Mediterranean Thanksgiving Dinner

Mediterranean Thankgiving Feast

After 30 plus Thanksgivings, I’ve gotten a little bored with the usual “Thanksgiving = turkey + stuffing + mashed potatoes + gravy + cranberry sauce” formula. Still, it’s a meal that I look forward to for 11 months out of the year (I spend December in recovery) and doing away with the traditional items and fixin’s just doesn’t seem right.

Sure, I’ve tried stuffing sage leaves under the turkey skin and adding apple cider to the gravy, but there’s only so many variations you can do on the traditional themes. This year, my family is flying out from Cali to have Thanksgiving in NYC (thanks guys!), so I decided to see if I could do something radically different while still retaining that “Thanksgiving” feel to the food.

While I tossed around a bunch of ideas, including a 9 course Kaiseki turkey dinner, I decided to go with a middle east themed Thanksgiving. This was partly influenced by the discovery of the most awesome spice shop in the East Village called Dual Specialty Products. It sells every spice you could possibly imagine, and lots that you’ve never heard of, by the pound (yes you read that right). I picked up 1/4 lb of sumac and 1/4 lb of garam masala for a couple bucks each. They also have fresh curry leaves and naga jolokia peppers. Yes capsaicin-heads, that’s naga jolokia as in over 1 million Scoville units, kick-your-ass then light a pile of thermite under it naga jolokia.

Anyway, back on topic, last night, I ran my first rehearsal of this theme using a chicken. In a word, it was good… really good (I know… that’s two words, but cut me some slack). Different, but not so different that it would have been unrecognizable as a Thanksgiving dinner. If you didn’t smell or taste it, you might even think it was ordinary.

The cinnamon harissa rub I made for the chicken is going on my list of favorite marinades. It’s pleasantly spicy, with great aromas coming from the cinnamon, garlic and cumin and it has just a hint of tang from the sumac. Put simply, this spice mixture would make boot leather taste good (though you might need to do something about the texture).

I’m not much of brussel sprout fan, but shredded, then caramelized with shallots and pomegranate molasses, this will make a believer out of even the biggest skeptic. Pomegranate molasses is a thick sweet and tart syrup made by boiling down pomegranate juice. You can get it in bottles at Middle Eastern groceries, or if you have the time I suppose you could make it yourself.

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses

I’m not really sure why no-ones thought of adding tahini to mashed potatoes before (well a quick google shows that they have, but have you ever heard of it?). The flavours and textures compliment each other very well and you end up with a rich, creamy, nutty mashed potato without adding any butter or cream. I forgot to do it before I took the photos, but if you sprinkle a little sumac on top, it adds some color and just a bit of tang to brighten things up.

Last, but not least, the stuffing. Stuffing and I have a love hate relationship. I love it when it’s been stuffed inside a bird and is saturated with flavorful juices as the whole thing roasts. I hate it when it’s been cooked outside the bird and is dry, chewy, and flavorless. I used to always opt for the stuffing route (after all the method is the namesake), but with food safety concerns these day’s the fine folks at the FDA (a.k.a. ruiners off all good food) tell us that we’re not supposed to stuff poultry unless we’re willing to cook the bird until it’s a giant ball of jerky. The answer? Use a semi-stale firm bread (instead of crunchy wonderbread croutons that came out of the bag) and lots of chicken stock.

For this stuffing I used a multi-grain bread to which I added dried cherries, celery, shallots and Merguez sausage to. It strikes a great balance between savoury, spicy and sweet and the inside is soft and moist while the top layer comes out nice and crisp.

Since I was only cooking for 2, I skipped the cranberry sauce, sweet potato’s, pumpkin and apple pies, but I have big plans for those. I hope these recipes inspire you to create your own unique takes on holiday classics:-)

Cinnamon Harissa Roast Chicken (Turkey)

2 cloves garlic pressed
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs harissa
3.5 lbs chicken

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prep a rack to roast the chicken on and lower the shelf in the oven so the chicken will be sitting right in the middle of the oven.

Mix everything except the chicken in a small bowl until combined. Wash the chicken inside and out and trim any excess skin or fat. Tuck the wing tips under the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels and spread the spice mixture all over the inside and outside of the chicken. I like to separate the skin from the meat near the entrance to inside of the chicken and spread the mixture in between so the breast are nice and flavorful.

Place the bird on the rack and roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the oven and transfer to a plate and tent with foil for 10 minutes.

