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These 3 Thanksgiving recipes offer a stress-free menu for your holiday gathering

Families and friends are gathering this year after a notably different Thanksgiving in 2020.
Families and friends are gathering this year after a notably different Thanksgiving in 2020.

If the last two years have taught us anything, it's that being able to just gather in one spot is not something to take for granted.

So with Thanksgiving almost here, we've decided to ask a chef, a baker and a food journalist for their takes on recipes that allow you to socialize while you cook.

To hopefully not stress about hosting family and friends — possibly for the first time in a long time — but instead focus on the people around you.

And as we're all rethinking pretty much everything lately, these foodies are going to help us rethink the traditional Thanksgiving meal a bit, too.

Let's dive in.

Peanut Butter, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, was pardoned during by President Joe Biden during a Friday ceremony at the White House.
Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Peanut Butter, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, was pardoned during by President Joe Biden during a Friday ceremony at the White House.

Cedar roast turkey with puffed wild rice and maple

Chef Sean Sherman is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and founder of The Sioux Chef, an organization committed to revitalizing Native American culture. Sherman wanted his recipe to pay homage to Indigenous peoples, and he took inspiration from what he describes as their pantry.

"We cook so seasonally and so locally, so we like to utilize a little mix of the wild food around us, and looking outdoors and seeing this wealth of health, and nutrition and flavor that's literally right outside our front door," Sherman says.

He hopes that this Thanksgiving, we should spend time thinking about what the holiday is really about — gathering and eating with those you love.

"Why not pay homage to the land that you're on, why not pay homage to the Indigenous peoples and the struggles that they actually had to go through and not some mythological dinner party that they had a few hundred years ago," he says.

Sherman says brining the turkey will make it juicer and more flavorful.


Serves 10 to 12

Time: 2 hours, plus resting

Ingredients

Turkey

  • 1 (10- to 12-pound) turkey, preferably locally raised or a heritage breed
  • ½ cup Sunflower oil
  • Turkey brine

  • 2 ½ gallons cold water
  • 1 cup maple syrup, pure
  • 3 apples, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, white medium roughly chopped
  • 1 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup wild white cedar bough, stemmed and chopped (substitution suggestions: fir or spruce needles or fresh Sage)
  • 1 tbs juniper berries, whole
  • Turkey rub

  • 1 cup wild rice, MN hand harvested preferred
  • 6 green onions, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup maple sugar
  • 4 tbs salt
  • ¼ cup cedar bough, stemmed and chopped
  • Method

  • Two days before cooking, mix brine ingredients in a pot or bucket large enough to hold the turkey. Remove giblets and reserve for another use, then place the turkey in the brining liquid and place in refrigeration overnight.
  • One day before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels and allow to dry overnight in the refrigerator which will help create a nice crispy skin.
  • Day of cooking, puff the wild rice ¼ at a time in a dry hot sauté pan on medium heat constantly stirring and as to not burn the rice, remove puffed rice from pan and place in a bowl and begin the next batch.
  • Put all turkey rub ingredients into a blender and blend into a well blended powdered rub.
  • When you are ready to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come just to room temperature, 1 ½ to 2 hours. Rub the turkey with sunflower oil first, then with the wild rice rub. Place the turkey on a roasting rack
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees, then roast for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and place a loose aluminum foil tent over turkey then continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches a temperature of 165 degrees, about 1 ½ - 2 hours.
  • When finished roasting, allow the turkey to rest for 15 minutes minimum before carving. Serve with other Indigenous recipes made with foods produced by Indigneous producers and take a moment to research and respect the land and history of the Indigneous peoples who are originally from the land you are celebrating your dinner on.

  • Haitian cornmeal porridge (Mayi Moulen) with black bean sauce (Sos Pwa Nwa)

    Francis Lam is host of the Splendid Table podcast and editor in chief of Clarkson Potter. He first learned this recipe from Cindy Similien, a Haitian woman in Brooklyn, who learned it from her grandmother in Haiti.

    "It's something you don't have to baby," Lam says, adding this dish is much more forgiving than traditional mashed potatoes and gravy.

