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Twists on tradition: ideas for new approaches to Thanksgiving fare

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

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Greetings fellow food fans!

 

I have the distinct honor of being the Thanksgiving host for my extended family and some friends each year.  We are traditionalists in the sense that we all want those staple dishes--how can you do without the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole?!  Since we "like what we like" when it comes to the main dishes, I have been inserting creativity and experimentation with 1) drinks/cocktails, 2) appetizers, and 3) slight "twists" to favorites.  We have done different versions of dressing (with sausages, oysters, different breads, herbs, and fruits), and we always have both a baked and fried bird.  I have also added in turkey roulades and slow-grilled turkey breasts in the past, as well as deep-fried favorites like turkey wings, sweet potato fries, etc.  I just need to add in something new each year to keep it interesting for ME!  I need to have fun with it if I am going to keep enjoying being the annual host.  So...

 

I am wondering if some of you can share your ideas for mixing in creativity, while adhering to the "tried and true" menu items that we all tend to associate with Thanksgiving.  I would request that we don't get too crazy (i.e. pina colada mashed potatoes or kim-che infused stuffing..ugh) but would love to hear how you have kept the menu both fresh and traditional.  I know it's a fine line to walk, but...there it is.

 

What have you done to make your Thanksgiving menu creative and special?

 

Thanks in advance for sharing your ideas and recipes...

post #2 of 15

I don't understand the fascination with keeping things the same year after year.  I know a lot of people need the staples but I personally can't sympathize with repeating the same recipes every year.  I'll try not to go all crazy on you.  Something that I'm asked to make for Thanksgiving is my sweet potato mash.  Cube sweet potatoes and place in a pot.  Cover with water and bring to a simmer.  Add salt.  When the sweet potatoes have cooked through strain and put the potatoes back in the pot on very low heat to cook off excess water.  Throw in lots of butter, a dash of cinnamon, some grated allspice and a pinch of grated nutmeg.  Mash and serve.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #3 of 15

Ah, koukouvagia, that's what traditions are about!smile.gif

personally i do like them, and there are dishes that i only make at christmas, for instance, and their very smell makes it be a holiday

but anyway

somewhere on these forums i posted a recipe for savory pumpkin or squash turnovers, that i use as appetizers.  they;re very good.  i don;t feel like looking now.  but it's posted somewhere. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by siduri View Post

somewhere on these forums i posted a recipe for savory pumpkin or squash turnovers, 

 

Right there: 

 

http://www.cheftalk.com/t/62210/pumpkin-recipes-desperately-needed#post_325002
 

 

post #5 of 15

Thanks, FF!!!   i forgot i had posted the pictures.  I think the recipe is somewhere else on the forum. 

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by siduri View Post

Ah, koukouvagia, that's what traditions are about!smile.gif

personally i do like them, and there are dishes that i only make at christmas, for instance, and their very smell makes it be a holiday

but anyway

somewhere on these forums i posted a recipe for savory pumpkin or squash turnovers, that i use as appetizers.  they;re very good.  i don;t feel like looking now.  but it's posted somewhere. 



Now that I have my own kid there might be some value to food traditions.  Suppose my son loves mommy's mushroom gravy then maybe I'll have to make it year after year.  But up until now I've never felt the need to do that.  I didn't grow up that way, my mother always experimented with recipes and while she makes dishes that I love and want to eat when I visit her they are not allocated to a certain holiday.  My husband's family is very much like that though, this holiday we eat _____ and that holiday we make ____ etc.  The recipes are always the same, it becomes predictable and I don't find any particular enjoyment in that itself.  But maybe me being an artistic person I value spontaneity and creativity.  To me holidays are about other traditions, like who we are with and what activities we do, recipe repeats don't aren't a big deal to me.  Good food will undoubtedly be part of it but my memories are rooted in the people I spend it with, not what we ate.  Sounds strange typing that in a food forum lol!

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks Siduri and Koukouvagia--pumpkin turnover looks great.  Koukouvagia--no sweetener in the sweet mashed?  I have a family member who brings the sweet-potato-marshmallow casserole each year, but this savory approach may be nice too.  Looked at the pumpkin recipe thread and really like the looks of this pumpkin and shrimp dumpling, posted by Boar D. Laze.  Very unique, might make a nice appetizer that different enough for me to enjoy making but still in line with the Thanksgiving theme with pumpkin as the key ingredient.  We make dumplings (or "mondu" since my wife is Korean) quite a bit.  Wonder how these little beauties would be pan-fried?  Thanks for the recipe BDL!

