It’s not a crime to be eclectic at Thanksgiving
What does the Norman Rockwell painting of your traditional Thanksgiving dinner look like? Is there an unusual twist at your table, an odd dish that your family insists on including each year, even though it doesn’t quite fit? Grocery-store shelves might be packed with all the staples—stuffing mix, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, marshmallows, stacks of canned pumpkin and cranberry sauce—but these items certainly don’t cover the full extent of how America, with its 325 million citizens, celebrates Thanksgiving.
The fourth Thursday in November finds us sharing not only classic standbys but unique-yet-delicious sides, main dishes and desserts. We’ve checked in with a few chefs, home cooks and staff members to discover dishes that possess a novel cultural nod, or a tradition, honoring ancestors, cultures and ethnicities. In a broader sense, the traditional meal of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes has no choice but to evolve into “the new American Thanksgiving.” —By Jen Hill
Liver It Up!
David Barboza, owner/chef at Table X
Table X, a fresh and contemporary approach to fine dining in Millcreek, boasts a backyard garden and fresh fixings like house-churned butter and daily-baked hot and rustic loaves. The restaurant was created off the backs of three culinary homies, one of whom is David Barboza, who shares one his own family Thanksgiving traditions. While most of the meal is rather standard, he says, snacks and hors-d’oeuvres—including cheeses, meats, pickles and crackers—stave off hunger during meal preparation.
The highlight of this pre-dinner “meal” is his mother’s chicken-liver pâté, studded with sliced black olives and set on a silver platter with buttery crackers. Visually appealing to him, Barboza admits that as a youngster, as soon as it was set on the table, he would consume at least a third of the dish before dinner. Even now, Barboza continues to prepare this savory prelude every Thanksgiving. —By Jen Hill
Eggplant From the Garden
Heather Peeters, urban farmer/ owner of Solstice Spices
Heather Peeters and her family love to cook. If you were to question this claim, glance at her work on the stunning Solstice Spices Instagram feed, where being a serious “farm-to-slow-cook-foodie” is apparent. The family passion literally grew from several urban gardens around various local backyards to a more centralized location, allowing them to sell produce and host farm-to-table events. Solstice Spices’ organic produce is sold at farmers markets along with their unique spice blends, of which Garlic Herb has a loyal cult-like following.
This Thanksgiving, with new garden high tunnels installed, Peeters says she hopes to extend the growing season enough to harvest eggplant past the first frost of mid-October, allowing them to include an unusual but favorite family farm-to-table side dish, Ping Tung eggplant.
Simmered in coconut milk with basil, Ping Tung eggplant is, as described by Peeters, “the perfect balance of sweet, savory, tangy, creamy and spicy.” Going along with the growing theme, Peeters always likes to bring something from the garden to the table.
This Thanksgiving, consider fending off the turkey-day tryptophan-induced coma with these unusual side dishes, cheers!
—By Jen Hill
Family Fave: Funeral Potatoes
It might not have been served on the Pilgrims’ table, but I always make funeral potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. Our shift in potato preferences began after I came across a funeral-potato recipe in a cookbook crafted by a group of women from Walker Lane in Holladay.
The next Thanksgiving, I made the dish alongside my usual mashed potatoes. Surprisingly, the funeral potatoes were a big hit. The next Thanksgiving, I again made both types of potatoes, and again, funeral potatoes were the winner.
The next Thanksgiving, I made only funeral potatoes—which I’ve done every year since. The texture of the hash browns blending with cream of chicken soup, cheddar cheese, sour cream and green onions beneath a crunchy, cornflake topping complements our otherwise traditional turkey dinner. Here is my cherished funeral potato recipe:
1 32-ounce package frozen hash browns
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 small carton sour cream
1/3 cup chopped green onions
¼ stick butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed Corn Flakes
½ stick butter
In a large bowl, mix hash browns, soup, sour cream, onions and grated cheese. Melt ½ stick butter in large casserole dish. Add potato mixture. Combine Corn Flake crumbs and ¼ stick butter, spread on top. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
—By Carolyn Campbell
Germany Meets Italy
I grew up in a family with strong Italian influences. My grandmother was 100 percent Italian and cooked most of our large family meals—Thanksgiving, in particular. My grandfather, who was of German descent, grew up with different traditions, and found a way to work some of his German favorites into the Thanksgiving dinner. (I think push met shove in the kitchen one Thanksgiving, and the Italians were enlightened.)
Sliced Sausage Stuffing
It comes as no surprise that my grandfather’s dishes include German staples such as sausage and cabbage. Sausage stuffing has been a tradition in my family since my grandfather was a kid—we do not know or accept any substitutions. In fact, if you marry into the family, you will quickly learn our food traditions are not to be messed with, as eclectic as they might seem.
