Thanksgiving is the most traditional dinner served in many American households every year. Families tend to stick with the same menu every year, with recipes handed down from generation to generation. While tradition is important — and usually delicious — don’t be afraid to try new things at Thanksgiving.
Here are a few ideas to spice up your Thanksgiving menu:
Explore your cultural roots
Thanksgiving is based on a meal where Native Americans shared their harvest bounty with English immigrants. This is the perfect time to try out a few dishes from your family’s immigrant past and integrate them into the traditional menu. Our country has often been called a melting pot due to the many waves of immigrants who have come to America’s shores over the years with the same dream of a better future. With those dreams, immigrants also brought cuisines from around the world.
Farm to fork
The 209 is literally the country’s cornucopia. When families in Ohio, Florida and Rhode Island sit down for dinner on Thanksgiving there’s a good chance they are eating almonds from Blue Diamond, turkey from Foster Farms, cheese from Hilmar Cheese Company — or any number of the over 200 agricultural products grown right here. This holiday have all your dinner ingredients locally sourced. You will not only support local farmers, but the food will actually taste better!
Pot luck dinner
Take some of the stress out of preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year by asking your guests to pitch-in and bring a side dish or two. This not only lightens the responsibilities in the kitchen, it’s also a good way to try new dishes. Every family has a recipe or two that has been handed down through the ages; there’s no better way to spread the joy of the season than sharing a true piece of one’s heritage.
If you are still in need of some new ideas, check out the following recipes from local chefs.
Irene Reyes - Chef de Cuisine
Black Oak Café - Black Oak Casino Resort
Whether you’re craving a hearty breakfast, the perfect French Dip, crispy fish ‘n’ chips or a cooked-to-order rib eye, the Black Oak Café is ready!
In the mood for endless food? Fill your plate at the Express Lunch Buffet ($9.99, Monday – Friday) or Weekender Brunch Buffet ($15.99, Saturday and Sunday), plus dinner buffets Wednesday – Sunday. The new Surf & Turf Buffet ($21.99, Friday and Saturday nights) is a food-lover’s dream, with all-you-can-eat shrimp, crab, prime rib, sausage and chicken. All buffets come with a soup-and-salad bar and variety of desserts.
Chef de Cuisine Irene Reyes balances a casual-yet-sophisticated menu with a tempting array of a la carte desserts, appetizers and the popular clam chowder. You can complement your meal with a deep assortment of wine, beer and cocktails. Pro tip: Order the Mother Lode Bloody Mary – it’s practically a meal by itself!
Chef Irene’s featured side dishes are part of in the café’s Thanksgiving Buffet ($24.95, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.). In addition to all your traditional favorites and trimmings, the buffet includes slow-roasted prime rib and a colorful selection of salads, soups and desserts.
Located on the second floor near the Players Club. For hours and full menu, visit blackoakcasino.com.
Candied Streusel Sweet Potatoes
5 lbs. fresh sweet potato
2 cups orange juice
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ tsp. ginger powder
2 tsp. all spice
½ cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup coconut milk
1 ½ cups shredded coconut (roasted)
3 cups small marshmallows
Wash and peel sweet potatoes, cut into chunks and put in baking pan. Combine orange juice, brown sugar, ginger powder and all spice. Mix well and add sweet potatoes. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Place in a mixer and add butter and coconut milk. Whip until creamy. Spray a 2-inch, 9 x 13 pan with butter. Spread sweet potato mixture in the pan and top with shredded coconut and marshmallows. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, or until marshmallows are golden brown.
This recipe was inspired by Chef Irene’s native Philippines, where sweet potatoes were a cooking staple in her household. “Sweet potatoes are delicious and nutritious year-round, but fall and winter are perfect for a good, savory sweet potato recipe. This is one of my favorites – your family will love it!”
