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Spiced-Up Thanksgiving Trimmings PDF Print E-mail

by Nancy Gerlach, SuperSite Food Editor Emeritus

spicy turkey trimmings



  • Curry-Pumpkin Bisque

  • Winter Harvest Salad

  • Serrano Ginger Cranberry Chutney

  • Spicy Green Beans

  • Glazed and Roasted Onions

The holidays are almost upon us and with everything that is going on, it hardly seems appropriate to be celebrating. Over the past couple of months we’ve shown the world that we are giving, sharing people in times of need, and since Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks for all the abundance in this country, and for sharing some of that bounty, we should enjoy this holiday without a guilty conscience.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s the one that only celebrates food. It’s not commercial, doesn’t involve buying gifts, just sharing food with family and friends. One of my fondness memories of Thanksgiving was that of my mother getting up early in the morning to stuff the turkey, and the wonderful aroma that would fill the house every time the oven was opened to baste the bird--a job I loved doing. I now cook on my mom’s stove and still enjoy basting the turkey, but all those traditional, but bland, trimmings I grew up with have been replaced with spicier, hotter, and more exotic accompaniments.

Of course the Pilgrims didn’t cook with chiles, nor did the Native Americans who befriended them, but what if the first feast of thanks hosted by Europeans in the New World didn’t happen in the northeast but in the southwest instead? That’s not so farfetched if you remember that Santa Fe was established by Don Juan Oñate as the capital city of the northern Provence of New Spain (old Mexico) more than two decades before pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. And Oñate, by the way, is credited with bringing the first chiles north from Mexico to what is now called New Mexico.

Oñate was given the right to colonize Northern Mexico by the King of Spain. Accordingly, he left southern Chihuahua in January, 1598, with an expedition of families. The party slowly made it’s way northward through mountains and deserts, eventually depleting their food and water supplies. They were forced to subsist on edible weeds and roots, and were in danger of dying of thirst and hunger. Eventually on April 20th, they reached what one member of the party called, "the Elysian Fields of happiness." The "fields" were grassy meadows with huge shade trees and bordered by the Rio Grande near El Paso. There the party relieved its thirst and was able to catch a large number of fish, ducks, and geese. All these were roasted over a "great bonfire" and the feast was enjoyed by the entire expedition, who gave thanks for their safe arrival.

Thanksgiving Turkey

This, claim Texans, was really the first Thanksgiving meal held by Europeans in North America. As a result, the people of El Paso celebrate this event every April. And although they are serious about their claim, nobody is trying to displace the Pilgrims or change Thanksgiving Day. They like turkey and football too much for that.

So maybe adding chiles to a traditional Thanksgiving feast is not so farfetched. After all, we’ve been including them here in the southwest since Oñate arrived. The following selection of recipes include ones that I’ve served over the years with my turkey dinners. Pick and choose those which would complement your family’s traditional Thanksgiving feast. Maybe if the Pilgrims had sailed further south, chiles would be part of everyone’s traditional Thanksgiving meal!


Curry-Pumpkin Bisque

curry-pumpkin bisque

I don’t always serve pumpkin pie for desert at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I make a pumpkin cheese cake, muffins, or this spicy soup with an island taste. If you don’t want to use pumpkin, any winter squash will do. Use butternut, acorn, or Hubbard, or for preparation ease, use canned pumpkin puree.

  • 1 quart vegetable broth

  • 4 cups diced squash or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger

  • 1 cup chopped onions

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground habanero chile

  • 2 teaspoons curry powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

  • Pinch of ground cloves

  • Pinch of white pepper

  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest

  • 2 tablespoons rum (optional)

  • Garnish: Croutons and fresh sage leaves

If using fresh squash, bring the broth to a rapid boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the squash, cover, and boil the squash for about 10 minutes until soft. Remove, reserving the broth, and place in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, adding some of the broth, if needed.

Or, place the canned pumpkin puree, along with 3 cups of the broth in large kettle.

In a small frypan, heat the butter or margarine, add the ginger and onion and saute until the onions are soft. Add onion the mixture, habanero and the spices, to the pumpkin puree.

Simmer the bisque for 15 minutes. Strain the soup, return to the stove and heat through.

Remove from the heat and stir in the orange juice, zest, and rum. Garnish with crotons and sage leaves and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium Hot


Winter Harvest Salad

This marinated spicy salad is rather like the traditional Mexican Christmas Eve Salad and takes advantage of fall vegetables. Substitute celery for the jicama, add oranges or apples, and you have a lower-fat take on a Waldorf salad.

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, fresh preferred

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper, such as red New Mexico or piquin

  • 1 cup jicama, julienne cut in thin stick-size pieces

  • 2 carrots, peeled, julienne cut in thin stick-size pieces

  • Lettuce leaves

  • Garnish: Chopped toasted pecans

Combine the oil, lime juice, vinegar, and chile in a mixing bowl and whisk to blend.

Toss the vegetables with the dressing and let sit for an hour to blend the flavors.

Line individual salad plates with the lettuce leaves and spoon the marinated vegetables on the lettuce. Garnish with the pecans and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium


Serrano Ginger Cranberry Chutney

cranberry Chutney

Where is it written that canned cranberry sauce has to be served with at Thanksgiving? The sweet, sour, hot tastes of this chutney compliments turkey, chicken, and even pork. The addition of black pepper may sound odd, but it does provide a tasty accent to the chutney.

  • 2 to 3 serrano chiles, stems removed, chopped or substitute jalapeño chiles

  • 1 ½ cups fresh cranberries

  • 16 dried apricots, quartered

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger

  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring continually to dissolve sugar. After the sugar is dissolved, increase heat to high and boil 3 minutes. Transfer the chutney to a serving bowl and cool.

Yield: 1 ½ cups

Heat Scale: Medium Hot


Spicy Green Beans

spicy green beans

These beans go well with simple meats, such as turkey, or with cheese dishes. They add color and just a mild heat to any meal. For a different taste, I’ve also used this recipe substituting zucchini squash for the beans and serrano chiles for more heat.

  • ½ cup chopped onions

  • 1 clove garlic, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 3 green New Mexico chiles, skinned, seeds removed, chopped

  • 1 pound French-cut green beans

  • 1 small tomato, peeled and chopped

  • Salt to taste

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the chiles and continue to saute for an additional 2 or 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients along with 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the beans are done.

Yield: 4 servings

Heat Scale: Mild


Glazed and Roasted Onions

roasted onions

Serve these caramelized onions in place of the creamed ones that grace many holiday tables. These too are sweet, but also hot and lower in fat and won’t fill you up! These can also grilled over a low flame, as shown in the photo. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar

  • 5 tablespoons brown sugar

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground habanero chile

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 medium yellow onions, cut in thick slices

In a mixing bowl, add the vinegar along with 1 ½ cups water and whisk to combine. Add the sugar, salt, chile, and pepper and mix well.

Pour the marinade into a deep glass or ceramic baking pan. Arrange onion halves, cut-side down, in marinade and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and bake the onions, uncovered, for approximately 1 hour, or until cut side of onions have glazed a dark brown.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Medium Hot

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