Thanksgiving 2020 is already a different animal (please forgive the pun, vegetarians). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are avoiding travel and get-togethers. It’s also been a year of culinary experimentation for many people since stay-at-home orders have increased home cooking.
In the spirit of embracing the once-in-a-lifetime nature of Thanksgiving 2020, we present some different takes on traditional dishes. These recipes combine the diverse food cultures of some of the many immigrant groups that call the United States of America home. Bon appétit, y’all!
- Wampanoag Porridge
- Cuban Turkey Criolla
- Sticky Rice Stuffing
- Pumpkin Empanadas
- Southern Greens
- Pumpkin Challah
It’s not really possible to find recipes from the first Thanksgiving. There are educated guesses based on historical recipes, however. This warm and hearty porridge makes a great breakfast for the morning of a dinnertime feast—or for the morning after, if you indulged in too much of everything. This recipe is an adaptation of a traditional Wampanoag tribal recipe. For other Indigenous American recipes, check out The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.
Nasaump with Berries and Nuts
(from Many Hoops Blog)
- 11/2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (or combination)
- 1/2 cup crushed walnut, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds (or combination)
- 1 quart water
- maple syrup or sugar (optional)
- Combine cornmeal, berries, and nuts (and optional sweetener) in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn heat down to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
Cuban Americans like to treat their turkeys as they treat their favorite protein—pork. This turkey recipe comes from my own mother in Miami. For the record, Cuban cooking is in no way similar to Mexican cooking (and also for the record, Mexico has many regional cuisines). This produces a juicy turkey due to being marinated overnight with mojo, a traditional Cuban concoction that combines citrus, onions, and garlic.
Cuban Turkey Criolla
(courtesy of Alicia Marti-Rodríguez)
- ½ cup melted butter
- ½ cup olive oil
- 8 garlic cloves
- Grated rind of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon salt
- I teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (some cooks use a mixture of grapefruit, orange, and lime juice)
- 1 10 – 12 pound turkey
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Rind of ½ orange
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small onion spiked with 2 cloves
- Slices of bacon to cover turkey (optional)
- Make the marinade by combining ingredients in food processor or blender and mixing well.
- Prepare the turkey by separating the skin from the flesh (run your hands between them gently). Season the turkey well with the adobo (outside, beneath the skin, and inside the cavity). Put cheesecloth packet of cinnamon, orange rind, and bay leaf in cavity, along with onion. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove turkey from refrigerator and let sit 1 hour before cooking.
- Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up, and cover the breast with aluminum foil until the last hour of roasting (Note: Cuban American cooks disagree about the turkey position, and some argue for cooking the turkey breast side down to keep it juicy). Roast unstuffed turkey 15 minutes per pound, basting every 20 minutes. Turkey is done when temperature reaches 180 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove seasoning packet before serving.
- If using optional bacon, cover the whole turkey body (not legs) with strips of bacon halfway through roasting (if roasting breast up). Remove bacon before serving turkey.
Asian cuisine is known for its mix of flavors: sweet and savory, spicy, even sour. The same goes for Asian-inspired Thanksgiving sides. This Chinese-inspired recipe puts a spin on the classic Thanksgiving stuffing by combining a blend of sticky rice, sweet Chinese sausage, smoky mushrooms, and crunchy water chestnuts. The end product is an exotic flavor with a comforting taste.
Sticky Rice Stuffing
(from Maggie at the Omnivore’s Cookbook)
- 2 1/2 cups glutinous rice (long grain or short grain sticky rice)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large shallots, sliced (or 1 onion)
- 8 to 10 (about 0.7 oz / 20 g) dried shiitake mushrooms , medium-sized (*Footnote)
- 5 links (7 oz / 200 g) Chinese sausage, sliced
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing Chinese wine (or dry sherry)
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole water chestnuts, sliced
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce (or soy sauce)
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
- Day before cooking: Cover rice and water in a large bowl. Rinse the rice in a swirling motion, then drain the water. Add water to cover the rice with 1” (2 cm) of water. Soak at room temperature overnight. Drain thoroughly before cooking.
- Day of prep: Heat 1 cup of water in the microwave until hot. Add the dried shiitake mushrooms. Soak until the mushrooms turn soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Once done, squeeze the liquid out of the mushrooms into the soaking water. Slice the mushrooms thinly. Reserve the soaking water for cooking. Cut the rest of the ingredients while rehydrating the mushrooms.
