Recipes for an unconventional Thanksgiving

With less than 24 hours from Thanksgiving Day, maybe you’re scrambling to come up with a last-minute dish to serve, or something outside the norm to bring to a Friendsgiving. So we offer some ideas from past interviews with chefs and food writers. 

Sauce: mole

Bricia Lopez’s family owns the Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza, and her new cookbook is titled “Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.” 

She tells us that a lot of people think mole is like a chocolate sauce, but that’s not the case.

“You have things like sesame seeds, and cinnamon, and chilies, and garlic, and onions, and tomatoes. And it's this marrying of these roasted toasted chiles, sometimes fried chiles, with these other ingredients … all have been smoked,” Lopez describes. “And then you grind them, and then you put them together. And you use chicken broth or any broth that you have. And it becomes beautiful, silky, perfectly balanced with a hint of smoky sauce. And then you put a little bit of chocolate to finish it off.”

Some people may think mole is complicated and would take days to make. Lopez that’s only the case if you’re making it for 1000 people. “But if you're making mole at home for a family of six, it takes you a couple of hours,” she says.

Full interview: Guelaguetza co-owner on Oaxaca’s family-focused traditions and making mole

Recipe: mole negro (black mole)

Mole Negro. Photo credit: Quentin Bacon. 

Reprinted from “Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.” 

The secret of this mole is in the deep level of toasting and frying of the ingredients. That’s how it gets its haunting pitch-black hue and really complex flavor profiles. I’m not saying to burn the ingredients all the way, but get as close as you can without burning it all. Makes about 14 cups.


For the chiles:

  • 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 g) ancho mulato chiles, seeds and stems removed

  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 g) chilhuacle negro chiles, seeds and stems removed (can be substituted with cascabel chiles)
  • 1 3/4 ounces (50 g) pasilla chiles, stems removed  

For the rest:

  • 2/3 cup (100 g) sesame seeds

  • 1 teaspoon plus 3 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/4 cup (9 g) dried oregano

  • 3 whole cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice berries

  • 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1 (3-inch/7.5 cm) cinnamon stick, freshly ground (2 teaspoons if using ground)

  • 1 onion (160 g), chopped

  • 1/2 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil, plus 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) to fry the mole paste

  • 6 (30 g) garlic cloves, peeled

  • 3/4 cup (100 g) almonds

  • 1 3/4 ounces (50 g) María Mexican cookies (can be substituted with animal crackers)

  • 6 ounces (170 g) ripe plantains, peeled and chopped into 2-inch (5 cm) rounds

  • 1 cup (125 g) cubed apples, unpeeled

  • 2 3/4 ounces (75 g) fresh pineapple, core removed

  • 3/4 cup (100 g) raisins

  • 2 1/3 cups (400 g) chopped tomatoes

  • 2 dried avocado leaves

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

  • 7 ounces (200 g) Oaxacan chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 1/2 cups (1 L) chicken stock 


  1. In the largest skillet you have over medium heat, add 1 cup of oil for the chiles. 
  2. When hot, add the chiles and fry until all the chiles are deeply toasted and crispy, almost burnt. Make sure to keep gently stirring the chiles. This should take 5 to 7 minutes. You may need to do it in batches.
  3. Turn off heat and reserve oil.
  4. Remove the chiles from the oil and put in a colander or on a wire rack so they completely cool. Reserve the oil.
  5. While the chiles cool, bring 8 cups (2 L) of water to a boil. When boiling, remove from heat and add the chiles. Cover and let the chiles soak for 30 minutes or until they are
all rehydrated.
  6. In a comal or cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add the sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon salt and toast for 2 minutes. Reserve.
  7. In the same comal, add the thyme, oregano, cloves, allspice berries, peppercorns, and cinnamon. Toast for 5 minutes, until the spices are aromatic. Grind the herbs and the spices in a molcajete until finely ground. Set aside.
  8. In the comal, add the onion and garlic. Toast for 10 minutes or until the onion and garlic have started to char a bit. Set aside.
  9. In a large skillet, add 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the vegetable oil over medium heat. When hot, fry the following ingredients for a few minutes individually, until each is deeply toasted and aromatic, and then set aside: almonds, Maria cookies, plantains, apples, pineapple, and raisins. Make sure each ingredient is deeply golden brown for the best flavor in the finished mole. All ingredients can be combined at the end.
  10. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup (120 ml) of water. Cover and let cook for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  11. Remove the chiles from soaking and add to blender with 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) of chile soaking water. Blend until smooth. You may need to do all the chiles in batches. Pass through a double-fine-mesh metal strainer and set aside.
  12. In the same blender, add the sesame seeds, the ground herbs and spices, onion, garlic, almonds, cookies, plantains, apples, pineapple, and raisins with about 1 cup of water to make sure everything is blended nice and smooth. Pass this mixture through a double-fine-mesh metal strainer and set aside.
  13. Blend the cooked tomatoes until smooth. Pass that mixture through a double-fine-mesh metal strainer and set aside.
  14. In the largest pot you have, add the last 1/2 cup (120 ml) of oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the blended chile paste. Let this paste cook for 5 minutes without interrupting. After 5 minutes, add the blended seed mixture, mix, and let cook for another 5 minutes. After those 5 min- utes, add the blended tomatoes and continue simmering.
  15. Add the avocado leaves, sugar, Oaxacan chocolate, and 3 tea- spoons salt. Keep simmering for another 10 minutes. Last, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. When boiling, taste for seasoning. You may need to add a little more salt and sugar. 

