The Most-Unexpected Dishes at Food Network Staffers' Thanksgiving Dinner

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Thanksgiving is all about traditions, from Mom’s signature turkey seasoning and your aunt’s sweet ambrosia salad to Grandma’s now-famous pumpkin pie. Each family has its own list of dishes that just has to be on the table for it to feel like the holiday — and some of those picks are downright unexpected, going well beyond the requisite mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. We checked in with Food Network staffers to find out the most-surprising items on their turkey day tables.

“Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating family and friends, and what’s more convivial than a fondue pot? While Sunny Anderson used one to keep gravy warm, I have used it to serve the entire dinner. Rather than put together a heaping plate of food for everyone, cut everything into bite-sized pieces. Get festive skewers and let everyone dip their turkey, Brussels sprouts, stuffing squares and other veggies into the bubbling gravy. Try this easy fondue recipe.”

— Meaghan Cameron, Site Manager

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“I hate to be the token Korean-American who says the most-unexpected dish on his Thanksgiving table is kimchi. (But the most-unexpected dish on my Thanksgiving table is kimchi.) Thanksgiving in a Korean immigrant household, for my family, at least, means that for one day of the entire year, the moms can sit back, put away their kimchi gloves and let their American kids — all 20 of them — peel potatoes, get beetroot dirt under their nails and make a silly mess of the kitchen. And as chef de cuisine, I’m in charge not just because I’m the best cook, but because I’m the smallest and meanest (and my elbows are really pointy, so they hurt if my big cousins don’t do what I say). Anyway, Korean food isn’t anywhere near as rich and dairy-heavy as Thanksgiving food is, so it makes sense to have on the table a pickle — or a spicy fermented cabbage, like kimchi — to undercut all that deep, pleasurable unctuousness.”

— Eric Kim, Programming Coordinator

“The most-surprising thing about my big Italian family’s Thanksgiving dinner isn’t something that’s on the table — it’s something that’s very clearly missing from our table. We’re big-time pasta people, and we’re known for enjoying a bowl or two at every wedding, funeral, holiday, party, celebration and any random day in between. Except Thanksgiving. That day is all about our favorite all-American recipes, and we have plenty of them. But that doesn’t stop my dad and Uncle Tony from saying they wish we could also have “just one little scoop of pasta” as we sit down to dinner. Every. Single. Year. Perhaps this will be the year we fuse our Italian and American traditions. If we did, we’d likely toss cheese-filled ravioli with Giada De Laurentiis’ Marinara Sauce. It’s easy to make and light — which would be necessary to save room for the turkey.”

— Maria Russo, Online Convergent Editor

“Over the years, my menu has gotten more traditional — brined roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole — but the befores and afters have gotten a little more creative, cute and fun. Last year that meant cute cookie turkeys at each place setting; this year we’ll start the day with cinnamon bun birds before heading into the city for parade-watching.”

— Debra Puchalla, SVP, Digital Programming & Video

“It’s my husband’s family’s tradition to serve fried corn fritters at Thanksgiving each year — not the most-traditional dish but so delicious! They like them sweet and drizzled with maple syrup, but I bet they’d love this savory version from Food Network Magazine too. It has zucchini, garlic and buttermilk for a little tang.”

— Lauren Piro, Food Network Editor

“My family is pretty psycho about Thanksgiving. Every year we spend the days surrounding it in Vermont, surrounded by snow, and we eat so much we’ll take three trips to the grocery store on any given day. Our turkey day spread is on the traditional side — I’m talking oceans of gravy, vats of mashed potatoes, homemade rolls — and of course we have turkey. But we don’t make just one turkey. No, in addition to the brined-and-roasted beauty sitting pretty in our oven, you can find my dad outside on Thanksgiving Day, knee-deep in snow, laboring over a second turkey in the smoker. Why have one when you can have two? The smoky aroma flows from our icy backyard to the kitchen, where we later sit and dig in. With two birds on the table each year, you might say I’m double thankful.”

— Allison Milam, Associate Editor

“My Dutch father-in-law is a chef, so we make it a point to spend as many holiday meals at his table as possible. The seemingly uphill climb down the I-95 corridor from NYC to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., is worth it for his roasted vegetable gravy. Soy sauce, dried mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes rarely find a place on the turkey day shopping list next to cranberries and pumpkin, but they’re absolute essentials. Loaded up with umami flavors and tons of vegetables, this gravy is nothing at all like the thick and goopy (or — even worse — thin and runny) gravies of the jarred varieties. It’s rich, hearty and light on the flour, and it merits being eaten by the ladleful. Pro tip: Roast the veggies in the pan with the turkey because, duh, flavor.” This is what I like to call Not Quite Ype’s but Good Enough Vegetable Gravy.”

— Patrick Decker, Manager, Digital Content