Multi-grain Stuffing with Dried Cherries and Merguez
Multi-grain stuffing with dried cherries and Merguez

3 C cubed semi-stale mult-grain bread
1 stalk celery diced
2 shallots diced
1/2 C cooked and drained Merguez sausage
1/2 C chopped dried cherries
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 to 3/4 C low sodium chicken stock
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs sumac

Preheat oven to 425 and grease a 9″ x 9″ baking pan.

Combine the bread, celery, shallots, sausage and cherries in a bowl. Sprinkle the salt and spices on top and toss well to coat evenly. Drizzle the chicken stock over the mixture while stirring. I tend to like my stuffing very moist, so I add enough stock so the bread is well saturated, but not mushy. Drizzle the olive oil on top and toss to coat.

Empty the stuffing into the baking pan and sprinkle with the sumac. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 7-10 minutes or until the top layer of stuffing is crisp. If your oven is big enough, you can put this into the oven towards the tail end of the chickens cooking time then brown the top while the chicken rests.

Sesame Mashed Potatoes

4 medium russet potatoes pealed and quartered
1/4 C tahini
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4-1/2 C milk
sumac for garnish

Boil the potatoes in ample water until a fork easily passes through a potato, but be careful not to overcook them.

Put the hot potatoes into the bowl of an electric mixer (or a regular bowl if you want to mash by hand). Add the tahini, salt and 1/4 cup of milk and turn the mixer onto the lowest possible setting (be careful, hot potato flying all over the kitchen is no fun). If the potatoes look too firm keep adding more milk until it’s smooth and creamy. Don’t over mix the potatoes otherwise you’ll end up with glue.

Serve with a sprinkle of sumac on top.

Caramelized Brussel Spouts with Pomegranate Molasses
1 Tbs olive oil
2 shallots sliced thinly crosswise
4 C shredded brussel sprouts
2 Tbs pomegranate molasses
salt & pepper

Heat the pan over high heat until hot. Add the oil and then the shallots, quickly fry until fragrant. Add The brussel sprouts and saute until they are wilted and bright green. Add the pomegranate molasses and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly then serve immediately.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ We Are Never Full

    i absolutely love this idea. jonny and i were talking about doing a different themed thanksgiving (or christmas) dinner each year b/c the same old is nice (since it’s usually just once a year) but it’s good to switch it up. this looks awesome. sesame mashed potatoes… i’m salivating at the thought. i wish i was in your family.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com We Are Never Full

    i absolutely love this idea. jonny and i were talking about doing a different themed thanksgiving (or christmas) dinner each year b/c the same old is nice (since it’s usually just once a year) but it’s good to switch it up. this looks awesome. sesame mashed potatoes… i’m salivating at the thought. i wish i was in your family.

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com Manggy

    That’s certainly very unique, Marc! I’m not afraid of spice at all (or heat, for that matter), so bring it on, I say :) Ah, you mean brining the turkey won’t save it from its jerkish fate?
    I am SO looking forward to that Kaiseki Thanksgiving next year :)

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com/ Manggy

    That’s certainly very unique, Marc! I’m not afraid of spice at all (or heat, for that matter), so bring it on, I say :) Ah, you mean brining the turkey won’t save it from its jerkish fate?
    I am SO looking forward to that Kaiseki Thanksgiving next year :)

  • http://www.janespice.com/ Ursula

    I love your idea of adding tahini to mashed potatoes. I’m definitely going to try it. Sumac would be perfect for the mashed potatoes. Great recipe.

  • http://www.janespice.com Ursula

    I love your idea of adding tahini to mashed potatoes. I’m definitely going to try it. Sumac would be perfect for the mashed potatoes. Great recipe.

  • http://www.noobcook.com/ noobcook

    what a great thanksgiving feast for two. Wish I can get a new oven soon so that I can make such nice roast meat too :)

  • http://www.noobcook.com noobcook

    what a great thanksgiving feast for two. Wish I can get a new oven soon so that I can make such nice roast meat too :)

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    Such creativity Marc! A great idea to go for a Middle Eastern inspired Thanksgiving dinner.

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    Such creativity Marc! A great idea to go for a Middle Eastern inspired Thanksgiving dinner.

