When my sister lost her husband suddenly in early 2001, the prospect of celebrating the food-laden holidays were very sad. Thanksgiving seemed to be particularly hard due to her husband’s love of a good meal and sports on the telly. To help ease this family loss, we decided to modify our holiday food traditions and be a bit more exotic in our choices for Thanksgiving dinner.
Instead of traditional foods such as roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, green bean casserole, rolls and pumpkin pie, we chose international themes to brighten up our Thanksgiving table. The rule was to incorporate the same ingredients used in the traditional Thanksgiving meal in the menu for our exotic Thanksgiving feast, with variations as needed.
Here is how we converted traditional ingredients into wonderful Thanksgiving twists with an international flavor:
INDIAN THEME EXOTIC THANKSGIVING DINNER
Tandoori Turkey, Basmati Rice, channa dal (chickpeas & lentils), aloo gobi (potatoes & cauliflower), saag paneer (spinach with cheese), yams, raita (yogurt, cucumbers & mint), cranberry chutney, naan bread, sweet mango slices in yogurt, Taj Mahal beer.
ITALIAN THEME EXOTIC THANKSGIVING DINNER
Turkey Scaloppine alla marsala, melon with prosciutto, bruschetta, fresh fettuccine, broccoli con limone, polenta, pumpkin tiramisu, Italian lemonade.
CARIBBEAN THEME EXOTIC THANKSGIVING DINNER
Jerk Turkey, picadillo stuffing, black beans & rice, baked bananas & yams, mango-cranberry chutney, tropical fruit salad, green salad with French Antillaise dressing, pumpkin flan, mojitos.
MOROCCAN THEME EXOTIC THANKSGIVING DINNER
Turkey bastilla, grilled lamb chops, chicken with olives & lemons, vegetable tagine, couscous, chickpeas & sweet potatoes, tomato/green pepper/orange salad, baklava with pumpkin butter, Moroccan tea, cranberry juice.
SOUTH AMERICAN THEME EXOTIC THANKSGIVING DINNER
Parrillada: grilled bacon-wrapped turkey chunks & grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, empanadas, stuffed avocado, garlic & parsley French fries, grilled yams, Italian sausage stuffing, grilled zucchini, French bread, pumpkin souffle, Yerba Mate tea.
FRENCH THEME EXOTIC THANKSGIVING DINNER
Turkey au vin, potatoes au gratin, cranberries jubilee, haricot verts almandine, sweet potato croquettes, French baguettes, pumpkin creme brule, Champagne cocktails.
Last year we did regular a traditional Thanksgiving with all the trimmings, and it was so boring we all agreed to go back to our new tradition of using our traditional foods more exotically.
2008: GERMAN THEME EXOTIC THANKSGIVING DINNER
Turkey schnitzel with mushroom gravy, cranberry stuffing, pumpkin ginger soup with Black Forest ham, stuffed cabbage rolls, German potato salad, Rotkohl (red cabbage & apples), dilled green beans, rye bread & butter, black forest brownies, Gewurztraminer.
For the next few years we are considering the following twists on traditional Thanksgiving dinner: Thai, Mexican, Scandinavian, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, South Pacific Islands, Vietnamese, Hungarian, Polish, Hawaiian, and Greek. Yum!
As you might expect, I have all the menu planning notes, timelines, recipes, and photos from these Thanksgiving theme dinners recorded in a file made with my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. Eventually, I plan to print all the pages and create a Thanksgiving Theme Dinner cookbook to give to each family member as a keepsake of our new Thanksgiving dinner tradition.
Happy Thanksgiving, and as always, happy cookbooking,