There is a collective sigh in the air. It's November and Thanksgiving dinner fantasies are as ripe as those Red Delicious apples at your local farmer's market. While I love tradition just as much as the next gal, I have to admit that sometimes I'm a little bored with the standard holiday fare.
So what about trying something different? Below are two recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes that are spicy, flavorful, and a little exotic, yet served in the familiar holiday style. Try my bright, homemade Spicy-Sweet Cranberry Sauce and my Indian-inspired Curried Mashed Potatoes with Tamarind Gravy for a new spin on holiday heavy-weights. These dishes aren't just exciting, they're healthier, too.
Spicy-Sweet Cranberry Sauce
1 lb. bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1 seeded and finely minced jalapeno (leave seeds for a spicier version)
1 cup of honey, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons of chipotle chile powder
½ teaspoon of salt
Rinse the fresh cranberries to remove any dirt or debris. Place in a medium pot with water, and minced jalapeno.
Cover with a lid.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer for twenty minutes.
Turn off the heat and remove lid.
Add honey, chipotle powder and salt. Stir to combine.
Taste for sweetness. Cranberries are tart and may require extra honey to balance the flavors.
Allow the mixture to cool before placing in a serving bowl. Refrigerate for one hour prior to serving.
Curried Mashed Potatoes with Tamarind Gravy
Ingredients - for mashed potatoes:
6 large russet potatoes
¼ cup ghee (you can also use clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil)
½ large yellow onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and finely minced (optional)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala (sold at most grocery stores in the spice aisle)
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
½ cup vegetable stock
½ cup low-fat milk
1 cup frozen green peas
Salt and pepper
½ cup of unbleached flour
½ cup of grapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
4 cups of turkey, chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
2 tablespoons of tamarind concentrate (you can find this product at any Latin or Asian grocer)
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
Salt and pepper
Directions - for Curried Mashed Potatoes:
Peel and dice your potatoes into one-inch chunks.
Place the potato chunks into a large pot and fill with cold water, just until it covers the potatoes by an inch.
Bring the potatoes up to a rolling boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer for fifteen minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
Strain the potatoes and set them aside.
In the empty pot, add the ghee and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir in the minced onion, garlic and serrano chile. Sauté for five minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
Stir in the curry powder, garam masala and cumin seeds and cook for one minute.
Return the boiled potatoes to the pot.
Add the broth and milk, then turn the heat down to low.
Mash the potatoes until they are smooth and well blended with the spices.
Stir in the frozen peas.
Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
For the Tamarind Gravy:
Heat a large sauté pan to medium high.
Add the oil and flour directly to the pan and whisk until a smooth paste forms, this is called a roux. If the roux is too dry, add another tablespoon of oil at a time until the consistency is like thick pancake batter.
Stir the mixture continuously until the roux begins to brown.
Once the roux is golden, stir in the cumin seeds and toast for one minute.
Deglaze the roux by slowly adding the stock. Make sure you are stirring continuously to prevent lumps.
Simmer the mixture, stirring often, until it reaches a gravy consistency, about five minutes.
Stir in the tamarind concentrate and butter. Whisk until both are fully incorporated.
Salt and pepper to your taste. This gravy will be slightly tart from the tamarind and pairs well with the curried mashed potatoes.
Bryanne Salazar is a freelance writer and editor, a contributing author for the website What the Flicka?, and a food-meets-culture blogger living in Southern California. Her blog, Bryanne Bites the World documents her explorations of various ethnic communities and food cultures across the United States. Bryanne majored in English and creative writing in college, and loves to pen short stories in her spare time. She is also an advocate for women and girls worldwide, the mother of two teenage boys, and the wife of an active duty United States Marine. You can follow Bryanne on Twitter to see what she's working on next.