- Cooking: Heat the butter in a 4-quart dutch oven (or tight-sealing heavy pot) over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the shallot and shiitake mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions turn golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add the Chinese sausage. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
- Pour in the Shaoxing wine. Use your spatula to release any brown bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has evaporated completely.
- Add the rice. Stir to mix the rice evenly with the other ingredients. Add the chicken stock and salt. Stir to mix well. Add the water chestnuts. Pour in the soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Gently stir a few times to mix the soy sauce.
- Cook until the liquid comes to a low simmer. Turn to very low heat and cover the dutch oven. Steam until the rice is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover the pan and taste the rice at the 20-minute mark. If the rice still has a bit of a raw texture, let it cook for another 5 minutes.
- Once done, uncover the pan and stir with a rice paddle or spatula to fluff the rice. Garnish the stuffing with sliced green onions.
- Serve hot as a side. This dish can be cooked 1 to 2 days in advance. Reheat it in the same dutch oven in a 350 ℉ (176 ℃) oven with the lid on until warm. You can reheat it in the microwave, too. To heat it evenly, be sure to stir the rice several times over the course of reheating.
Mexican-Style Thanksgiving Fiesta
The staples of most Mexican-inspired recipes are rich spices and bold flavors. This recipe in particular adds a unique taste to one of Mexico’s most traditional dishes—the empanada. These small pockets of dough are filled with a variety of savory and sweet ingredients, such as chicken, beef, and cheese, and either baked or fried. Created by a Colorado-based chef, this recipe is on the sweeter side.
(from Yvette Marquex-Sharpnack, Colorado-based chef and award-winning food blogger)
Pumpkin Filling Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed firmly
- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Empanada Dough Ingredients:
- 3 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup shortening
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening with the dry ingredients. Works better if you use your hands. Add the eggs, milk and sugar. Continue to work in with your hands. Split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes.
- Take out one half of the dough and split it into 12-18 balls of dough, depending on how small you want your empanadas. I prefer one dozen per half of the dough. They also fit nicely on one large cookie sheet.
Filling and Baking Instructions:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You can fill your empanadas with any preserves made ahead of time.
- Roll out the dough into small round circles. Add a small dollop of filling on one half of the rolled out dough. Wet the bottom edge of the dough with water to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to seal. Seal off the edges with a fork by pressing down along the two edges. This also makes for a pretty pattern when baked.
- Brush each empanada with egg whites, sprinkle with sugar and puncture each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, place the empanadas on the cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes on medium rack in the oven. If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes.
Dishes you might see on the Thanksgiving menu in Southern states include macaroni and cheese, potato salad, cornbread dressing, giblet gravy, and honey-baked ham. If you see something green on the table, don’t say, “Pass the spinach,” because it could be anything from collard greens to dandelion greens (but not spinach).
Mrs. Wilkes Turnip Greens
(from Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, culinary institution in Savannah, GA)
- 1 bunch fresh turnip greens with roots
- 1 medium piece salt pork
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings, butter, or margarine
- Pinch of sugar (optional)
- Strip the stems from the greens (unless very tender) and wash thoroughly.
- Place in saucepan and add pork, water, and salt. Cook, covered, for 45 minutes over medium heat, or until tender.
- Remove the pork and drain the greens.
- Place greens in a pan and chop scissor-like with two knives. Add more salt if necessary.
- Keep hot, add bacon drippings and pinch of sugar.
In 1863 and 2013, the American holiday of Thanksgiving coincided with the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hannukkah. Hence, Thanksgivukkah was born. This neo-festivity popularized some interesting mashups in the 21st century, including the Sweet Potato Latke—you can find many versions on Jewish food blogs. But we’re going to choose another Thanksgivukkah recipe that’s more in keeping with the baking revolution of 2020.
(from What Jew Wanna Eat blog)
- 1 package active dry yeast about 2 1/4 teaspoons
- 1/2 cup warm water about 110 degrees F
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 1 teaspoon
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk for the dough whisked and 1 egg yolk for the glaze
- 4 – 4 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed you may need a little more or less
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Pumpkin seeds poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc. for garnish
For complete instructions on the process, please visit the Pumpkin Challah recipe on Amy Kritzer Becker’s blog.