5 Turkey-Themed Platters for Your Thanksgiving Feast

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These festive, shareable platters are just thing to tide over a hungry crowd before the turkey hits the table.

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Thanksgiving, For A Crowd

These shareable platters are a host's dream come true. Not only are they whimsically arranged in the shape of a turkey — they're also easy to assemble in a pinch, buying you precious extra minutes in the kitchen to add any finishing touches to your feast. If your guests are due to arrive in the late morning, the breakfast platter is just the way to go; if dinner isn't until later in the evening, set out the turkey cheese ball or the lunch-meat platter — or the refreshing turkey crudites, which will appease anyone looking for something light to snack on. As an alternative to traditional pie, there's even a kid-approved crispy-treat platter made from sweet puffed rice.

Photographs by Lucy Schaeffer

Turkey Cheese Ball

For the body: Combine cream cheese, shredded cheddar, chopped fresh chives, salt and pepper, and mold the mixture into a ball shape. Roll the cheese ball in finely chopped pecans and put on a plate. Reserve some extra cream cheese to use as glue for the rest of the turkey pieces.

For the tail fan: Slice about 1 inch off one side of the cheese ball. Using the reserved cream cheese, dab the bottom of some round crackers and stick them onto the cut side of the cheese ball in a fan shape. Spread cream cheese on the backs of the fanned crackers and press in mini pretzel sticks in a fan pattern behind the crackers. 

For the wings and head: Use more cream cheese to affix a fanned stack of 3 oval crackers on each side of the cheese ball. Cut a strip of an orange bell pepper, letting the natural curve mimic the shape of the turkey's neck and head. Cut a small notch in the front of the cheese ball and insert the pepper. Add black sesame seeds for the eyes. Serve your turkey in a cracker-and-pretzel rod nest.  

Breakfast Turkey Platter

Prepare your ingredients: Cook bacon, sausage and potato tots and keep them warm in the oven while you make a stack of pancakes. When everything is ready, you can start the assembly.

For the tail: First, layer some bacon on a platter in a broad fan shape. Layer sausage links on top of the bacon, following the same pattern and leaving a couple of inches of the bacon peeking out. Then layer potato tots on the sausages, leaving part of the sausages exposed. You should have three distinct ingredients visible: the potato tots, sausages and bacon.

For the body: Place a stack of pancakes at the bottom of the potato tot fan for the body of the turkey. Cut a pat of butter in an oval shape; flatten the short end and place it on the stack of pancakes for the turkey head. Cut a triangular beak out of bacon and place it on the butter head. Create a turkey wattle by layering 3 strawberry slices onto the side of the butter. Serve with syrup.

Turkey Crudite Platter

For the tail: Arrange three large green cabbage leaves in a broad fan shape on a large platter. Cut colorful vegetables into strips and arrange them in successive layers in a fan shape on the cabbage, leaving a few inches of each layer exposed. Some vegetables we like: red and orange bell peppers, yellow summer squash, zucchini, green beans or peas in the pod, carrots, purple cabbage and grape tomatoes.

For the body: Fill a round bowl with hummus or another dip of your choosing. Place the bowl at the bottom of the last layer of fanned vegetables for the turkey body. Cut out two pieces of carrots for the feet. Place a small or baby zucchini in the bowl of dip for the neck and head. Use a whole peppercorn for an eye and arrange small strips of red bell pepper next to the neck for the wattle.

Turkey Cold Cut and Cheese Platter

This platter can be made with any array of sliced meat and cheeses.

For the tail: Start with a flat layer of cold cuts arranged in a broad fan shape on a platter or board. These will be your base feathers. Layer oval frilly-edged crackers on top of the cold cuts, following the same pattern and leaving an inch or two of the cold cuts peeking out. Then arrange a fanned layer of cheese over the crackers and cold cuts. To add dimension, roll up some cold cuts and arrange them in a fan shape over the cheese. Top that with a layer of rolled-up cheese slices. Finish with one last flat layer of cold cuts arranged in a fan shape.

For the body: Place a stack of round cheese slices at the bottom of the fan for the body of the turkey. Cut an oval from a sliced cold cut and place it on the stack of cheese for the turkey head. Cut a triangle out of cheese and place it on the oval for a beak. Make a wattle from slices of red bell pepper. Add black sesame seeds for the eyes.

Crispy-Treat Turkey

For the body: Using 2 boxes of rice cereal, make crispy treats according to the package directions. Coat your hands with a bit of oil or water so the treats don’t stick to your hands, and mold the mixture into the shape of a turkey. Shape 2 drumstick and 2 wings. Put together all the parts on a large cutting board or other work surface.

For the stuffing: Using a knife and spoon, dig out the cavity of the turkey between the legs. Don't hollow out the entire body: You only need to take out a few inches. Fill the opening with chopped-up chocolate-and-wafer candy bars. For a little flourish, mix in some sliced-up green gummy candy to look like parsley. Dust the turkey with a combination of cinnamon, light-colored cocoa powder and nutmeg to give the exterior a browned look. Attach mini marshmallows to the ends of the drumsticks to look like bone tips.

For the platter: Transfer the turkey to a platter and tuck slices of dried pineapple and kiwi and some grapefruit gummy candy around the base for garnish. Slice and serve.