Appetizer/side dish: Persian crispy rice

Naz Deravian, author of the Persian cookbook “Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories,” says tahdig (Persian crispy rice) always gets people excited at her house.

She explains that “tah” means bottom, and “dig” means pot. 

“Iranians, Persians … we as a culture would like to think that we have elevated ricemaking to an art form. So this type of rice making, it's a two-step process where you first parboil the rice in a lot of water, kind of like making pasta. And then when it's al dente, soft on the outside but with still a crunch on the inside, you drain it, you strain it, and then you put lots of oil on the bottom of your pot. I do a mix of butter and oil. And then you sprinkle it with some saffron to get that beautiful golden crust. And then you spread a first layer of rice, which is your tahdig layer. And then you gently scatter the rest of the rice into the pot. … So then you steam the rice and let the tahdig layer set … and then you can flip it,” Deravian explains.  

Full interview: In ‘Bottom of the Pot,’ Persian recipes and memories of youth

Recipe: Chelo ba Tahdig
Serves 6

Tahdig. Courtesy of Naz Deravian.

Reprinted from “Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories.” 


  • 3 cups white basmati rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons clarified butter or unsalted butter, divided (plus more as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more as needed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron, steeped in 1/4 cup just boiled water


  1. Place the rice in a medium bowl, and fill it with cold water. Gently wash the rice by swishing it around with your finger, then drain. Repeat until the water runs clear, about 5 rinses. Cover the rice with cold water (about 2 cups), add 2 tablespoons salt, and give a gentle stir. Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours, depending on the quality of your rice.
  2. Fill a large pot with plenty of water, about 12 cups, bring to a boil, and add a big heaping 1⁄4 cup salt. Drain the rice (but don’t rinse) and add it to the pot.
  3. Stir once gently and don’t go anywhere, as the water can boil over very easily. Scoop off any foam that rises to the top. Taste the water for salt. It should be salty like the sea. Add more salt, if necessary. As soon as you see the first of the rice grains pop up, set your timer for 4 minutes. Start testing the rice at 4 minutes. What you’re looking for is a grain that is tender on the outside but still with a bite to it on the inside. This can take anywhere between 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the type of rice. As soon as you think the rice is ready, drain it in a colander and give it a very quick rinse with lukewarm water (use the spray option on your faucet if available; if not, place your hand under the tap and create a spray with your fingers). Test the rice; if it’s too salty give it another quick rinse. Set aside to drain completely. Wash and dry the pot, if using the same pot.
  4. Place the colander beside you by the stove. Set the rice pot over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of the saffron water, and melt the butter. Swirl the oil around so it evenly covers the bottom of the pot and a little up the sides, adding more butter and/or oil if needed. Work quickly now. As soon as the oil starts sizzling, with a spatula, add enough rice to fully cover the bottom of the pot in a thin layer. Pack down the rice with the back of a spatula. This your tahdig layer.
  5. Gently scatter the rest of the rice over the tahdig layer in a pyramid shape, making sure the tahdig layer is covered with more rice. With the handle of a wooden spoon poke a few holes in the rice without hitting the tahdig layer, to allow the steam to escape. Turn up the heat to medium-high, cover, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes for the tahdig to set. You can also try the tahdig test: wet your finger and quickly tap or sprinkle a little water on the side of the pot. If the pot sizzles and the water quickly evaporates, it’s time to turn down the heat.
