Whether it's a historic recipe passed down through the generations, a regional specialty, a dish from your ethnic heritage, or just a hands-down favorite that you eat only on this day, every family has at least one dish that defines Thanksgiving and makes the spread unique to your clan. Check out some of our favorite out-of-the-ordinary Thanksgiving dishes.
Susan's Peach Stuffing
"My mom, Susan, makes this for Thanksgiving every year. People often look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them about it -- but then they try it and they become addicted too."
1 loaf rustic Italian bread (about 1 pound), crust on, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 9 cups)
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
2 medium onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 teaspoons minced garlic
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 can (29 ounces) clingstone peach halves in heavy syrup, drained, syrup reserved, 1/2 the peaches cut into pieces if desired
1/2 cup thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock (optional; use if cooking in baking dish)
If baking the stuffing inside a turkey, omit the optional 1/2 cup of stock.
1. Arrange bread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature overnight. (Alternatively, bake bread in a 300 degrees oven until dry but not browned, about 15 minutes.)
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs, and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add bread, and toss to combine.
3. Whisk peach syrup into orange juice concentrate, and add to bread mixture with peaches.
4. To cook stuffing in a turkey: Loosely stuff into a turkey, and roast until center of stuffing registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Spoon the remaining stuffing into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish, cover with parchment, then foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover, and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. To bake all of the stuffing outside a turkey: Stir in stock, spoon into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and bake at 375 degrees as directed above.
Rose's Baked Artichoke Hearts
"My mother married an Italian, so she did a great deal of artichoke stuffing, especially for large groups. On her own, she made it into a casserole. It represented her way of cooking. She usually made it for special occasions, Thanksgiving, sometimes Easter, or a birthday, because it's a family favorite."
--Lucinda Scala Quinn
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh curly leaf parsley
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
2 ounces Pecorino Romano, grated (1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs, such as thyme, oregano, and savory, or Italian seasoning blend
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 packages (9 ounces each) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dishes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced (2 teaspoons)
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, cheeses, herbs, and salt in a medium bowl, and season with pepper.
2. Brush oil inside two 4-cup, 9 1/2-inch ceramic baking dishes or one 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Divide artichoke hearts between dishes, and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over artichokes, pushing it into cracks between hearts. Tap bottom of dishes on counter to settle breadcrumb mixture.
3. Whisk oil, lemon juice and zest, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle dressing evenly over breadcrumb topping. Cover dishes with parchment, then foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Increase temperature to 375 degrees. Uncover, and bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Sweet Potato-Coconut Casserole
Marshmallows: mandatory or monstrous? Discuss.
The families that stake out the pro-marshmallow side of the fence may add other sweet supplements to the casserole as well, such as crushed pineapple, or, as in this recipe, shredded coconut and lime zest.
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 2 teaspoons juice
1 1/4 cups miniature marshmallows
2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut
It may look like a traditional sweet potato casserole at first glance, but this version gets richness from coconut milk instead of cream, and brightness from fresh lime juice.
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot, cover sweet potatoes with cold salted water by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer and cook until tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Drain potatoes in a colander and let sit 5 minutes, then transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. Add coconut milk and lime zest and juice; process until combined. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Top with marshmallows and coconut and bake until toasted and golden, about 15 minutes.
Old Bay-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Marylanders love their Old Bay seasoning. If your family falls into the anti-marshmallow camp, you may just love these sweet-savory morsels.
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total), scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes extra-virgin olive oil and Old Bay seasoning. Bake until potatoes are deep golden brown on all sides, about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Hot Spinach Dip
This warm, gooey dip has achieved the status of new American classic, thanks to its irresistible richness and its ability to make everybody love spinach.
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for baking dish
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds spinach, cleaned, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup milk
6 ounces reduced-fat bar cream cheese
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Baguette slices, breadsticks, or crackers, for serving
The recipe can be assembled through step two up to three days ahead, then covered and refrigerated; it can also be served as a side dish. Two 10-ounce packages of frozen spinach can be substituted for the fresh. Thaw according to box instructions, drain well, and chop.
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; cook until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.
2. Add spinach in two additions, letting the first batch wilt before adding the next; cook until completely wilted, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander; drain, pressing to release all excess liquid.
3. In the same pot, warm milk over high heat. Whisk in cream cheese until melted, about 3 minutes. Add spinach, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and 1/4 cup mozzarella; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a lightly oiled 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella.
4. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot with accompaniments, as desired.
Mixed Chicories with Persimmons
Sweet persimmons and tart pomegranates, both autumn staples in the backyards of California, are nicely complemented by bitter chicories in this salad.
For the Dressing
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
For the Salad
2 pounds mixed chicories, such as radicchio, Radicchio di Treviso, Palla Rossa, and frisee, torn into 1-inch pieces (18 cups)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Make the dressing: Gradually whisk oil into vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt.
2. Make the salad: Toss chicories, walnuts, persimmons, and pomegranate seeds in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna
Butternut squash lasagna, flavored with sage and grated nutmeg and layered with sheets of homemade pasta, is autumn in a baking pan. The dish serves the dual role of paying tribute to Italian heritage and satisfying the vegetarians in the clan.
For the Filling
2 large butternut squashes (about 2 pounds each), halved lengthwise and seeded
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 8 ounces), plus more if needed
1/2 cup finely crushed amaretti cookies, plus more if needed
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage, plus more if needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more if needed
For the Bechamel
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Unbaked lasagna can be refrigerated for up to 1 day. Baked lasagna can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
1. Make the filling: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle squash halves with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast squashes, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet until tender and browned, about 1 hour. Let cool. Scoop flesh from skins, and puree in a food processor until smooth.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook until browned and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
3. Combine 3 cups squash puree, 1 cup Parmesan, 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons amaretti cookies, sage, browned butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and nutmeg in a bowl. Adjust seasoning as desired with more Parmesan, amaretti cookies, sage, salt, and nutmeg.
4. Make the bechamel: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Reduce heat to low, and cook, whisking often, for 3 minutes (do not let flour brown).
5. Meanwhile, bring milk to a gentle simmer in another small saucepan over low heat. Gradually whisk hot milk into the roux, whisking constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the nutmeg. Raise heat to medium, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, and cook until the raw flour taste is gone, 5 to 10 minutes more. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.
6. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Assemble the lasagna: Coat bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of bechamel (about 1/2 cup). Arrange two 8-by-21-inch sheets cooked pasta on top, barely overlapping, to cover bottom and sides of dish. (Edges of pasta should hang over sides by about 2 inches.)
7. Top with 3/4 cup squash filling, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon amaretti cookies. Top with 1 sheet of pasta (fill in any gaps with pieces of another sheet if needed), trimming edges as needed so that pasta fits neatly in dish.
8. Top pasta with 3/4 cup bechamel and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Continue layering in same order (pasta, squash and amaretti, pasta, bechamel and Parmesan) until you reach the top of the dish, ending with 1 sheet of pasta (you may need to fill in gaps with pieces of another sheet; you should have 10 layers of pasta). Fold in the overhang from the first layer of pasta to create a package. Trim pasta sheets as needed to prevent too much overlap, then spread remaining bechamel over top.
9. Bake, covered with parchment-lined foil, for 20 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. Bake until top is browned, about 35 minutes more. Let cool slightly before serving.