Our stuffing consists of toasted bread, link sausage, a trio of sautéed vegetables and a seasoning blend of sage, poultry seasoning and salt and pepper. This combination of goodness is then moistened with turkey stock and stuffed in the bird. My father, now at the helm, makes an additional side car of stuffing, as moist sandwiches are always on the menu for leftovers.
Sweet & Sour Cabbage
The other German dish on the table is sweet and sour cabbage. With a beautiful purple hue created by the secret ingredient (grape jelly. Yes, grape jelly), this dish is simmered with red apples and apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper for over an hour. It adds a pop of color to your plate and complements the meal with both a sweet and savory enhancement. As with some traditional family dishes, it’s is more of an acquired taste, and we do not know its exact origin or how long the grape jelly been around. We allow visitors to pass, although most find it delicious. We find it pairs well with the Italian anchovy bread.
1 medium red cabbage (about 3 pounds)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar or more, according to taste
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 red apples, peeled, cored and chopped (optional)
½ cup grape jelly
Shred cabbage very fine after discarding tough outer leaves. In heavy kettle, melt butter. Add sugar, but do not brown. Add cabbage and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add vinegar, water, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until cabbage is very tender. Stir occasionally, and if necessary, add water to prevent scorching. When cabbage is almost tender, add apples, if desired, and grape jelly. Cabbage should be quite sweet-sour. If necessary, add more sugar or vinegar, a little at a time. Simmer covered for 30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Serve with roast goose or duck. Best if made a day ahead and reheated slowly.
—By Aimee L. Cook
Sweet Treat: Patate Douce
Thanksgiving in South Louisiana is all about traditional Cajun culinary treats. It wasn’t until I moved away from home that I realized we did things differently than the rest of the country. To this day, I wonder why we don’t eat these delightful dishes throughout the year. I guess the celebration is what makes them special.
My mom was a great home cook, and her Thanksgiving (and Christmas) side dishes were in high demand. She enjoyed cooking for the holidays so much, I imagine we were eating the love she put into the food. One of my favorite side dishes (then and now) is a warm and sweet dish adorned with a crunchy topping that we call (in Cajun French) patate douce, which translates to “sweet potato.”
Even though sweet potatoes grow in abundance down South, Mom always used a 32-ounce can of Bruce’s yams, cooked and canned in juice. These are not yams at all but are, in fact, sweet potatoes (a botany lesson for another day).
Dress It Up as You See Fit
This warm, beautiful vegetable casserole has a surprisingly sweet, nutty crunch in the topping that tastes more like dessert than a vegetable. The dish is served on just about every Cajun family’s table for Thanksgiving. Some add marshmallows (we don’t), some serve it in a pie crust (we never do), and some serve it stuffed into hollowed out orange shells and light them on fire. My personal addition to the basic recipe is a big splash of Cointreau liqueur, which adds a lovely orange essence.
After moving to Utah in my 30s and attending my first Thanksgiving dinner party, I noticed mashed potatoes everywhere! What’s special about that? I hesitantly placed my traditional dish of patate douce on the table, which was met with some raised eyebrows (it’s not the prettiest dish).
I recall one gentleman staring at the dish with trepidation when I put it on the table, saying, “I’ll just have a little taste. I don’t care for yams.” I watched him later dig in for two more servings.
Every year, I continue to make my patate douce, and it’s enthusiastically lapped up. It’s a hit with young and old alike, probably because it can easily pass as dessert. My favorite way to eat it? The morning after, for breakfast—cold and in a bowl. Give it a try, I’m sure it will quickly become one of your traditional dishes to celebrate the harvest and give thanks for your many blessings as well.
Rebecca’s Patate Douce
3 cups cooked sweet potatoes or 1 32-ounce can of Bruce’s Yams
½ cup cane sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ stick butter, melted
½ cup evaporated milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons Cointreau (optional)
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
Zest of ½ orange
Crunch Topping Ingredients
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 stick cold butter
1 cup chopped pecans
• Beat egg with fork in large bowl. Add sweet potatoes and mash, keeping some bits un-mashed for better texture. Add half the juice from the can. Add in the rest of the ingredients, gently stirring after each addition. Pour mixture into 8-by-8 casserole or baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until set.
• Combine the crunch-topping ingredients by using two forks to cut in the butter into the other ingredients. It will soften. Sprinkle mixture gently on top of the sweet potato casserole. Do not press down! Continue to bake until crunchy, about 20-30 minutes—keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. It should be deep brown in color and bubbly.
• This serves 8-10 guests, or 6 Cajuns. It easily doubles to serve a crowd in a larger casserole dish and converts to gluten- and dairy-free with substitutes (but butter in the topping is best).
• To stuff oranges with the mixture, cut 8 Valencia oranges in half and use the pulp for another dish. Fill the oranges with sweet potato mixture, line orange cups in a baking dish face up. Add topping carefully in the center of each cup and after topping is crunchy, remove from the oven. Light them on fire with a sprinkle of Cointreau for an impressive dessert.
—By Rebecca Ory Hernandez