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Avant-garde Thanksgiving recipes?


My friend is a great cook. She had Thanksgiving dinner with her in-laws for the 1st time last year. She did most of the cooking. She is a very adventurous cook & finds most of the classic T-day recipes to be boring. So she made a savory sweet potato gratin w/onions, and did a spicy rub on the skin of the turkey, among other things. Her mother-in-law shows up with a sweet-potato marshmallow casserole & is horrified with the dinner my friend has prepared. She says in all her "50 years of Thanksgivings, this is the worst Thanksgiving dinner EVER!" As you can imagine, things got pretty ugly after that.

Well, my friend is doing a Thanksgiving party next weekend for all her friends, where she can be as experimental as she wants. She's asking people to bring either an appetizer or dessert. I've been looking thru my cookbooks, but I figured you hounds would have some good ideas, for twist on T-day stuff, or just some interesting Fall recipes in general. Thanks!!

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  1. How about a pumpkin or butternut squash ravioli with sage butter?

    On another note, I am sure many of us CHer's can relate to the not so subtle shock on our family's faces when we attempt to introduce a variation to Thanksgiving : )

    3 Replies
    1. re: mtleahy

      Yep--my relatives did a totally different Thanksgiving a few years back, and my dad (who HATES turkey) asked afterward, "Why can't we have NORMAL Thanksgiving food?"

      If you've got a group of friends that will put up with the experimentation, though, that's wonderful.

      1. re: revsharkie

        my kids asked if we were going to have "good" t-day food, along with our Asian-Styled eats

      2. re: mtleahy

        I was gonna suggest sweet potato pierogies, but ravioli are pretty similar. If you want to go crazy different, you could switch the s.p. for chestnuts, or mess with the seasonings - it would taste great with Northern African flavours.

      3. I'm not even going to waste my time on my opinion of your friend's m-i-l or any guest pronouncing any meal "the worst," family or not. Believe me, I really do like a lot of the sort of standard Thanksgiving fare, but I am all in favor of twisting things here and there, though nothing super-spicy for me regardless of the occasion. What I don't do well with on Thanksgiving is not varying from the usual, it's the "healthy" cooks who decide "no-fat" this and "low-fat" that. I am happy they are healthy. BUT IT'S THANKSGIVING. I want my rich and creamy food on the day of all food days.

        All of that said, I often do the bulk of Thanksgiving with my sister. Knowing the audience, we don't go too extreme, but I bet we could get the family to try the ravioli, so maybe we're not hopeless...Last year, I tried a sweet potato souffle in phyllo from the Martha Stewart site. I am not always a fan of her stuff, but this looked pretty safe. It's great. Really tastes good. The only thing is that it is a bit labor-intensive. I hope the link works, otherwise, you can go on the site and do a search for "sweet potato souffle pie" and it comes up.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Shayna Madel

          Couple years back my mom made cranberry sauce, as usual, for Christmas dinner; but she was on this diet, so she made it sugar-free, with Splenda. Said "Oh, you've got to try this; it's even better than with sugar, I think!"

          It wasn't.

        2. Some interesting non-traditional ideas came up in this post, don't know if you saw it:

          1. Try making sweet potato gnocchi with a brown butter sauce flavored with pumpkin pie spice. Top it with pecans and pecorino: it's a sort of strange savory take on sweet potato pie. Another idea would be to make sweet potato blinis: you can make savory by topping it off with sage creme fraiche and bacon or you can make it sweet by adding some mascarpone with whipped cream and sweetened with maple, top it off with roasted salted pecans. Good luck.

            8 Replies
            1. re: digkv

              how do you make a sage creme fraiche?

              1. re: alkapal

                I would steep some sage leaves in water, broth, or heavy cream - let it cool, then stir into the creme fraiche.

                1. re: alkapal

                  Just mix some fresh, finely chopped sage in with the creme fraiche

                  1. re: diablo

                    jnstarla, won't that dilute/loosen the texture quite a bit? too much?

                    diablo, chopped fresh sage -- even finely chopped -- doesn't get stuck in the teeth?

                    1. re: alkapal

                      You heat a little creme fraiche up until it is smooth and then add some blanched sage leaves into a blender along with the heated creme. You blend until the sage leaves are evenly chopped. Let it cool down in the fridge and then fold it into some whipped creme fraiche. I'm not sure if you can whip heated creme fraiche up so that's why you might just have to fold it in.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Yeah, but it seemed a better idea than steeping :)

                        1. re: diablo

                          I thought the steeping thing might work, depending on how much liquid you used and how thick you want your creme fraiche to be. Or you could steep them in cream and then blenderize/beat it to make it thick...

                          Now I really want to mess with this steeping thing to see if it works! :)

                2. pumpernickel & apple bacon sausage with loads of fall dried herbs, married in a wine and stock broth makes for a delicious stuffing.

                  1. I'm taking Elvis cake. I'm thinkin' it's related to Thanksgiving because he looked like a guy who liked Thanksgiving. Aren't bananas and peanut butter Thanksgiving traditions?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: yayadave

                      I have a really easy and delicious app....it's olives bruised and marinated with fennel seeds, orange zest, feta cheese, chili flakes and some other stuff. Good, tasty olive oil is poured over it and it sits in the fridge for a couple of days. It's amazingly delicious, especially with some crusty warm baguette slices. The recipe is online somewhere. It's probably also on this board since I've posted about it before. I'll look for more specific info.

