I confess that I am not particularly attached to the traditional Thanksgiving meal, though I do appreciate–and often honor–what my friend James has to say on the subject.
“It doesn’t matter how good the food is,” he says, “it’s the ritual, it’s that we are all eating the same thing.”
This, I totally get it. Even so, I don’t mind ignoring the ritual now and then. Plus, there are ways to honor it without adhering too strictly to family recipes. I’m all in favor, for example, of nixing anything that calls for marshmallows, miniature or otherwise.
But there’s latitude in almost everything.
Let’s say you don’t like turkey breast. You can roast turkey thighs instead; you’ll find my recipe here: Oven-Roasted Turkey Thighs with Sourdough Stuffing and Sweet Potatoes
Maybe you love cranberries but really can’t abide cranberry-sauce-in-a-can, which can be pretty gloppy. There are many alternatives, including Apple Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Salsa and Pear, Cranberry, Orange and Pomegranate Compote. You can also do away with cranberries entirely, in favor of another seasonal fruit, persimmons, with this simple and delicious condiment, Fuyu Persimmon Relish.
Bored with mashed potatoes? I have a solution: celery root! Either on its own or added to other root vegetables, it is deliciously earthy and a perfect companion to gravy. Try Celery Root and Potato Puree or Parsnip, Potato & Celery Root Puree. Instead of an overly sweet winter squash puree or gratin, try your hand at pumpkin gnocchi. You’ll find my recipe for pumpkin gnocchi with browned butter, sage and Bellwether Pepato here.
When there are vegetarians at the table, it’s a nice gesture to offer them more than just side dishes. Both Chestnut Risotto and Wild Mushroom Strudel will make them feel special and will likely delight omnivores and carnivores, too.
Other favorites from the Seasonal Pantry archives, some almost-traditional, others, not so much, include two great starters, Holiday Bruschetta and Spicy Sweet Potato Soup with Nutmeg-Cilantro Cream; a beautiful main-course salad, Persimmon, Pomegranate & Lamb Salad with Arugula & Pomegranate Vinaigrette , and what has become a favorite side dish, Brussel Sprout Leaves with Bacon and Shallots.
If you want to grill your turkey, here’s how I do it: Kettle-Grilled Turkey.
And for a nontraditional yet seasonal dessert, try this Cranberry Walnut Tart.