Thanksgiving is all about spending time with loved ones and eating—lots and lots of eating—but you can probably only stomach so much traditional holiday fare. If you’re hosting Friendsgiving this year, a pre- or post-Thanksgiving meal with your social circle, consider switching things up by throwing an international-themed celebration. We asked top chefs to tell us how to take classic Thanksgiving ingredients or dishes and encase them in global flavors that you definitely won’t see on your usual Thanksgiving table.
Turkey Two Ways
Even an international Friendsgiving needs a succulent roast turkey as the centerpiece, but there’s no rule that says that’s the only way you can eat the bird. “Asian-Americans tend to look forward to leftover turkey congee, a rice porridge, more than the turkey itself,” says Danielle Chang, cookbook author and LUCKYRICE founder.
A turkey carcass is traditionally used to infuse the rice and water mixture with a hearty dose of flavor, so if served as a pre-meal appetizer, pick up a separate small turkey to create this dish, or just use legs and wings you can buy separately. Top it with chopped scallions, shaved fresh ginger, a swirl of soy sauce, and a squirt of sriracha if you like some heat.
Pomegranates are a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, and the tiny, juicy arils add the perfect pop of sweetness and tartness to any savory dish. “POM POMs stuffed squash are delicious and perfect for veggie lovers. They add an elegant touch to any dish,” says Tara Bench, food and entertaining expert and POM Wonderful culinary expert. Stuff the squash with a mixture of roasted veggies, quinoa, and pomegranate arils for an easy side, or use the pomegranate seeds for garnish as in this Hasselback butternut squash recipe:
Or roast off some halved brussels sprouts with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and a pinch of sea salt, then toss in a handful of pomegranate seeds right before serving.
Globalize Your Gravy
One of the easiest ways to impart international flavor is to add it to your gravy. “Add ground spices to the roux for your turkey gravy,” says Molly Siegler, associate coordinator of culinary development for Whole Foods Market. “Try Aji Amarillo for a Peruvian influence or a pinch of allspice as a nod to Jamaica.”
Peacock Gravy Boat, $38.50 on Amazon
Go global in another way with this gravy boat handmade in Poland.
Brine Your Turkey
Bathing your turkey in a brine pre-oven not only increases your chances of producing a perfectly moist bird, it’s also an opportunity to sneak in surprising flavors. “Make a brine with cinnamon and star anise, which brings some Vietnamese qualities. Or, add general Asian flavors like ginger, onion, and garlic,” says Pat Sheerin, executive chef of Ace Hotel Chicago.
Or, make a boozy brine. “For as long as I can remember, my mother has been brining her turkey in a simple Kosher salt and water mixture that has a few cups of tequila added,” says Glenda Galvan-Garcia, executive chef of Granville in California.
Focus on Your Stuffing
Another easy dish to internationalize—stuffing. If you’re serving an Asian-scented turkey, serve a veggie or Chinese sausage fried rice instead of traditional stuffing. For a Latin turkey, it’s all about the corn. “Corn is a staple of Mexican cuisine, so a chorizo cornbread stuffing is the perfect way to bring Mexican flavors to the table,” says Galvin-Garcia. “Besides the sausage and cornbread, try adding ingredients like poblano chile peppers or potatoes to the dish.”
Turn Your Sides into Tapas
If Thanksgiving tapas aren’t a thing, we just created it. Turn traditional Thanksgiving sides into international appetizers or small plates that everyone can share. Get creative: Try green bean casserole samosas, turkey and stuffing pan fried dumplings with cranberry dipping sauce, or roasted veggie or butternut squash quesadillas.
Try Your Hand at Pierogies
These pillowy doughy pockets of Central and Eastern European origin—often filled with a mixture of potatoes or potatoes and cheese—were made for Thanksgiving. “Try shredded turkey and potatoes in one, or stuffing and chopped green beans,” says Siegler. “You can make sweet varieties, too. Cranberry sauce and toasted pecans would be tasty, or mashed sweet potatoes with a dab of marshmallow fluff.”
Revamp Your Cranberry Sauce
Say goodbye to jiggly canned cranberry. Introduce the flavors of India by making a cranberry chutney flecked with mustard seeds, suggests Siegler. Or, make your own cranberry relish and fold in pomegranate seeds for a bursting surprise in every bite.
Swap Out Your Turkey
If you’re feeling brave, consider ditching the Thanksgiving mascot for a less traditional protein. “Why spoil your appetite for turkey? Try a delicious roasted chicken or skirt steak with chimichurri sauce,” says Olivia Mesquita, culinary expert for Wonderful Pistachios. “Not only are they delicious alternatives, but they also don’t take the whole day to prepare like a big turkey does.”
Related Video: These Honey-Harissa Carrots Are a Fab Friendsgiving Side
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