Anyone who has ever had a significant other to share the holidays with knows that the first time away from home for Thanksgiving is a little strange. The gravy tastes different, and mom’s apple-raisin stuffing is nowhere to be found, but there is something special about being invited to sit around a table with a new family.
Ten-year-old me had pretty straightforward Thanksgiving plans. Wake up. Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with dad. Eat a little breakfast, but not too much; don’t want to fill up before the main event! Help mom all day in the kitchen: Boil cranberries with sugar, and watch them pop. Peel mountains of potatoes. Set the table “Martha Stewart style”, as per mom’s request. Observe my brothers play video games and bum around the living room. Skip lunch, and eat dinner at an odd time. Watch brothers collapse on the couch exhausted after a “hard day’s work”.
Nowadays, my husband and I come as a package deal, alternating between in-laws each year. Traditions vary from house to house, but one thing is certain–she (or he) who roasts the turkey rules the roost (at least for a day). The turkey-roaster holds the job of historian and delegator, deciding which traditions to keep, and which to set aside, dictating what goes where, and who makes what.
The Thanksgiving table reflects its eating audience. As our family expands, so does our menu; starting with tradition, and branching off into new dishes that fit our vast array of nutritional needs and tastes.
Some may consider this sacrilege, but I have decided to eschew marshmallows this year. Instead, I’ll roast the yams with a spiced maple glaze. I don’t think the pilgrims would mind. For the vegans of the family, I will make my leek and mushroom wild rice (sans the butter and parmesan, of course). Grandma is making the cranberries–two kinds, but it just doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving unless I whip up a batch on my own. I think a batch of tangerine-ginger cranberry relish is in order. This year, the leftovers come before Thanksgiving!
All three side dishes are traditional enough to sit proudly aside mom’s family stuffing recipe or next to grandma’s roasted turkey, but new enough to mix things up a bit.
This year, Vernie (my grandma in-law) will be making the turkey, and grandpa’s favorite giblet stuffing. This year, traditionalists, turkey-lovers, vegans and vegetarians will unite around our table once again. Next year? Who knows what will be on the table…
Tangerine-Ginger Cranberry Relish
Makes 8-10 servings
- 6 cups cranberries (approx 2 12 oz packages)
- 2 small tangerines (or 1 medium), chopped into half-inch pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 1/3 cup raw walnuts
- 1/2 to 3/4 cups of sugar, to taste
- 1 rounded 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
Toast the Walnuts:
Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the walnuts in the pan until aromatic and golden, tossing and stirring often (Be careful…they will burn as soon as you look away!). Allow to cool slightly before chopping.
Pulse the cranberries in a food processor until finely chopped. Remove to a bowl. Pulse the tangerine pieces until finely chopped. Place in the bowl with the cranberries. Pulse the toasted walnuts until chopped. Add to the bowl. Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl, stir, and serve.
Spiced Maple Glazed Yams
Makes 6 servings
- 2 1/2 pounds yams, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and chopped into 3/4 inch half circles
- 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 2 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch more
- 3/4 cups raw walnut pieces
Roast the Yams:
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. In a large bowl, combine the yams, canola oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Flip the pieces, then roast for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until softened and browned in spots.
Make the Glaze:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the maple syrup and brown sugar, stirring until the brown sugar is dissolved. Add the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
Toast the Walnuts:
Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the walnuts in the pan until aromatic and golden, tossing and stirring often (Be careful…they will burn as soon as you look away!). Allow to cool slightly then roughly chop.
Bake the Yams:
Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚F. Transfer the yams and toasted walnuts to a glass casserole dish. Pour the maple glaze over the yams and toss to coat. Bake for 20-30 minutes longer, or until the yams appear lightly carmelized.
Leek and Mushroom Wild Rice
Serves 8-10 as a side dish
- 1 1/2 cups wild rice (I used a mixture of wild and brown rice)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 6 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved, washed, and thinly sliced
- 5 cups chopped mushrooms (I used crimini, oyster, and shitake)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
- grated zest of one lemon
- juice of one lemon (add to taste)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (omit to make vegan)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- kosher salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (to make vegan, use olive oil only)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/3 cup dry sherry
Cook the wild rice:
Put 1 1/2 cups wild rice and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Saute the vegetables and herbs:
Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until the butter is melted, and the mixture is hot. Saute the onion and leek until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, herbs, and a pinch of kosher salt. Saute for another minute, stirring constantly.
Push the leek-onion mixture to one side of the pan. Add one tablespoon olive oil to the empty side of the pan. Add the mushrooms and salt (to taste) to the empty side of the pan and saute for 2 minutes. Now, stir the leeks and mushrooms together and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked through, but still firm.
Add the sherry, and scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.
Mix the Rice:
Add the leek-mushroom mixture to the bowl with the wild rice. Add the parmigiano, pepper, lemon zest and half of the lemon juice. Stir to combine. Salt to taste. Does it need a little extra wake up? Add more lemon juice and/or salt until the flavors lock in.
And Some More Ideas…
Recipes with asterisks* are recipes I daydream about, but haven’t yet tried
Breads and Rolls: