comments 3

New ways to celebrate Thanksgiving

Planning your Thanksgiving menu? This year forgo the staid staples and try something new. A rich mushroom tart and tangy cranberry compote are sure to please; just a few more recipes to add to your turkey day favorites.


Earthy mushrooms, rich Piave cheese and salty Speck give this tart a lot of flavor.

Thanksgiving comes only once a year, giving us a reason to cook lavish meals, splurge on expensive ingredients and eat extravagantly. It presents quite the conundrum, as many a cook (and a chef), make the same dishes every year, cooking the turkey, stuffing and potatoes just the way Mom may have. Others praise the holiday for the culinary epitome that it is, refusing to waste this cooking opportunity on already-been-there recipes? This year change your menu completely or just add a few newbies to the old favorites. Cook the turkey in a way you never have, add a few new side dishes, and ignore the apple for a different flavor pie all together.

In my family, Mom always made Thanksgiving dinner the same. My sister had to have her mashed potatoes and gravy, my dad wanted the deviled eggs, and Mom’s turkey was always a bit on the dry side. After my first year in culinary school (when I thought I had conquered all there was to know in the world of food), I decided it was my turn to make the meal. I roasted my first turkey covered in a butter and herb soaked cheesecloth (a trick I had seen on Martha Stewart, in fact). My sister turned her nose at my rosemary and roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and Mom still made those deviled eggs, but that first year gave me the boost of confidence to keep trying new things when it came to turkey day. Since then I’ve stuffed the turkey with oranges, made polenta stuffing, shredded root vegetables into latkes, and baked pie after pie sans apples or pumpkin, just to name a few.

Of course I know more than a few friends who have the same meal every year. Part tradition, fixing the old staples keeps the guess work out of cooking and generally pleases the masses. However, if you look around your larder this year and realize its time for something new, try to change up your menu. Use beer-soaked rye bread for the stuffing, smoked potatoes instead of mashed and orange meringue pie for dessert.

This rustic tart, with its deep flavors, is the perfect addition to your new Thanksgiving Day menu. Earthy mushrooms, cooked with lots of sage, sweet sautéed onions, and salty Speck(German-style bacon), make for the perfect flavor combination to celebrate Fall with. Bored with canned cranberry jelly? This cranberry compote gets a kick of life with pomegranate seeds and a splash of Bourbon. You can even make it ahead of time, saving you time on the big day and you can jar enough to use into the new year. Easy recipes, these two are just the beginning of your new Thanksgiving Day cuisine. The possibilities are endless, and thankfully, you have every year to try something new.

cranberry and pomegranate compote

Orange juice and burboun brighten this cranberry compote

Mushroom and Speck Tart
Savory pastry dough
1 white onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch sage
2 pints mushrooms, thinly sliced
vegetable oil
1 cup Speck or thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
1 cup shredded Piave, or Parmigiana Reggiano
1/2 cup heavy cream
fluted pie pan with removable bottom

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Remove pastry dough from the refrigerator and, on a floured surface, roll the dough out into a 13-inch circle. Carefully lay the dough into the pie pan and press into the corners of the pan and the sides until the pan is covered evenly. Using a a sharp knife, slice the excess dough off the edges. Dock the dough, making small holes with a fork in the bottom. Place a sheet of wax paper inside the pie pan and fill with baking beans or weights. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove and set aside to chill.

2. Heat a heavy-duty medium saute pan over high heat. Add a small amount of oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Add a portion of the mushrooms. In cooking mushrooms, it is important not to crowd the pan, to use high heat for good, caramelized flavor, and to not season the mushrooms until the end(otherwise the leak out water and will become soggy from steaming). Cook the mushrooms on one side, then shake the pan to cook the other. When both sides have a nice brown color, add salt and cracked black pepper. Remove mushrooms onto a plate and repeat until all mushrooms are cooked. If pan starts to get dirty, add a good amount of oil and let the mushroom speck cook off. Carefully remove oil and wipe the pan clean. Continue cooking mushrooms in the above method.

4. While the mushrooms are cooking, heat a second, medium-sized heavy-duty saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic and sage and cook slowly to release the sugars in the onion. When the onions start to become translucent, add the speck. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms and season well with salt and pepper, removing sage. Turn off heat and stir in the heavy cream and half the cheese. Place the tart shell on a half-sheet tray and fill with the filling, topping with the remaining cheese. Bake for 15-20, until the tart shell and melted cheese are golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Slice and serve warm.

Cranberry and pomegranate compote(make 4 4-oz jars)
2 pounds fresh cranberries
4-5 pomegranates, seeds removed(you can find them pre-seeded at some grocery stores or if you don’t want the extra work, and the extra crunch in the compote, substitute with 1 cup pomegranate juice)
16oz sugar
2oz sure-jell or pectin
1/3 cup bourbon or whiskey
1 cup orange juice
1 tbsp cinnamon

1. Place the cranberries, pomegranate seeds, and orange juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Add 3/4 of the sugar and stir. Allow to come to a boil and simmer until cranberry skins begin to crack. Whisk together the remaining sugar and pectin and slowly rain into the pot. Allow to come to a boil again, cooking for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add liquor and cinnamon.

2. Place in jars and process using the boiling-water canning procedure and store in a cool, dark place. Or allow to cool to room temperature and store in the fridge(if you are planning to use it quickly)


  1. I used a mixture of button mushrooms, portebello and buna shimeji(a small Asian mushroom that you can find at some grocery stores). Really though, it’s up to you.

    As any mushroom will work in this recipe, its’ mostly dependent on what mushrooms you like and what is available to you. Dried mushrooms would work as well, just make sure to hydrate them in hot water for at least 20 minutes first(and save that water for your next batch of vegetable stock!)

Leave a Reply