  • http://rasamalaysia.com/ Rasa Malaysia

    Marc, I hope you get on The Next Food Network Star. And yes, I will teach you how to make Malaysian food to beat the rest of the contestants. The thing about Malaysian food is that the flavors are still so new and unknown here in the US, so I am sure it has that WOW factor, and I promise, my food / recipes are much better than Fatty Crab in NYC. ;)

  • http://rasamalaysia.com Rasa Malaysia

    Marc, I hope you get on The Next Food Network Star. And yes, I will teach you how to make Malaysian food to beat the rest of the contestants. The thing about Malaysian food is that the flavors are still so new and unknown here in the US, so I am sure it has that WOW factor, and I promise, my food / recipes are much better than Fatty Crab in NYC. ;)

  • http://culinarty.sapiensworks.com/ Lore

    That marinade sounds wonderful!!! Thanks for sharing your creative thanksgiving dinner with Original Recipes :)

  • http://culinarty.sapiensworks.com/ Lore

    That marinade sounds wonderful!!! Thanks for sharing your creative thanksgiving dinner with Original Recipes :)

  • http://findingladolcevita.blogspot.com/ maryann

    Nice to “meet” you Marc! You could also call your blog “flying by the seat of my pants” which is what I do most days! hahaha
    Love your turkey, kiddo!

  • http://findingladolcevita.blogspot.com maryann

    Nice to “meet” you Marc! You could also call your blog “flying by the seat of my pants” which is what I do most days! hahaha
    Love your turkey, kiddo!

  • http://www.everydaycookin.blogspot.com/ Darius T. Williams

    Yup – I bet that rub for the chicken was awesome!

    -DTW
    http://www.everydaycookin.blogspot.com

  • http://www.everydaycookin.blogspot.com Darius T. Williams

    Yup – I bet that rub for the chicken was awesome!

    -DTW
    http://www.everydaycookin.blogspot.com

  • http://appetiteforchina.com/ Diana @ AppetiteforChina

    Love the shredded brussel sprouts photo! Now I’m craving everything in this dinner.

  • http://appetiteforchina.com Diana @ AppetiteforChina

    Love the shredded brussel sprouts photo! Now I’m craving everything in this dinner.

  • Marc

    Thanks Amy, I’m usually the same way (talk about doing something different but decide it’s only once a year and make the same thing). I’ve had this idea of doing a Kaiseki Thanksgiving for a while, but that would be such a big departure for normal Thanksgiving, I’m just not sure it would satisfy the craving.

    Manggy, I always brine turkeys (chickens usually don’t need it), but I don’t think even a soak in brine would save the turkey if you stuffed it and wanted to get the stuffing up to the FDA recommended 175 degrees in the middle (by that time the turkey would probably be over 200.

    Thanks Ursula, give it a go and let us know what you think.

    Noobcook, no oven?:( Hopefully you get a new one soon!

    Thanks Peter G

    Rasa Malaysia, thanks:-) I’ve never been to the Fatty Crab, but based on the reviews I’ve read it doesn’t make me want to go. Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to find a place to get good Laksa, Hainese Chicken Rice and Nasi Lemak here. We’ll have to figure out a way to trade cooking lessons, where are you located?

    Thanks Lore!

    Maryann, great to “meet” you to:-) That’s funny that you mention that, I actually contemplated “cooking by the seat of my pants” but I figured the international crowd might not get the humor… Thanks:-)

    Darius, I think it would be good on other meats and would probably BBQ well too I’m going to try making some lamb kebabs with it this week.

    Thanks Diana!

  • Marc

    Thanks Amy, I’m usually the same way (talk about doing something different but decide it’s only once a year and make the same thing). I’ve had this idea of doing a Kaiseki Thanksgiving for a while, but that would be such a big departure for normal Thanksgiving, I’m just not sure it would satisfy the craving.

    Manggy, I always brine turkeys (chickens usually don’t need it), but I don’t think even a soak in brine would save the turkey if you stuffed it and wanted to get the stuffing up to the FDA recommended 175 degrees in the middle (by that time the turkey would probably be over 200.

    Thanks Ursula, give it a go and let us know what you think.

    Noobcook, no oven?:( Hopefully you get a new one soon!

    Thanks Peter G

    Rasa Malaysia, thanks:-) I’ve never been to the Fatty Crab, but based on the reviews I’ve read it doesn’t make me want to go. Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to find a place to get good Laksa, Hainese Chicken Rice and Nasi Lemak here. We’ll have to figure out a way to trade cooking lessons, where are you located?

    Thanks Lore!

    Maryann, great to “meet” you to:-) That’s funny that you mention that, I actually contemplated “cooking by the seat of my pants” but I figured the international crowd might not get the humor… Thanks:-)

    Darius, I think it would be good on other meats and would probably BBQ well too I’m going to try making some lamb kebabs with it this week.

