkey

Place in your preheated oven. Keep the heat between 325-375 degrees. Roast for 2 1/2-3 hours, until nicely browned. Baste occasionally or melt some butter onto the turkey skin.

turkey in the oven

Pull the turkey out of the oven and let rest. Remove the stuffing from around the turkey to a serving dish. Let they turkey rest for 20 minutes or so before removing the stuffing from inside the cavity and carving.

We know you Galley Pirates out there are perfectly capable of carving a turkey, but if your captain wants to carve, let him. That’s his proud (and most likely only) contribution to Thanksgiving dinner.

Serve with Cap’n Peter’s Cranberry Relish!

cranberry pecan relish served

Cap’n Peter’s Cranberry Relish

Ye `ole Cap`n  is always looking for ways to stave off scurvy, and this is a beautiful, easy and delicious one.  Every holiday season I wonder why I wait all year to make it.

cranberry relish ingredients


1 1/2 cups sugar
2-3 navel oranges, depending on size
1 or 2 whole cinnamon sticks
3 to 5 whole cloves
3 cups whole cranberries (2 bags)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

and a lime if you want the bright green zest as garnish

sauce for relish

Start by making a spiced syrup.  Combine 1/2 cup orange juice (from your oranges, but zest them first for ease of handling…see below) with 1-1/2 cups of sugar, 3-5 whole cloves and a stick or two of cinnamon.  Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.  Remove cloves so that nobody has to bite down on them, but leave the cinnamon in for decoration, continued flavoring, and a way to punish those eating so quickly and absentmindedly that they would chomp down on a cinnamon stick.

orange rind

As just mentioned, you are going to want the juice, pulp, and rind of the oranges separately.  I find it easiest to take the rind off the whole fruit with a vegetable peeler, then juice them, catching the pulp in a small sieve.

cranberries and oranges

Slice the rind finely.  Wash and pick over your cranberries, disposing of any really rotten ones.  Then add the berries to the syrup.  Continue to cook berries over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes.  You will hear them pop and hiss.  Once most have popped and they are collectively more or less softened they are ready.

cooking cranberry relish

Stir in orange rind and pulp, and pecans.  Enjoy!

marshalls dinner

Yum! But what’s a Thanksgiving dinner without sweet potatoes?

sweet potato fennel ingredients

Sweet Potatoes and Fennel

For a healthy and refreshing alternative to candied yams, try this combination of autumn vegetables which brings out the lighter side of sweet potatoes.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced just under 1″ thick
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced 1/2″ thick and separated into rings
3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Fresh ground black pepper

sweet potatoes and fennel

This recipe can either be baked in the oven or roasted, covered, on a low burner. Since our turkey was occupying the oven, we prepared this on the stove top.

Melt butter in a large sauce pan. Add sweet potatoes and fennel. Stir to coat the vegetables with the butter. Cover and brown a bit for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth, celery seed and fennel. Turn your flame to low, cover and let simmer until just tender, about 30-40 minutes. Add salt, sugar, pepper and more butter if desired. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer. Adjust seasonings as needed. Serve warm with the rest of your dinner.

sweet potatoes fennel served

Finally, something light and crisp to balance out the Thanksgiving meal….

 Icebox Friendly 4-Star Salad

brussel sprout salad

You might notice I omitted the prime ingredient for this delicious salad, brussel sprouts.  Admit it…if I had told you, would you have clicked through?  We adapted this salad from one of our favorite DC restaurants, 1789 in Georgetown.  If a salad of brussel sprouts makes a 4-star menu like that, doesn’t it have to be good?  This is better than good.  And so boat friendly–keeping lettuce in an icebox is hopeless, so you are always looking for ways to fake a green salad.  More to the point, it lets you buy something wonderful and Dr. Seuss-looking like THIS:

brussel sprouts close up

Sure, maybe not for a long passage, but I saw these on the stalk in the grocery store and wanted them!  I reasoned they would be mildly fresher than bagged sprouts, and they were lovely.  And FUN.

brussel sprouts salad ingredients


  • Brussel sprouts–probably 8-10 normal-sized ones per person.   We used 2/3 of these for seven people
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar (red wine or cider)
  • Honey
  • Creole mustard
  • Salt and pepper

slicing your skin off

Here’s the laborious part — finely slicing the sprouts on a mandoline.  This should be done slowly, cautiously, by the most sober of crew members…perhaps someone with time on their hands up in the cockpit after the anchor is dropped.  YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL NOT TO END UP SHREDDING YOUR FINGERS INTO THE BOWL.  At 1789, the shredded sprouts are all perfectly even little slices of sprout…realistically, I end up with bits of leaves, partial cuts, all sorts of odds and ends.  The idea is finely-shredded…don’t worry about technique.  Then shave the parmesan on the mandoline into the same bowl.  Toast the pine nuts in a dry, hot fry pan and toss them in as well.

brussel sprout salad close up

Make a vinaigrette of 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar (in my case, about 3/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup vinegar) a teaspoon each of honey and mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the sprouts, cheese, and nuts with the vinaigrette and serve.  Unlike most salads, this one holds up fairly well for a couple of days as leftovers.

turkey sliced 4

We’re not done yet.

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without…pie! And here’s a new twist on TWO classics:

Pumpkin-Mincemeat Pie

pumpkin mincemeat served

This is our family’s favorite holiday pie, aside from pecan.  The tangy tartness of the prepared mincemeat cuts the rich, creaminess of the pumpkin custard.  A big scoop of freshly-whipped cream is all it takes to make it heaven.


Your ingredients are a can of pumpkin, all the things that it lists for pie, and a jar of mincemeat.  Yes, my “recipe” is taken almost straight from the label of the pumpkin can!  Given the complexity of Thanksgiving on a sailboat I also used store-bought crusts (go for deep-dish) though Caroline has given you some lovely crust recipes elsewhere on the site.

pumpkin mincemeat pie ingredients

My grocery carries Robertson’s mincemeat and it is lovely.  I used about 2/3 of the jar for two pies.  My favorite way to use up the rest is to plop a spoonful into each muffin cup before baking bran muffins.  Mincemeat is essentially apples, raisins and spices in a chutney-like syrup.

mincemeat in pie pans

Put about an inch of mincemeat in the bottom of each pie crust (the 15oz can of pumpkin will make enough custard for 2 pies, and most crusts are sold in pairs…so go for it and eat leftovers for breakfast!)

pies filled

Prepare the pumpkin custard according to the directions on the label, and distribute between the two pies.  It should just fill both.  Bake per instructions on the label–about 10 minutes in a hot, 400+ degree oven, then down to 350 for another 50 minutes or so.

pumpkin mincemeat sliced

Slice and admire while you get your strongest crew on whipping the cream.  With a sweet recipe like this I don’t add sugar to the cream; at most, just a dash of vanilla.  Hand-whipping with a whisk is hard work and your diners might get impatient, as mine did.  In which case a pool of partially whipped cream under the pie works just as well as a dollop on top!

layered pumpkin mincemeat slice

All that hard work in the galley with good food, friends and family, make a Thanksgiving dinner aboard “picture perfect” and well worth the effort.

dinner served

Galley Pirates wishes you cruisers and landlubbers alike a very Happy Thanksgiving! Share your Thanksgiving stories with us. We’d love to hear from you!

5 thoughts on “TBT – Happy Thanksgiving!

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