Wednesday, April 17, 2024 Apr 17, 2024
79° F Dallas, TX
Restaurants & Bars

Can’t Find a Turkey for Thanksgiving? Try These Protein Alternatives

Don't let an expensive turkey ruin Thanksgiving.

A strain of avian influenza has wiped out more than six million turkeys this year, and that means prices for the bird are going up. The Washington Post reports those wanting to feast on a turkey this year may pay up to 20 percent more per pound. Some restaurants have already sold out for the season.

If you can’t find a turkey this year, or maybe you don’t want to pay for one, here are some protein alternatives ideas.


Chef Tiffany Derry, of Roots Southern Table and Roots Chicken Shak, says the first alternative that comes to her mind is duck. Duck was a staple at the holiday dining table while growing up. Her grandmother often made cornbread dressing with a whole duck on top.

“She would season it, she would put the duck on raw, and she would bake the whole thing in the oven together,” Derry says. “So all of that duck fat and juice would go into the cornbread dressing and it would be the best cornbread dressing you’d ever have.”

The duck is carved similarly to a turkey and served alongside all of the traditional Thanksgiving sides.

Derry said she doesn’t have a specific recipe, but for one recent holiday meal, she tried to recreate the duck-on-dressing dish. Instead of baking the duck raw, Derry said she seared the duck breast and left the legs and thighs of the duck to bake in the oven.

“Everyone loved the different textures of the duck breast and then the leg and thigh, which felt like more like a confit and roast,” she says. “I think that’s a perfect example to be able to use something different.”

Here’s a recipe from the D Cookbook for duck confit.


Duck Confit


  • 6 duck legs
  • 1 cup salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 springs thyme
  • 10 sprigs parsley
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • duck fat


Put all the dry ingredients and herbs in a food processor and process until you have a paste. Rub the duck legs with this mixture and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Wash the cure off the duck legs and pat dry.

The duck legs must be placed in an ovenproof container deep enough to be covered by duck fat. They must remain submerged under the duck fat. Cook the submerged legs at 250° for about 4 hours, or until fork tender.


When I was a kid, my mom often made lamb for holidays instead of turkey. She often roasted her lamb with plenty of garlic, butter, red wine, and rosemary. Here’s a recipe from the D Cookbook for braised lamb shank, which can be dressed up any way you’d like.


Braised Lamb Shank


  • 8 23-inch pieces lamb shank
  • ½ cup mirepoix (equal parts uncooked chopped carrots, celery, and onion)
  • 2 cups veal stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 400°.

Place a large, heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shank on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pot. When the oil begins to smoke, place the lamb in the pan and brown on both sides. Discard the excess oil. Add the mirepoix to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Add the veal stock and water to the pot. Bring to a simmer.

Place the pot in the preheated oven and cook for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the lamb is soft to the touch. Remove the cooked lamb from the pan. Strain the cooking liquid into a small pot. Reduce the cooking liquid by half. Skim the excess grease from the sauce. Spoon the reduced sauce over the lamb and serve.


For smaller groups, a chicken might make the most sense in terms of size and price. A smaller bird also means it can stay juicy.


Roasted Chicken Stuffed With Goat’s Milk Ricotta


  • 1 whole broiler- fryer chicken (2½ to 3½ pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 8 ounces goat’s milk ricotta, well drained
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 3 large fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  •  cup white wine or water
  • Seasoning salt or salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400°. Wash the chicken well and remove any visible excess fat. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Season the cavity with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the herbes de Provence. Place the lemon and onion in the cavity. Set chicken aside.

Combine the ricotta, sage, basil, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl. Separate the chicken’s skin from the breast, thigh, and leg meat by gently slipping your fingers and hand between the skin and the meat. Take care not to rip the skin with your fingernails. Place a layer of ricotta mixture under the loosened skin. Smooth
over the top of the skin to distribute the ricotta mixture in an even layer.

Tie the legs of the chicken together and tuck the wing tips under. Rub the chicken with the oil and sprinkle abundantly with seasoning salt and the remaining tablespoon of herbes de Provence.

Set chicken on a rack in a roasting pan just large enough to hold it. Place in the oven and roast at 400° for 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to 350° and continue to roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour longer, basting with the pan juices every 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when chicken is pierced with the top of a knife near the thigh.

Remove chicken from the oven and place on a cutting board or platter; cover loosely with foil. Drain the pan drippings into a cup and remove the fat that rises.

Deglaze the pan with white wine or water, scraping up any cooked residue in the bottom of the pan, and add to the pan juices. To serve, slice or quarter the chicken and drizzle with the pan juices.


Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Nataly Keomoungkhoun

View Profile
Nataly Keomoungkhoun joined D Magazine as the online dining editor in 2022. She previously worked at the Dallas Morning News,…

Related Articles

Restaurants & Bars

Two Interviews Last Week Revealed the Identity Crisis in Dallas Food Culture

One focused on a bakery that spent almost nothing to create a nationally-acclaimed product. The other focused on a restaurant that spent $11.5 million to sell uncountable margaritas—and terrible food.

How a DFW College Student Is Building a Multimillion-dollar Restaurant Marketing Platform 

Anisha Holla, a 21-year-old UTD student, has built FoodiFy, a dating app for restaurant owners and influencers. She already boasts 25 local restaurant clients.
Starship Bagel founder Oren Salomon

How Lewisville Became the Bagel Capital of America

One man's obsessive quest to restore a bread to its Jewish roots is transforming North Texas food culture—and beating New York's bagels on their home turf.