Best New Twists on Thanksgiving Traditions
The best part of traditional Thanksgiving dishes is that they take well to seasonings from around the world — where all Americans come from! To get a taste of America in your feast, start by getting your ingredients from local farms if you can. Then, incorporate the flavors of your heritage and those you’re celebrating with.
One way to experiment with turkey is to change the way you cook it. Take a cue from the American South and try smoking or deep-frying the whole bird. For an extra-juicy turkey, try steaming the turkey in the Chinese tradition. Caribbean-style jerk cooking will ensure that every bite is full of big flavor. So will hot sauce. You can stick to roasting the bird and spice it up with store-bought hot sauce. Fiery blends come from all over the globe: Louisiana’s Tabasco, Asia’s Sriracha (made in California by a company founded there!), North Africa’s harissa, Mexico’s salsa. Mix just a bit with a lot of softened butter and spread it under the skin of the turkey. As the bird roasts and is basted, it’ll be infused with just enough fiery heat to make it extra tasty. If you’re serving a table full of chile-heads, you can even add a dash or two of hot sauce to the gravy.
Just as different countries make different hot sauces, they also produce a wide range of cured meats, ideal for a savory punch in the stuffing. Brown and add Italian sweet links, Polish kielbasa, German bratwurst, American andouille or Moroccan merguez to a classic onion-and-celery bread stuffing. For rice dressings, try Chinese laap cheung or Spanish chorizo. Match the sausages to the rice of their country of origin, from jasmine to bomba or cebolla rice.
Sweet potatoes taste great roasted plain — and even better when seasoned with herbs and spices. Toss slices with oil or melted butter and coat with the flavors of your choice before roasting. Go French with rosemary and thyme or Latin with coriander, both dried and fresh. An Italian mix of garlic and red chile flakes couldn’t be easier, nor could an Indian sprinkle of garam masala. You can glaze the roasted sweet potatoes with an easy Japanese teriyaki sauce or a Thai coconut curry one just before serving.
Mashed potatoes may seem immune to change, but even they benefit from a bit of a twist. For a Mediterranean take on the spuds, swap half of the butter for good extra virgin olive oil. For an Irish one, double down on the butter and use the high-fat variety from Europe. Classic French potatoes turn out extra silky because first the potatoes are riced through a food mill or ricer, and then hot cream and butter are gently folded into them.
Cranberry sauce may be the easiest side dish to tweak — and make. Simply simmer fresh berries with sugar, water and any spices you want. Whole cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, star anise, fennel seeds, anise seeds, nutmeg, cloves, juniper berries and allspice all lend aromatic intrigue to the tangy-sweet blend. You can further enhance it with citrus peel and juice, and, if you’d like, a shot of booze. Rum, bourbon, brandy or any other dark liquor adds a rich depth.
These twists on tradition keep the spirit of the original dishes while introducing new flavors and, possibly, creating new traditions for future feasts. Every family makes unique Thanksgiving memories in the kitchen. Explore stories from real American kitchens with Our American Kitchen from GE Appliances, a film series exploring the heart of American life.