I’m of the mind that holiday meals can be a fun self-expression, without causing undue stress for the cook.
In that spirit I present my Thanksgiving Side Hustle, a collection of simple recipes and ideas meant to go with traditional mains, plus some unconventional ideas to expand your horizons.
Hoping these make your holiday easy and fun, freeing you to relax and enjoy!
Various Spices – Ideas and recipes by Christian Leue
If You’re Having Turkey
Sumac Cranberry Relish
I make this every year (we always have a turkey either at Thankgiving or Christmas), and it’s an adaptation of a family recipe using orange zest. My wife found the zest too bitter so I switched to apples, adding sumac to replace the brightness and light bitterness of the missing oranges.
1 bag of cranberries (12 ounces)
1 sweet and crisp apple (Honeycrisp, Fuji, Braeburn, etc.), peeled, seeded, and diced (you can include the core), about 1 1/2 cups
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
sugar, to taste (or sweetener of your choice)
In a food processor combine all ingredients except the sweetener and pulse until you form a coarse puree. Sweeten to taste (the addition of cinnamon will let you use less sugar) and refrigerate for 1 hour before using. Will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and can be frozen for longer storage (I just defrosted some from last year and it was fine!)
* For a bit more bitterness and crunch, try stirring in a handful of pomegranate arils
Other fun ideas:
• Add Apollonia N29 to your favorite pecan pie recipe, or whip some into cream for an easy topping for pretty much any pie
• Make stuffing with Blue Grass N12, form into balls, and bake in a buttered muffin tin
• Toss Yagenbori with steamed buttered green beans
If You’re Having a Roast
Breadcrumb Topped Garlic Bread
Garlic and bread are great with beef. My version adds dried herbs and a crispy breadcrumb topping.
1 loaf soft French or Italian bread (the soft grocery store ones are actually best for this)
1/4 cup finely minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp Luberon N4 or Riviera Herbs
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar (optional, if using omit the salt)
1/2 cup buttered breadcrumbs (in a skillet melt 1 Tbsp of butter then stir in breadcrumbs and cook until light brown, or you can use olive oil or mayonnaise for a dairy-free version)
Preheat over to 350°F. Split the bread lengthwise almost all of the way through, or slice in rounds on the bias, as you prefer. Bread that is halved will be a bit chewier, and if sliced will end up a bit more crisp.
Mix the garlic, salt (if not using cheese), olive oil, and herbs together and use to coat the bread in a thin and even layer. Top with cheese (if using), then breadcrumbs. Bake on a sheet pan in the oven until lightly browned (about 8 minutes), then optionally broil until crisp (this happens fast so don’t walk away!)
* Note that depending on the size of your bread loaf you may need more topping, follow the proportions above.
Other fun ideas:
• Add Bernise to your mashed potatoes, or cream Bernise with soft butter and serve it with everything
• Add Pierre Poivre N7 to your favorite creamed spinach recipe
• Make a mustard cream sauce with O.M.G.
If You’re Having a Ham
Miso Braised Greens
I love greens served with a ham, but for most traditional recipes you need a ham bone to cook the greens. This recipe solves that Catch-22 and happens to not contain any meat at all. It’s refreshing and light but deeply flavorful.
2 pounds of washed collard greens, stem ends trimmed, halved, and cut into strips
2 Tbsp red miso
2 cups water
1 piece of kombu kelp (about 6″ x 2″)
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp Ararat
Cider vinegar, to taste
Combine all ingredients except the vinegar in a large pot, cover, and set over high heat. One you near a boil, drop the heat to low and simmer until greens are soft (about 40 minutes). Adjust seasoning with vinegar and/or more spice.
Other fun ideas:
• Add Cataluña N22 to your baked beans or black eyed peas
• Add Massalis to your cornbread or pineapple upside-down cake batter, or just mix Massalis with butter and spread on hot cornbread
• Make a maple sauce with cream, maple syrup, and Smoked Cinnamon N18
If You’re Having Tacos
Guacamole for me is all about the avocado, and while California avocados were never in season in November when I was growing up, thanks to Mexico, Thanksgiving now coincides with prime season for the Haas variety. This version is short on ingredients but long on flavor. Use the best avocados you can find.
3 ripe Haas avocados*
1/2 small sweet or white onion, 1/8″ dice
juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1-3 teaspoons of Shabazi N38 (depending on how hot you like it)
Salt, to taste
optional, if you like: fresh cilantro, fresh jalapeño
recommended addition: green hot sauce (my favorite is this one by Primo’s Peppers).
making ahead – if you substitute part of your lime juice with powdered Vitamin C, the extra antioxidant will help keep your guacamole green longer
*Avocado tips: buy them green and hard, make sure the skins aren’t spotty, and that the stem is firmly attached. Ripen them on the counter until the stem end yields gently to the touch, generally 4-7 days (if you need them to ripen faster put them together with bananas in a paper bag, the ethylene gas from the bananas will speed the process). When they are ripe you can move them to the top shelf in the refrigerator to maintain peak freshness and texture for a few more days
To store guacamole make sure none of the surface is in contact with air. Fill your container all the way or use a plastic bag and squeeze the air out. This guacamole can also be frozen as there are no tomatoes in it (which get mealy when frozen), so you can make a bunch now to enjoy later. Just defrost in the fridge overnight.
Other fun ideas:
• Add Izak N37 to your queso and/or salsa
• Stir some Amber N2 into your refried beans
• From my brother Patrick: substitute fuyu persimmon for tomato in pico de gallo, great with a bit of Cancale N11
• Have some Autumn margaritas!
Help, I Don’t Know What to Make!
Here are a couple of non-traditional recipes that I’ve found make great centerpieces for a feast:
Crispy Pork Shoulder – the cooking for this crowd-pleaser is mostly hands-off, leftovers are great for pulled-pork or tacos the next day.
Cumin Lamb Belly – one rack for every two people is perfect, serve with salads, pickles, and breads.
Shakshuka – in a paella pan! Triple or quadruple the recipe depending on the size of your pan, and finish it in the oven. Great with the garlic bread recipe above.
Past November Recipes
2018 – Easy Puff Pastry Empanadas
2017 – Roasted Cranberry Cordial
2016 – Pickled Persimmons
Food images and recipe © Christian Leue
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