  6. While the tahdig sets, in a small saucepan or microwave melt the remaining 2 table- spoons butter and add it to the remaining saffron water.
  7. Lift the lid (without dripping the condensation trapped under the lid back into the pot) and drizzle the butter-saffron mixture over the rice. Wrap the lid in a kitchen towel or a couple of layers of paper towel to catch the condensation. Make sure the kitchen towel or paper towels are secured up top so they don’t catch fire! Place the lid firmly back on the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, until steam escapes from the sides of the pot. Then reduce the heat to medium-low or low (depending on your element), and place a heat diffuser under the pot, if you have one. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pot a few times for even crisping, until the rice is tender and fluffy and the tahdig is crispy and golden.
  8. To help release the tahdig, fill the sink with about 1 inch of cold water, and set the rice pot in the water quickly. Alternatively, you can wet a kitchen towel and set the pot on the wet towel. To serve, you can scatter the rice, like jewels, across a platter. Gently remove the tahdig whole or in pieces, and serve it on the side. Or, for a more dramatic and applause-worthy presentation, place an appropriate-sized platter over the pot, take a deep breath, and quickly and confidently flip the pot over. There should be a swish sound of the release of the tahdig. If your tahdig turns out golden, crispy, and regal, pour yourself, and family and friends, something celebratory, do a little dance, and dig in. If the tahdig doesn’t quite turn out as expected—do the very same. It’s just a pot of rice, after all. And there’s always the promise of next time. As many tahdig do-overs as you like.

Main course: camel hump

Chef Anissa Helou, author of “Feast: Food of the Islamic World,” says that the first time she tried camel hump, the texture was a little bit tough, and the hump came with a lot of fat and two fillets under that fat. It’s also a delicacy and centerpiece of the animal, she says. 

She was able to make this because her friend gave her a live baby camel. She then took the hump to her brother’s flat in Dubai. “Both my brother and his housekeeper were horrified by what I had brought. … And my brother was like, ‘What are you going to do? Can’t we buy a regular leg of lamb?’” she says with laughter.

Helou describes cooking it: “I marinated it in this wonderful Emirati marinade, which has rosewater, saffron, spices and bit of garlic. And basted it with another sauce with tamarind, rosewater and saffron. And I roasted it a bit like leg of lamb, but longer. And then served it by slitting at the bottom of the hump and getting the meat out. And it was the best ever piece of camel hump I ever ate.”

Helou says in the U.S., you can buy frozen camel meat but not the hump -- unless you go to a camel farm that has the right type of camel. 

Full interview: Roasted camel hump -- and other recipes from the Islamic world

Recipe: camel hump roast
Serves 8-10

Camel hump on a plate. Photo courtesy of Anissa Helou. 

he baby camel that gave up his hump for Anissa Helou to test her recipe. Photo courtesy of Anissa Helou

Reprinted from “Feast: Food of the Islamic World.”

A camel hump is normally roasted with the whole camel, either left whole and buried in a pit oven in a seated position and wrapped in a wet straw mat, or jointed and put in a huge pot over gas fire underneath and charcoal on the lid to imitate the heat from an oven. But first, it needs to be marinated. Here I give a recipe for the marinade and a basting sauce that is slightly sour because of the tamarind. The flavours are both complex and intriguing because of the spices and the combination rose water, saffron and tamarind. And if you can’t find a camel hump (!), simply use a nice fat leg from a goat or lamb. 