                      Found it:

                      1 tblsp whole cumin seeds
                      2 tsps whole coriander seeds
                      1 tsp dried crushed red pepper*
                      2 minced garlic cloves
                      2 tsps grated orange peel
                      1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil (I eyeball this and use less. You want a bit of dipping liquid, but not a soup)
                      10 ounces assorted brine-cured green and black olives
                      2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
                      8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled into mixture

                      Pound the olives a bit with a mallet to break some of them open a bit - nothing violent here. Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Put in a plastic or glass container in the fridge for up to a couple of days.

                      *I use less red pepper - 1/2 tsp. unless I know my guests like spicy stuff.

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        I think I've died and gone to heaven. Adding these to my menu! Thanks, Joan.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          I'm using this process with eggplant for Thanksgiving Eve (marinated eggplant Livia, Silver Palate). Marinade is 1 1/2 c olive oil, lots of black pepper (at least a Tbsp), 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar, a few cloves crushed garlic, hot chili flakes (I used a tsp). Cut the eggplant very very thin (a taxing but fun process), abt 1/8" the long way, and layer in a colander, salting. Weight with a BIG heavy pot for an hour, rinse, pat dry with paper towels. Then layer the eggplant in a bowl, spooning the marinade so it covers the egpplant evenly. Into fridge for three days. They use it for a sandwich with ricotta, prosciutto, arugula, etc but knowing my family, we will also end up just spooning it on crostini. I'll report back on how it turns out - smells awesome.

                      2. I would make truffle mashed potatoes. Mash potatoes as usual, add butter, cream, some parmesean (maybe half a cup) and a couple of glugs of truffle oil. So good and impressive!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jewels_vancouver

                          Jewels - my Mother has been preparing her "mashers" using truffle oil for the past several years, & I must say, they are a show stopper time & time again !

                        2. Sweet potato biscuits are soooo good.

                          If you like making bread, how about a twist on the old brown-n-serve rolls? You can make brioche knots and put out honey butter if you want to go sweet, or if you want to go savory, you could make jalapeno cheese rolls.

                          I guess bread and butter might not be construed as an appetizer. For appetizers, I'm thinking fish ... you could also do salmon mousse on slices of cucumber or crostini, or smoked trout with horseradish cream garnished with watercress.

                          For dessert ... how about a pumpkin pie or cake decorated with a spicy pumpkin seed praline or brittle? So many fun options.

                          1. I think some homemade crystallized chestnuts (Marrons Glacé) would be a nice impressive dessert item to bring...

                            1. Just looking up different kinds of desserts myself and came across a Creamy Pumpkin Custard with Golden Raisin Compote from the new cookbook Dolce Italiano. I'm giving that one serious thought.

                              1. Our tradition is no hors d'oeuvres at Thanksgiving - just cashews & Veuve Clicquot or Kirs Royales; I mix one teaspoon of cassis per glass of Champagne.

                                Too many nibblies before the sit-down will ruin the appetence !

                                Our "cuisine vanguard" this year will be our first course, Carolina she-crab soup (lump backfin bulging over-the-top),
                                blue crab broth—spanish sherry—old bay—sweet cream !

                                1. Although, not entirely T-Day, maybe more fall oriented & not too crazy-
                                  Phyllo Dough or Puff Pastry w/ a caramelized onion, blue cheese, walnut & pear filling...
                                  You could make them into cigars, triangles, etc...
                                  They were a hit @ a fundraiser I catered.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: dbug31

                                    i like the cigars idea. easy!!!

                                    1. re: dbug31

                                      oh D-Bug - yum - anything with puff pastry is a-ok in my book.
                                      Still love the elegant pigs-in-a-blanket, aka, lamb sausages in puff pastry !

                                    2. I have been thinking of doing the “classic” green bean casserole… but without using canned stuff. Has anyone tried this? Is it possible to make this really good?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: firecooked

                                        As it happens, firecooked, Alton Brown (who else?) did.


                                        I've never been a fan of g.b.c., but after reading the recipe for his version, this could change.

                                        1. re: MaggieRSN

                                          I saw the Good Eats episode. It looked wonderful. I would have fought Alton Brown for that casserole - fork to fork!
                                          But a few years ago, I made GBC from scratch with no processed stuff. Really good if I do say so myself. Got nothing but whining that it didn't taste like "the real thing." Maybe people have "expectations" of what something is supposed to taste like.
                                          Now at T'giving, I tear the stupid recipe out of magazine, follow it like a damned slave and everybody swoons like a bunch of morons.

                                          1. re: MaggieRSN

                                            Thanks... definately will try this at Christmas, when the part of the familty that "must" have GBC gets together!

                                          2. re: firecooked

                                            I make a version that calls for a white sauce base, then add freshly sauteed mushrooms, and use crispy shallots on top.

                                          3. Martha Stewart has a great recipe in her appetizers book. Roast a bunch of root veggies (turnips, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets) in half-inch cubes. skewer with toothpicks and serve with a heavily-anchovied and garlicky bagna cauda sauce.

                                            AWESOME. You can serve the bagna cauda in little espresso cups and have the skewered root veggies on tiny plates. Perfect finger food and soooooooooooo good.

                                            1. The West Indian pumpkin dish I make is always popular. Don't have the recipe with me, but it's basically steamed pumpkin or squash mashed up and sauteed with green onions, garlic, scotch bonnet peppers, and some nutmeg and allspice. Kinda spicy, but delicious and really not too jarringly different from traditional thanksgiving fare, since it's using squash....