Turkey Alternatives: Thanksgiving across the country

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Every year it’s the same routine. For most of us, we crowd around a table decked out with a Butterball turkey, pillowy mountains of mashed potatoes, canned cranberry sauce and maybe some lightly sautéed (or microwaved) green beans. While these traditional spreads may hit the spot and satisfy your hunger, they can become dull year after year. Holding the superlative of the largest day for food intake in the nation, Thanksgiving is the most opportune time for families to get creative, use imagination and tread uncharted recipes. Students around the country have dropped the wishbones and picked up some unique and slightly strange holiday cuisine. We asked around — what nontraditional dishes are featured on your Thanksgiving table?

Gobble Gobble!turkey

California: A Vegetarian Dinner

Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey, so what exactly can vegetarians and plant-lovers eat?

“My family has a really big Thanksgiving with lots of extended family and not everyone is a vegetarian, so we still do have a turkey. But we also have tons of vegetarian options! We have
the traditional mashed potatoes and green beans. My mom also makes a really good vegetarian stuffing that has homemade croutons, spinach, pine nuts, seasonings and mushrooms. We also have yams and sweet potatoes with fresh cranberries. We have roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar, quinoa salad and cranberry bread.” – Justine Hall

New Mexico: (New) Mexican Food

Turn the conventional Turkey Day dinner into an enticing and tantalizing feast that can be easily mistaken for a grand fiesta. Nothing breaks tradition like giving your Thanksgiving menu an ethnic flair. A nice way to spice up your Thanksgiving table is to throw in some exotic and festive dishes that are bold, flavorful and eye-catching.

“We have Enchiladas with red and green chile (which is very specific to New Mexican food). Our entire meals on Christmas and Thanksgiving are predominantly Mexican. We have papas and frijoles, and sopapillas for dessert! That’s pretty much standard for New Mexicans on both holidays – which is weird. Everyone eats enchiladas instead of turkeys. We also just infuse the Mexican aspect of it into normal things. Like Red Chile Gravy!” -Courtney Eker

Greenville, SC: Turkey Necks and Wings

Often neglected, people don’t pay much mind to the appendages of the turkey. But turkey necks and wings alone can be inexpensive and are quite flavorful. Smothered in gravy or even fried, show some love to the necks and wings by making them the main dish on Thanksgiving.

“Turkey necks look absolutely gross, and not at all appetizing, but I can‘t explain how good it tastes. It’s almost a skill to know how to eat a turkey neck properly.” – Lydia Brown

Myrtle Beach, SC: Oyster Pie

No sugar is required for this pie! Known to few people on the coast, oyster pie – actually a casserole
– combines crackers, butter, cream and, of course, oysters (and sometimes lobster). This savory dish will titillate any seafood connoisseur.

“Put simply – it is not Thanksgiving without oyster pie! The dish is so simple to make and only calls for a few ingredients. You can make it with fresh oysters or even opt for canned ones. Either way, oyster pie
is definitely a pleaser and Thanksgiving favorite – at least in my family!” – Chelsea Anderson

Ohio: Sticky Buns

Whether for breakfast or dessert, sticky buns can be filled with cinnamon, glazed with a sticky sugary topping and loaded with pecans. Adventurous foodies have gone as far as to remix the sweet treat by adding pumpkin, cranberries or even ham and swiss cheese.

“For my family we do sticky buns. Not sure if it’s an Ohio thing or just a family tradition, but they’re super delicious.” – Katie Kajfez

Massachusetts: Rutabaga

You may have never heard of rutabaga, much less expected it to appear on a Thanksgiving table. But it exists and it does in fact appear on some tables during Thanksgiving.

“Our family always has yellow turnips, also known as rutabaga, but our family seems to be the only people who like it. Even our extended family rarely goes anywhere near it.” – Sam Oleksak

Alaska: Brie Cheese

While real Brie may be technically illegal in the United States because of its raw ingredients, it’s not a crime to nibble the French cheese on Thanksgiving. Brie cheese made with pasteurized milk can be bought just about anywhere in the United States and even though it is reportedly less tasty than the “real” French version – this versatile cheese can be dressed up and paired with several dishes.

“Is Brie, jam, and crackers strange? My family is all about some Brie on holidays.” – Marissa Myhill

Recipe! Stuffed Acorn Squash … mmm!

Ingredients:

1 acorn squash
1⁄2 c quinoa
11⁄4 c vegetable broth
1⁄4 tsp mild curry powder about 1⁄8 tsp ground cinnamon 1⁄4 c raisins
1 c spinach, finely chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Cut acorn squash in half, place cut side down on a cookie sheet, and bake for 30–35 minutes until fork-tender.
3. Meanwhile, combine quinoa, vegetable broth, curry powder, a few dashes of cinnamon and raisins in a pot. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes, or until liquid evaporates. If quinoa is not fluffy after 15 minutes, add more vegetable broth and cook longer. (Sometimes the raisins will absorb the liquid also, so more broth may be needed to cook the quinoa).
4. After quinoa is done, stir in spinach, add another dash or two of cinnamon, plus salt if desired, then cover and set aside, away from heat.
5. Once acorn squash is done, flip it over and scoop out seeds. Then use a sharp knife to cut the point off each base so the acorn bowls sit upright and don’t fall over.
6. Spoon quinoa mixture into squash and serve warm.

*This article first appeared in the November 2015 issue of The Yard

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