Traditional Thanksgiving food is classic for a reason. Not only does it taste delicious, the aromas wafting from the kitchen often spark fond memories from your childhood of spending the day at home with loved ones. But maybe it's time to toss out the traditional, give your taste buds a swift kick in the tongue, and add some new flavors to old favorites. Have you ever thought of preparing duck instead of turkey? How about adding maple syrup to your sweet potatoes, or making cranberry sauce with wine? Why not top pumpkin pie with apple cider?
We asked some chefs to share how they add a twist to some time-honored Thanksgiving dishes, staying true to the spirit of the holiday while spicing it up with some signature touches of their own. These recipes might not be passed down through the generations, but they could give you a chance to start a few food traditions of your own this year.
Rick Kangas, chef and culinary arts instructor at Colorado Mountain College, adds a sweet red wine to his homemade cranberry sauce, which heightens the taste and makes this holiday mainstay "more luscious," he said.
Kangas said his version could convert those who typically stay away from canned cranberry sauce.
"Cranberries are something that has had a bad reputation," Kangas said. "If you tell (your guests) that you made it yourself, and with wine, they are more likely to try it and they always ask for the recipe."
1 pound bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup red wine or port
1 cup sweetener: sugar, agave nectar, etc.
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 cinnamon stick
Bring ingredients to a boil. Reduce to simmer, stirring as needed. Cook for 5 minutes or until most of the berries have popped. Allow to cool, then refrigerate.
Edwards chef Heather Weems doesn't specialize in pastries because "even though I love baking, being relaxed and sane is more important," she said.
However, when the holidays come around, Weems does enjoy tying on her apron and making a tasty treat that both young and old enjoy. Weems' recipe adds cider syrup to the topping, pleasing both pumpkin and apple pie lovers on Thanksgiving.
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons shortening
5 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In mixer with paddle attachment, combine all but water. Blend to coarse crumb. Slowly add water until mixture starts to come together. Remove from mixer and form into hat disc with hands. Freeze for 10 minutes. Roll out and pre-bake with pie weights for 10 minutes.
1 (15 oz.) can of 100 percent pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs
Blend all ingredients until combined. Pour into pre-baked pie shell. Cook for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
Combine all ingredients. Squeeze butter through fingers until a course crumb forms. Remove pie from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. Thickly coat top of pie with crumbs. Bake for 50 more minutes. Cool completely on rack.
1 1/2 cups apple cider
Bring cider to a slow boil and reduce to syrup consistency. Drizzle over the top of the pie just before serving. If just serving a few slices, drizzle over cut slices. Garnish with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Makes one 9-inch pie. Serves 8 to 10 people.
Avon chef David Giarratani switches up his sweet potatoes by adding maple syrup, not marshmallows, to give the dish an autumn-like feel.
"Sweet potatoes are kind of sweet but not too sweet, and adding the maple syrup will give it that fall flavor," Giarratani said. "Cardamom is great for the season because it has an allspice kind of flavor."
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces
1 cup milk (your preference, I use whole milk)
1 tablespoon of cardamom, ground
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Place the potatoes in salted water and boil until fork tender. While the potatoes are boiling, put the milk and butter in a saucepan. Heat the milk and butter until they melt, but do not boil. Once butter is melted, remove from heat. Once the potatoes are done, drain well and allow to air dry for a few minutes. In the same saucepan you cooked the potatoes in, mash them or run through a food mill. With a sturdy spoon, add the milk mixture a little at a time until the potatoes reach the desired consistency. Stir in the maple syrup and seasonings. Adjust to your taste.
Justin Kalaluhi, executive chef at Rocks Modern Grill, suggests marinated duck as a gamier, more flavorful substitute to the usual turkey entree. Kalaluhi said serving duck is a great option for smaller gatherings, and not as difficult to prepare as some think.
"Duck is a smaller bird, so you don't have to (cook) this huge 15-pound turkey in your oven, " Kalaluhi said. "Anyone can cook a duck. It's not that hard."
5- to 10-pound whole duck
4 ounces ginger, rough-chopped
4 ounces garlic, rough-chopped
2 ounces lemon grass, rough-chopped
2 pieces star anise
2 tablespoons ground allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup blended oil
Combine all ingredients and marinate the whole duck, breast facing down, for 24 hours. Flip the duck over every 4 hours, until it's flipped over twice. Remove from marinade, place in a pan with a rack (breast facing down) and cook in the oven at 320 degrees (covered) until internal temperature reads 150 degrees for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Flip duck over halfway through cooking process. Remove cover and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve and enjoy.