    Lam says he hopes this year allows us all to think more deeply about being together. "Just kind of going in with this sort of renewed sense of why we need each other, and being thankful for that," he says.

    Haitian cornmeal porridge

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 avocados, sliced, for serving
  • Method

  • Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, and sauté the onion and garlic until barely golden, about 6 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups water, and bring to a boil.
  • Pour in the cornmeal in a thin stream, stirring constantly, and add the parsley, thyme, salt and black pepper. Stir for a few minutes to avoid lumps.
  • Lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cornmeal is tender, with a soft but not runny consistency, 20 to 25 minutes. Adjust with more water or salt if necessary. Serve with black bean sauce and sliced avocados.
  • Black bean sauce

    Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup dried black beans, rinsed
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ chicken bouillon cube
  • Salt, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Method

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic and scallions until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the beans and 5 cups of water. Bring the water and beans to a boil over medium-high heat, covered, then boil until the beans are soft, about 1 1/2 hours. (This may take longer depending on your beans.) Add water occasionally to keep the beans submerged, if necessary; keep an eye on them, as you may need to add a fair amount of water, depending on your beans and how tight your pot lid is.
  • In a blender, purée the beans and any water left in the pot with an additional 1¾ cups water until very smooth. Force the purée through a fine strainer.
  • Return the bean purée to the pot over medium-low heat. Stir in the coconut milk, butter, parsley, bouillon cube, salt to taste and black pepper. Cook the bean purée, stirring occasionally, until it's the consistency of a rich gravy. (Adjust with water if necessary.)
  • This recipe was also published in The New York Times Magazine.

    Maple cream pie

    Samantha Seneviratne says her maple cream pie is very, very forgiving.
    / Julia Gartland
    Samantha Seneviratne says her maple cream pie is very, very forgiving.

    Samantha Seneviratne is a baker and cookbook author. She chose this pie because it is very, very forgiving.

    "It's very easy to make. You can make all the parts ahead of time," she says.

    The center is a cooked maple pudding that you make on the stove. "So you don't have to worry about any cracking or overcooking or undercooking or anything like that."

    In terms of how Seneviratne will be thinking about this Thanksgiving differently, given the past few years?

    "For me, thanksgiving is about travel," she says with a laugh. "I feel extremely grateful to have gotten my vaccine and to have the ability to travel again. I will never take that for granted, ever again."

    Serves 8 to 10

    Pastry

  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) walnuts
  • 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups (6 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • Filling

  • 1 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • To Finish

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • Method

  • Prepare the pastry: In the bowl of a food processor combine the walnuts and the sugar and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces. Add 2 tablespoons water and pulse until the dough is evenly moistened. The dough should hold together when squeezed but not be too wet. Add up to two more tablespoons of water if necessary. Tip the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a disc. Chill for at least one hour and up to 2 days. (Alternatively you can freeze the dough for up to 1 week.)
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 13-inch round (about 1/8th inch thick). Transfer the dough to a 9-inch standard pie plate. Trim the excess dough and fold it to make a decorative edge. Wrap in plastic and freeze for at least 15 minutes.
  • Line the frozen shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake the crust until the edges are lightly golden and the bottom crust (under the parchment) is dry, about 25 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and continue to bake the crust until it is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Set a fine mesh sieve next to the crust for later.
  • Prepare the filling. In a small saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat. Continue to cook the syrup until it has reduced by about 1/2, about 12 minutes. You should have between 2/3 cup and 3/4 cup reduced syrup.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the cornstarch until smooth. In a slow stream, while whisking, add the milk and the cream. Add the salt and the butter and the reduced syrup. Don't worry if the syrup seizes. It will smooth out in the next step.
  • Cook the milk mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it has thickened and come to a very low boil, about 7 minutes. Cook the custard one minute more and then pour it through the sieve into the cooled crust and spread it out evenly. Press a piece of wax paper directly onto the surface of the custard and transfer the pie to the fridge. Chill the pie for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. To serve, top the pie with the whipped cream.
  • The recipe comes from The Joys of Baking/Running Press.

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