Give Your Thanksgiving Menu a Twist

Thanksgiving is grounded in tradition. But that doesn’t mean your menu has to be mundane. Change it up this year by incorporating these alternative recipes.

The Simple Starter
Choose cheddar crackers instead of rolls.

Cheddar Crackers
Recipe from Real Simple

4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups Cheddar, grated
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 cup rice cereal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the butter, Cheddar, and 4 teaspoons each salt and pepper until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the flour a little at a time, 1 minute.  Stir in the rice cereal.

Using parchment, roll into 4 1½-inch-diameter logs; freeze until firm, 30 to 40 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice ¼ inch thick.

Bake on two parchment-lined baking sheets until lightly golden, 16 to 20 minutes.

The Exciting Entrée
Instead of the traditional turkey, pass the pork this Thanksgiving.

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy
Recipe from Martha Stewart

2 pounds carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 pound shallots, peeled and halved if large
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grainy mustard

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots, shallots, and 1 tablespoon rosemary with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, season pork with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add pork; cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate, and reserve skillet.

Remove baking sheet from oven; push vegetables to sides. Place pork in center; return sheet to oven. Roast, tossing vegetables occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers 145 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes. Loosely tent pork with foil. Wait 10 minutes before slicing.

While pork rests, pour off almost all of the fat from skillet. Add wine, and cook over medium-high, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 30 seconds. Gradually add 1 cup water, whisking constantly. Add 1 tablespoon rosemary. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Whisk in mustard, and season gravy with salt and pepper.

The Savory Side
Trade the stuffing for a filling rice pilaf.

Wild-Rice Pilaf with Rosemary and Red Grapes
Recipe from Martha Stewart

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups wild-rice blend (from two 6-ounce packages) without seasoning packets
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried and crushed
1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice and rosemary; cook, stirring, about 1 minute.

Add broth and 1 cup water; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-low heat; cover, and cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add grapes and parsley; season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

The Decadent Dessert
Pass on the pumpkin pie and try something new with canned pumpkin: rice pudding.

Pumpkin Rice Pudding
From Real Simple

cups short-grain or Arborio rice
6 cups milk
1 cup sugar
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
¼ cup orange juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
¼ cup dark brown sugar (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine the rice, milk, sugar, vanilla bean, orange zest, orange juice, and salt. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and most (but not all) of the liquid is absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Discard the vanilla bean. Stir in the pumpkin. The recipe can be made ahead to this point.

Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days ahead. To re-warm, stir in an additional 1 1/2 cups milk and stir gently over medium-low heat. Serve warm, sprinkled with the brown sugar if desired.


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