    Thanks Diana!

  • http://www.noblepig.com/ noble pig

    This is a very unique and fun meal, I love it.

  • http://www.noblepig.com/ noble pig

    This is a very unique and fun meal, I love it.

  • http://www.cookeatfret.com/ claudia (cook eat FRET)

    i am in absolute awe of this meal.
    seriously. i wanta make this – all of it.

    very very impressive…

  • http://www.cookeatfret.com claudia (cook eat FRET)

    i am in absolute awe of this meal.
    seriously. i wanta make this – all of it.

    very very impressive…

  • http://rasamalaysia.com/ Bee

    Hey Marc,

    I am in Irvine, CA. Can’t trade cooking lessons. LOL.

    Anyway, for NYC, I think Penang (Chinatown) or Nonya are OK. But I was at both of them like 8 years ago, so I am not sure if they are still good. But seriously, all the Malaysian restaurants in the US DO NOT do justice to Malaysian food, really. I cook much better than any of them. You have to go to Malaysia one day on a culinary tour.

    Get your FN gig first and I will organize one. And you can bring along Bourdain or Batali. ;)

    Best,
    Bee

  • http://rasamalaysia.com Bee

    Hey Marc,

    I am in Irvine, CA. Can’t trade cooking lessons. LOL.

    Anyway, for NYC, I think Penang (Chinatown) or Nonya are OK. But I was at both of them like 8 years ago, so I am not sure if they are still good. But seriously, all the Malaysian restaurants in the US DO NOT do justice to Malaysian food, really. I cook much better than any of them. You have to go to Malaysia one day on a culinary tour.

    Get your FN gig first and I will organize one. And you can bring along Bourdain or Batali. ;)

    Best,
    Bee

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com/ syrie

    Wow Marc. Nice work. You’re so imaginative. I’ve just discovered Tahini. I’ve always heard about it but only recently decided to buy some. I water it down a little and use it as a salad dressing.
    I was just reading your reply about the Fatty Crab – stay away – a real disappointment. I ordered one of their most popular dishes with chicken in it and the chicken was old…you know that weird taste/smell chicken gets after like a week.

  • http://allthingsnice.typepad.com syrie

    Wow Marc. Nice work. You’re so imaginative. I’ve just discovered Tahini. I’ve always heard about it but only recently decided to buy some. I water it down a little and use it as a salad dressing.
    I was just reading your reply about the Fatty Crab – stay away – a real disappointment. I ordered one of their most popular dishes with chicken in it and the chicken was old…you know that weird taste/smell chicken gets after like a week.

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    This sounds like a great take on an alternate holiday dinner!

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    This sounds like a great take on an alternate holiday dinner!

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com/ [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    This looks like a fantastic menu. I love that cinnamon harissa chicken. Mind if I steal it? ;)

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    This looks like a fantastic menu. I love that cinnamon harissa chicken. Mind if I steal it? ;)

  • http://tastewiththeeyes.blogspot.com/ Lori Lynn

    What a great menu Marc! Got some good laughs from your writing too. My family is more traditional for the big day, but I think I could use a lot of these at other times. Especially like the tahini mashed potatoes, going to try that soon.

  • http://tastewiththeeyes.blogspot.com/ Lori Lynn

    What a great menu Marc! Got some good laughs from your writing too. My family is more traditional for the big day, but I think I could use a lot of these at other times. Especially like the tahini mashed potatoes, going to try that soon.

  • http://foodalogue.com/ Joan Nova

    Yup…this is truly inspired. I love Mideastern flavors and to combine them with Thanksgiving, well, it’s genius…particularly tahini mashed potatoes. Great job!

  • http://foodalogue.com Joan Nova

    Yup…this is truly inspired. I love Mideastern flavors and to combine them with Thanksgiving, well, it’s genius…particularly tahini mashed potatoes. Great job!

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  • joseph

    hi, i’m a guy and i just started cooking recently. i can’t find pomegrante molasses. is there something, i could use in place? i love this recipe idea, i see brussel sprouts all the time at Trader Joe’s and i’m so intimidated. thank you!
    j

  • joseph

    hi, i’m a guy and i just started cooking recently. i can’t find pomegrante molasses. is there something, i could use in place? i love this recipe idea, i see brussel sprouts all the time at Trader Joe’s and i’m so intimidated. thank you!
    j

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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