Thanksgiving is all about tradition, of course. And the tradition in our house is that we always try out something new on our menu every year. Here are some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes with a twist…
Every year I dutifully cook up a pot of my German great-grandmother’s braised red cabbage, even though, with each passing year, fewer and fewer people actually help themselves to so much as a shred of it. I do it because its very presence gives the meal its gravitas, its meaning. And because the deep wine-y purple cabbage, stewed with apples and vinegar, fills the kitchen with the ghosts of holidays past. As the family has grown and spread out the ties to that red cabbage dish are fading. My sister and I make it basically for each other. For us it’s redolent with memories, but for the rest, it’s just. well, kind of yucky.
Part of the fun of food blogging is the challenge of creating recipes that play with tradition and innovation. Tradition has time and experience on its side, so tinkering with it can be risky business, but it’s so rewarding to come up with a new recipe that becomes an instant family (or blog!) classic.
Since Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, I like to honor it by embracing the incredible variety out there — so much more than my great grandmother ever dreamed of. If you normally make cauliflower gratin, why not use purple, green, or orange cauliflower this year. If you usually serve roasted carrots, go for the rainbow variety. There aren’t too many among us who want to sit down to a casserole of candied yams and marshmallow anymore. But coriander and jalapeno roasted sweet potatoes with a lemongrass sauce, that might be just the thing to reinvigorate the menu.
I especially love it when an experimental recipe morphs into its own tradition. That’s the way it was with my Pumpkin Cornbread. It’s now requested…no, demanded…at every Thanksgiving going forward. It’s even made its way into the stuffing.
Traditions will always be important during the holidays, but I think the way to keep it alive, to keep everyone from falling asleep in their mashed potatoes, is to spice things up a bit, whether you inject a little whimsy into the menu, or just experiment with new foods and flavor combinations. My Whipped Kabocha Squash with Vanilla Bean and Nutmeg quickly became a new classic in our family.
Check out my lineup of Thanksgiving recipes that tweak tradition just a little bit, below ~ You’ll notice I don’t include any variations on the turkey. An oven roasted turkey is an awesome thing and I wouldn’t dream of messing with it…