Creamy Gorgonzola Polenta
4 ½ qt. stock
2 qt. heavy cream
1 tbsp. salt
1 ½ qt. polenta (cornmeal)
1 ½ tsp. white pepper
2 cups butter
4 cups shredded parmesan cheese
6 cups gorgonzola cheese
½ cup chopped fresh rosemary
In a large pot, add stock, cream and salt. Bring to a boil and whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce heat to low and stir continuously for 20 to 30 minutes. When polenta is done, add white pepper, butter, parmesan cheese and gorgonzola cheese. To finish, add finely chopped fresh rosemary.
Chef Lynesse Cabida
Bayou Bar & Grill
Enjoy a taste of Bourbon Street in Downtown Modesto at The Bayou Bar and Grill. A local and family-owned restaurant filled with NOLA culture and food that will have your taste buds jumping. Southern comfort can be found in every meal and accompanied by a kick of spice. Our classic Cajun cuisine includes popular dishes such as Po Boy sandwiches, Seafood Gumbo, Jambalaya and much more.
Want some entertainment with your food? Then join us for karaoke every Friday and Saturday night from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a fun time with drinks and dancing. You won’t want to miss our happy hour! Most appetizers are half off and $3 draft beers, it's the perfect for unwinding and relaxing with friends any day of the week. Join us Tuesday-Friday from 4-7pm, and ALL DAY Thursdays!
Join the fun at the Bayou Bar & Grill! Visit our website to check out our menu at www.thebayoumodesto.com and keep up with specials and new items by following us on social media @bayoubarmodesto. See ya at the Bayou.
Boudin Sausage Albondigas
Step One Ingredients:
1 bunch of celery, chopped
2 bell peppers small dice
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbsp of fresh minced garlic
Heat a pan on medium-high and sauté veggies for about 5-10 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste Once cooked, set aside and let cool
Step Two Ingredients:
In a separate bowl mix 2lbs of ground beef
1 lb of pork Italian sausage
3 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp of red chili flakes
2 Tbsp of ground red pepper
3 Tbsp of granulated garlic
3 Tbsp of onion powder
2 Tbsp of salt
2 Tbsp of pepper
2 Tbsp of brown sugar
4 cups of cooked and cooled rice
Once your veggie mixture is cooled mix with the rest of the ingredients. After mixing everything roll out into 3 oz balls.
In medium 12 qt stock pot, heat 4qts water and 4 qts of beef broth. Add in potatoes, carrots, corn and any other vegetables of your choice. Once brought to a boil, add in meatballs, cover and let cook for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
“One of my favorite dishes to make during the holidays would be albondigas. Over the years I’ve always thought how could I make this dish better and one day I thought of it — why not make boudin sausage albondigas a little bit of Mexican and Cajun fusion!
Stewart & Jasper Orchards
Stewart & Jasper Orchards are known for their almonds, but with four retail locations to stock in Newman, Modesto, Patterson and Monterey, the local farmers do not limit their publicly available inventory to just nuts.
Customers who visit these locations can browse from a selection of dried fruits, gourmet sauces, salad dressings, popcorn and more—with over 50 percent of the store’s inventory produced by Stewart & Jasper Orchards. Additionally, customers are invited to taste over 20 wines at the Modesto location and over 16 wines at the Patterson location.
Balsamic Almond Green Beans
1 lb. green beans, cleaned and edges trimmed
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. balsamic glaze
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup Stewart & Jasper Natural Sliced Almonds
4-6 oz. crumbled goat cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook the green beans until crisp-tender, which takes about 5 minutes. When the beans are cooked, drain immediately and rinse under cold water until they are no longer hot.
Combine the balsamic glaze and Dijon mustard in a small bowl and whisk together.
In a large wok or pan, sauté the yellow onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes, or until onions have softened. Add salt and stir.
Add the balsamic glaze mixture and dried cranberries and let them cook for about a minute. Add the green beans and gently toss them in the wok to coat with the balsamic glaze. Once combined, remove from heat.
Serve on a platter and top with sliced almonds and crumbled goat cheese.