Shaking up those pilgrim flavors this Thanksgiving

I think there's a reason that chicken is more popular than turkey, and it's not just the easier-to-handle size. Turkey may be a hit in the deli department, but chicken is the flavorful rock star of the dinner table.

It's not that turkey tastes bad. To me, it's just missing that special something. There are all kinds of tricks to getting the most flavor out of this slightly gamier bird. My husband likes to soak it in brine, to make sure the salt penetrates the flesh. It brings out flavor in parts of the bird that normally taste bland without skin attached to it. My father-in-law likes to deep fry it to seal in the juice. Maybe it's just my penchant for zestier flavors, but I do think turkey could use a little oomph.

deep frying a turkey

Who's to say we need to stick to the pilgrim recipe year after year? I saw an episode of Modern Family where Claire served an Indian-themed take on Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it sounded brilliant. Imagine a tandoori turkey with aloo gobi potato stuffing and mint chutney in place of gravy.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Alternative turkey recipes for Thanksgiving

Tandoori turkey 

This recipe has a high rating with 56 reviews, so it's safe to say it's a crowd-pleaser. Aloo gobi is an easy-to make potato curry, which would be great for the stuffing. It's used quite a bit in samosas, though samosas have a variety of different stuffings. A little mint chutney, some basmati rice, and curried veggies, and you've got a Thanksgiving packed with flavor!

guajillo peppers

Mexican turkey

With gualillo peppers to give it a deep flavor, and lemon to give it tang, it's no surprise that this recipe has a five star review.

Guajillo peppers are commonly found in Latinx markets and in the ethnic section of regular grocery stores. They are dried and placed in clear bags, and are a nice deep red. Rather than just offering heat, they provide a depth of flavor simiar to tomato paste. My husband buys guajillo peppers and makes the paste in bulk. It makes a uncommonly tasty marinade for chicken and roasts. If you're a fan of homemade popcorn like I am, a teaspoon of this with coconut oil and butter in a pot will spice up the whole batch!

With some Spanish rice, grilled bell peppers, torillas and refried beans, this feast will feel beyond festive. I'd serve this meal along with my son's favorite Mexican drink, horchata. You can even spike this creamy, cinnamony drink with rum, for the adults at the table!

family at the Thanksgiving table

Cajun turkey

With a 5-star rating and nearly 50 reviews, you can't go wrong with this Southern twist on turkey. With a little heat and a lot of Southern comfort, you can round out this dish with a cornbread stuffing, smoky collard greens with fresh ham, and fried okra. 

If you want to go with a down-home Louisiana theme, play some Zydeco and serve it with sweet potatoe pie, pecan pie, or in a perfect world - both!

Traditionalists may never deviate from the classic recipes, but should they feel a little adventurous, they can always experiement after Thanksgiving. And if there are post-holiday sales on turkeys, that just may be the nudge they need. 

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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