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A tiny twist on tradition

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THANKSGIVING Try these traditional but updated recipes.

Every family’s Thanksgiving menu is sacred. Still, for the cooks among us, a slight twist on tradition can make the prep – and the meal – a bit more exciting. That’s why we asked a few neighbors, all great in the kitchen, for their “very best” Thanksgiving recipes. We hope they spark some creativity in your kitchen this November.

Cranberry Salsa with Warm Brie and Pistachios

From Peace Meals

Dena Prasher, chair of The Junior League of Houston’s Peace Meals cookbook, says this Cranberry Salsa is a Texan twist on a holiday classic. “I get major kudos every time I make this.” Serve alongside turkey, or go to for the full recipe with brie, pistachios, and baguette.

Cranberry Salsa:
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup chopped green onions
2 small jalapeños, seeded and chopped
½ cup sugar
¼ cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 small round of brie (8 ounces)
½ cup chopped pistachios, toasted

Rinse the cranberries and discard any that are soft. Reserve several of the whole cranberries for garnish. Place the remaining cranberries in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (do not overprocess). Transfer to a bowl and stir in the remaining salsa ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the brie on a rimmed baking sheet and heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until softened. Transfer to a serving platter and top with Cranberry Salsa. Sprinkle with pistachios, reserved cranberries, and cilantro.

Smoked Turkey

Mary Clark and Chris Granberry owned a fine-mesh sieve before any of us knew what that was. Twenty-five years later, Chris’s cooking hobby is his Big Green Egg, which, for the past five years, he has used to smoke a Thanksgiving turkey. “It was an experiment,” Mary Clark says, “and then we were like, ‘This is really good!’”

8 quarts water
2 cups kosher salt
Small handful whole cloves
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and smashed
Giant Ziploc bag
12- to 14-pound turkey

Boil the water. Stir in the spices until the salt dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (this can take a while). Put the turkey into the Ziploc; pour the brine into the bag. Chill for at least 24 hours.

Heat the grill to 225 degrees. Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Cover with your favorite barbecue rub (Chris likes Killen’s). Place a roasting rack on the smoker and put the turkey on top of it. Smoke 12 minutes per pound (2½ to 3 hours), until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from heat; wrap tightly in foil. Place wrapped turkey in a sealed cooler for an hour. Remove the turkey and carve.

Smoked Gouda Mashed Sweet Potatoes 

From Peace Meals

Mary Clark says these are “a great savory option versus the marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes we grew up with. They are so yummy my mouth waters thinking about them!”

4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
½ cup shredded smoked gouda cheese
6 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
2 green onions, chopped

Heat butter, 2 tablespoons cream, salt, sugar, cayenne, and sweet potatoes in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, stir to coat the potatoes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add cheese and remaining tablespoon of cream. Cover for 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese melts. Mix thoroughly to mash the potatoes. Top with the bacon and onions just before serving.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

From Peace Meals

Dena suggests this as “a decadent and delicious twist on traditional pumpkin pie.” We agree.

1 loaf brioche or challah, cubed
4 eggs
4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups sugar
3 cups canned pumpkin
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1½ teaspoons allspice
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Place bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden; set aside. In a large bowl, mix together eggs, cream, sugar, pumpkin, and spices. Slowly add the bread to the mixture, allowing it to absorb the liquid (do not stir into mush). When bread is saturated, place mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until crisp and brown. 

Pumpkin Bread

From Jenn Segal, Once Upon a Chef

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease 2 8- by 4-inch loaf pans with butter; dust with flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium until just blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Continue beating until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Beat in the pumpkin. It’s okay if it looks grainy and curdled.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Turn the batter into the prepared pans, and bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The Party Favor

Ilse Rassin calls the Pumpkin Bread from Jenn Segal of Once Upon a Chef wonderful. “I make mini-loaves and wrap them with little notes for our family saying why we are thankful for each of them.” Ilse’s mini-loaf pan makes 4 loaves; she bakes them at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

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