 

  • Steam or roast pumpkin wedges until done.  Cut it off the skin, and into chunks small enough to process in your chosen way;
  • Mash, mill, rice, sieve or puree;
  • Season with Maggi, salt, and a little pulverized white pepper.  Taste and adjust;
  • Finely mince a little ginger.  Add a sprinkle of five spice.  Grate in a little fresh nutmeg.  By a little, I mean A LITTLE.  Add a few drops of sesame oil.  Mixture should be "comfort," not "excitement."  Taste and adjust;
  • Mix in whole, small shrimp, or larger shrimp cut into medium dice -- proportion of shrimp to the pumpkin, "to taste" -- but ratio should favor pumpkin substantially.  Shrimp may be raw (preferable) or cooked.  If you like, you may substitute lobster for shrimp;
  • Make wonton or bao dumplings using "regular" (i.e., small) or trimmed-down large wonton skins depending on size desired.  Seal with water, in the usual way;
  • Steam or simmer until shrimp is cooked or heated through (same thing really); 
  • Meanwhile, Cut fresh ginger into shreds of micro-julienne.  Put it in small dipping bowls along with Chinese red or black vinegar;
  • Serve the bowls of vinegar alongside the dumplings; 
  • Boiled dumplings are very slick and hard to grasp with sticks.  Steamed aren't much better.  No forks.  No mercy.  Spoons and sticks only; and 

 

Hilarity ensues.

Note:  With very little effort you may alter this for raviolis.

 

Thanks for posting you ideas--hope I get to read more!  And Koukovagia--I actually do like crazy, unique recipes...so feel free to share any you may have.  I just don't want to scare my family too much!

 

post #8 of 15

It can be dangerous to twist too hard at Thanksgiving depending on your guests. My family prefers a fairly straightforward set of dishes. You need to meet expectations.

 

Rather, throughout the year I cook turkeys, stuffing and the other possibilities at other times as well and those are the times I try something different. And if it's more popular, I ask about swapping that in for the holiday. Usually, they just vote to add that variation in to the menus throughout the year, just expanding the list of known favorites.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #9 of 15

My family is pretty traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving, although we do change things up regularly for Christmas.  That being said, we aren't so tied to things that nothing ever changes.  In recent years I've been grilling the whole turkey.  You can find my recipe and article here http://www.cheftalk.com/a/how-to-grill-a-turkey-variation-on-a-thanksgiving-theme

 

We will also make traditional sage stuffing and then another stuffing that we experiment with.  Vegetables get changed up often as do desserts, although there is always Pumpkin Pie.  My family is also very big on relish trays for the holidays so we put a lot of effort into experimenting with pickles, relishes, chow chows, etc.  This is a fun area to explore and I find it doesn't upset Uncle Joe who always has to have the same thing every year.

post #10 of 15

I do the traditional with minor changes like I may bake the  chestnut stuffing in a 1/2 squash. Or serve cranberry orange compote inside a 1/2 scalloped orange

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mister tailgate View Post... Koukouvagia--no sweetener in the sweet mashed?  ...


No, to me the sweet potatoes are already sweet enough.  But feel free to add what you like, it's your dish!

 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

Reply
post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Some great ideas here.  Thanks for the suggestions...does anyone have a good brining recipe/process to share?  I have done brining for two years now, and have modified it a little each year.  What has worked for others out there?  And what are your thoughts on both brining and injecting?  Is it overkill?  I have always only done one or the other with my fried turkeys...I like the juiciness of a brined bird, and the intense flavors that you can get from injecting...

post #13 of 15

My preferred sweet potato treatment is to peel and cut them in disks about 3/8 of an inch thick. Season each side with a cajun/blackening mix and pan fry in some butter until cooked through. The sweet and heat balance on the potato is just right and the surface crusts up giving some texture to the finished item.

 

I'm hot a fan of adding extra sweetness to the sweet potato.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #14 of 15

They're sweet enough as they are to be desert, never mind adding sugar.  I, personally, love them cooked at very high heat in the drippings of the turkey, with salt and black pepper.  Simple, wonderful.  They brown really nicely because of the sugar they contain.

 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
post #15 of 15

I'm with you guys on the added sweeteners. Never understood why that was done. Mom used to do candied sweets in a half-orange cup, with pineapple on the bottom and melted marshmallows on top. OMG! Talk about overkill. But that's what Thanksgiving---the only holiday in American whose sole purpose is gluttony---is all about.

 

My favorite is to do stuffed sweet potatoes with a hazelnut topping. We're doing T-giving at some friend's this year, and that's what I'll be bringing as our contribution. 

 

When I do T-giving at home there's hardly anything traditional about it. But, given the diversity of how dishes are handled, the only things that must appear on a traditional table is the turkey, cranberry sauce of some kind, sweet potatoes, and, God save us, string bean casserole. And, maybe, pumpkin pie.

 

Literally everything else is open. So you can play with the breadstuffs, and appys, and side dishes, and desserts no end. F'rinstance, instead of simple mashed potatoes, why not make potato cakes? At last count there were 3,461 versions of cranberry sauce/compote. Pick a different one, and play with the presentation. Or how about seasonally oriented breadstuff: sweet potato buns, or pumpkin bread (I mean yeast bread, here, not the various quck breads). Try a major switch on the salad---there's no tradition I know of when it comes to that course.

 

Rather than being a straightjacket, I've always thought Thanksgiving was the time when a creative cook could really shine.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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