If you’re anything like us, Thanksgiving is your day. The chance to stuff yourself with juicy, perfectly cooked turkey, creamy potatoes, pies, and all the other carbs without judgment? Sign us up! And yet, perhaps, you’re jonesing for something…different. Perhaps you searched one of the top 10 most searched food items for Thanksgiving on Google (which we list below), craving a variation that will stand out. But like, not in a way that your mom asks you never to make it again. What follows are the exact ideas you’re looking for from chefs (and a few of our own staffers) who know a thing or two about making our nation’s food coma day one to remember.
Don’t feel like taking the time to roast a whole bird? Do as Ed McFarland, chef of Ed’s Lobster Bar in New York City, and make turkey meatballs instead. “Mix it with some stuffing and cranberry sauce,” says McFarland. Though he usually uses Thanksgiving leftovers to make these tasty snacks, you can easily skip the stuffing and cranberry sauce and stick to just ground turkey meat and slather with gravy.
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Thanksgiving stuffing is so good it deserves to be served two ways. “I like to take some of the dressing and make it into patties. Then fry them in a non-stick pan until crispy,” says Jake Strang, chef of Nashville’s L27. “They’re heaven!”
Looking for a new type of stuffing? “I highly recommend polenta stuffing,” says Molly Siegler, associate coordinator of culinary development at Whole Foods. Cube cooked polenta and bake them until golden brown and crisp, then combine with your favorite stuffing add-ins, egg (you’ll need more than you usually use to properly bind it all together), and lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. “I like to add sautéed onions and shallots, wild mushrooms, and scoops of ultra-rich Tallegio cheese to really harness that Italian vibe,” Siegler adds.
Put your sweet potato and marshmallows on hold and try something a little more modern, says Tara Bench, food stylist and entertaining expert. “Roast sweet potatoes and top with an avocado cream and POM POMs Fresh Arils for a trendy, savory-and-sweet side.”
At Chowhound, we like to roast up a medley of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnips, parsnips, and plenty of onion. Keep the flavor simple—olive oil, some sea salt, black pepper—so the flavors of the other dishes can really shine through.
“Try making scalloped potatoes,” says Cat Cora, Food Network Iron Chef and judge of ABC’s new show Family Food Fight. “They’re creamy, silky, cheesy, and potatoey—just liked mashed!
Or, experiment with adding soft cheeses to your mash—try goat cheese or cream cheese with a generous helping of fresh chives.
Add mushrooms and plenty of fresh herbs like thyme, sage, and a bay leaf—it adds a bit of rich flavor that will make you want to drink the stuff.
“I love to whip up chili made with turkey and veggies,” says chef Carmine Di Giovanni of New York City’s Aunt Jake’s. “Then I make croutons from some of the stuffing.” Proof every Thanksgiving table looks a little bit different.
“Cook French green beans with orange zest, allspice, and POM POMs Fresh Arils. It’ll definitely beat out the traditional casserole by popular vote!” says Bench.
If you’re a green bean casserole loyalist, cut back on some of the cream of mushroom and add your favorite Heluva Good! dip instead, suggests actress and food fanatic Melissa Joan Hart. “It’s a creative way to remix classic Thanksgiving dishes.”
“My family always does a pumpkin-persimmon pie, which is basically just half pumpkin, half persimmon,” says Cora. Use equal parts pumpkin and persimmon pulp, then season as usual and pour into your go-to pie crust.
Add some pumpkin puree and warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to your cheesecake mixture. It makes for a spicy-sweet slice.
Use a variety of apples for a mix of tart and sweet. You can also save yourself some time by opting for a crumble topping instead of a traditional pie crust. If you’re feeling ambitious, consider making apple pie filling and folding it into phyllo dough for a flaky bite.
There’s no such thing as too much dessert when it comes to Thanksgiving. Bake double chocolate cookies with pecans (an ode to pecan pie), or pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (pureed pumpkin makes them extra moist).
Related Video: The Ultimate Thanksgiving Gravy Recipe
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