The traditional Thanksgiving often follows a fairly predictable pattern, with dishes such as turkey, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce gracing the table year after year. If you’re looking for a way to change things up this year, try starting with your menu. Shake off the standard dishes and update your Thanksgiving dinner with fresh new options that may soon become cherished favorites. Today’s typical Thanksgiving is a far cry from the first feast anyway, so there’s no reason not to create new traditions and make this holiday your own.
Take Turkey Off the Table
It’s impossible to think of Thanksgiving without picturing turkey in some form, whether it’s images of the parade float, construction paper crafts, or a golden roasted bird on the table. However, turkey isn’t as popular as you might assume. One study found that 65% of Americans want an alternative to turkey for their Thanksgiving feast. Chicken, ham, and roast beef are all popular alternatives to the quintessential Thanksgiving bird, but they are far from your only options.
If you’re interested in authenticity, documents dating back to the first Thanksgiving indicate that wildfowl graced the table — likely goose or duck. Martha Hoover, an Indianapolis restaurateur, told Time she planned to feature Peking duck in her own personal Thanksgiving dinner.
If you prefer to stay traditional, roast your holiday duck in a manner similar to your turkey. Honey, red wine, and balsamic vinegar make delicious glazes, and orange, ginger, and garlic flavors complement duck nicely. Duck has a higher fat content and richer flavor than turkey, so you should plan for guests to consume smaller servings and offer an abundance of sides to round out the meal.
Stock Up on Seafood
Seafood doesn’t always make the list of classic Thanksgiving dishes, but perhaps it should. Though we have little documentation regarding the first Thanksgiving menu, we know it included bass and cod. Other types of seafood, such as eel and shellfish, were likely included since these were common foods for colonists.
Try updating your own holiday festivities with modern seafood dishes, such as oyster pie and crab cakes. You could also try swapping out your typical stuffing for an oyster stuffing. Travis and Ryan Croxton of the Rappahannock Oyster Co. recommend a rich oyster stuffing with bacon-scallion cream sauce, which is one of their own Thanksgiving favorites, calling to mind the distinctive flavor of Chesapeake Bay. This interesting update could soon become your new go-to for Thanksgiving dinner.
Update Your Cranberry Classics
Canned cranberry sauce frequently appears on standard Thanksgiving tables, but this uninspired dish doesn’t do justice to this autumnal berry’s bright, engaging flavor. Showcase cranberries the way they deserve by featuring them in a creative appetizer or bold dessert. As a starter, cranberries pair perfectly with rich cheeses, such as Brie. Try topping a puff pastry with fig preserves, Brie, and fresh cranberries for unbeatable flavor.
If you want to keep cranberries in the lineup of side dishes, try using them to make sweet and spicy cranberry jalapeno muffins or incorporate them into a casserole. The tart flavor of cranberries pairs well with the smooth sweetness of butternut squash, and you can add a savory kick with feta cheese on top for a flavorful side that just screams fall.
For dessert, try incorporating the fresh flavor of cranberries alongside or instead of more traditional options, such as pumpkin and pecan. Try serving your guests cranberry orange pie or cranberry chocolate cheesecake to make things more interesting this year.
Go For Fresh Green Beans
For many families, the traditional green bean casserole consists primarily of dumping cans of green beans and cream of mushroom soup into a dish topped with French fried onions. Say goodbye to the canned beans this year and opt for freshly trimmed green beans for a fresher flavor. You can move away from the cream of mushroom soup and make your own using half-and-half, chicken stock, butter, and flour, with fresh sliced mushrooms making a bolder appearance.
Bacon and cherry tomatoes also make great additions to a green bean casserole. You could try adding sliced onions to your green beans and swapping the crispy onions on top for a crunchy panko breadcrumb crust. The options are endless, and your guests will likely appreciate a change.
Serve Sweet Potatoes Outside a Casserole
Marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole is a classic Thanksgiving dish that originated in the south. Too sticky sweet for many, this dish can give the antioxidant-rich sweet potato a bad rap. This potato has ample sweetness on its own, so you don’t need to add a lot of sugar for a delicious dish. Instead, pair the potato with more savory ingredients and rescue it from the syrupy casserole.
Try roasted sweet potato stacks as an innovative alternative. Sliced thin and paired with rosemary, salt, pepper, and butter, these potatoes take on a whole new look and feel. If you have an air fryer, you can also try frying up sweet potatoes stuffed with spinach, bacon, onion, and cheese.
Pull Pumpkin From the Pie
If pie and other desserts are the only places you’ve really experienced the flavor of pumpkin, you’re missing out on a world of culinary delights. Try pulling pumpkin all the way back to the first or second course of your Thanksgiving meal with a curried pumpkin soup that balances sweet flavors, such as honey and nutmeg, with a savory twist from onion, mushrooms, and curry powder.
For an eye-catching option, roast small sugar pumpkins and stuff them with a rich mushroom and kale filling. Pumpkin also goes well with pasta or risotto. Try adding it to your mac and cheese casserole along with other veggies, such as roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. You’ll never look at a pumpkin the same way again.
Do you have more ideas for how to update your holiday traditions? Contact our team at Huffines CJDR Plano and let us know! We love hearing your original recommendations so we can pass them on to our customers.