  • 1 camel hump 4-5 kg
  • Juice of 2-3 lemons
  • Sea salt

For the marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Emirati spices (b’zar, see recipe below)
  • ½ tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • ½ tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground lime
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Good pinch of saffron threads, soaked for 15 minutes in 1/2 cup rose water
  • Emirati ghee

For the basting sauce:

  • 1/3 cup tamarind paste, soaked in 1 cup water
  • ½ cup rose water
  • ½ teaspoon ground saffron
  • 1 tablespoon Emirati spices
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt


  1. Wash the camel hump. Pat dry with kitchen paper and rub with the lemon juice and a little salt. 
  2. Mix all the spices for the marinade, the crushed garlic, the lemon juice and the saffron rose water in a bowl. Then rub the camel hump all over with the mixture. Brush a baking dish with a little Emirati ghee and place the camel hump in it. Cover loosely with aluminium foil and let sit for at least two hours to absorb the flavours.
  3. Half an hour before you are ready to roast the hump, preheat the oven to 450º F/220º C.
  4. Place the camel hump in the preheated oven and roast for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until the top is golden and the meat under the fat is falling off the bone. If you think it is colouring too quickly, cover loosely with aluminium foil.
  5. Take out of the oven. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with biryani rice.   

To make the Emirati Spice Mixture (B’zar)

  • 1 cup black peppercorns
  • 1 cup cumin seeds
  • 1 cup coriander seeds
  • ¼ cup cloves
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sticks
  • ¼ cup cardamom pods
  • ¼ cup dried chillies
  • ¼ cup cardamom roots
  • 4 whole nutmegs
  • 1/3 cup ground ginger
  • ¼ cup ground turmeric


  1. Wash and dry the spices – I guess this step is not necessary in the US or elsewhere in the West.
  2. Grind the whole spices in a clean coffee grinder or in a food processor until very fine. Transfer to a bowl and add the ground ginger and turmeric. Mix well. Store in a clean, dry glass jar and keep in a cool place away from the light

Dessert: lime pie

Lime pie. Photo credit: Pixabay

Lime pie is a great option for those who love pie, but find pumpkin or apple pie a bit too predictable on Thanksgiving. 

Pastry chef Nicole Rucker, author of “Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers,” says her recipe lime pie recipe is deceptively simple, featuring a graham cracker crust with a lot of salt. It involves lime, eggs, condensed milk. And the top is whipped cream mixed with sour cream. 

Full interview: Nicole Rucker on pastries, fruit, and making a perfect pie for July 4

Dessert: Halo Halo

If you’d rather skip pie altogether, consider the popular Filipino dessert called halo halo. It’s from Margarita Manzke, pastry chef at Republique and author of the cookbook “Baking at Republique.” 

“It’s the quintessential Filipino dessert. And it's got all kinds of stuff: beans, fruit, just weird stuff,” she describes. It’s topped with crushed ice, ice cream and evaporated milk. 

Full interview: Pro baking tips from Margarita Manzke of LA’s Republique

Recipe: Halo Halo
Makes 12 servings

Halo halo. Photo credit: Kristin Teig. 

Reprinted from “Baking at Republique.” 

As a kid in the Philippines, I really liked halo-halo—which means “mix mix” and is a parfait-type dessert with a lot going on: Crushed ice, ice cream, flan, sweet beans (red, black, or mung), coconut jellies, fruit, and evaporated milk, all served in one tall glass. But I didn’t always love everything in it, and everything but the crushed ice came from a can ora jar. I wanted to create my own version of halo-halo using fresh ingredients. I can’t get all of the Southeast Asian fruits fresh, so I use whatever is seasonal in Southern California. Instead of using plain crushed ice, we flavor the ice with juice from whatever’s in season. A soft coconut tapioca pudding replaces the evaporated milk and brings all of the ingredients together. The passion fruit gelée and coconut gelée are made with fresh fruit. And we also add pieces of whatever fresh fruit are available. Flan is also in there. Traditionally, these components sit on top of the crushed ice and ice cream, but I put them in the middle for a creamy surprise.


Coconut Tapioca:

  • 115g / 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp uncooked small-pearl white tapioca
  • 1 (400ml / 13.5 oz) can coconut milk
  • 75g / ⅓ cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar 

Leche Flan:

  • 275g / 2 1/3 cups plus 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 210ml / 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp plus 2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 360ml / 1 1/2 cups (one 12 oz can) evaporated milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice

Passion Fruit Gelée:

  • 4 1/2 (9 x 2 3⁄4-inch) silver gelatin sheets
  • 150ml / 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp passion fruit juice (fresh unsweetened)
  • 100ml / 6 Tbsp plus 1 tsp water
  • 50g / 1/4 cup granulated sugar, or more if needed 

Coconut Gelée:

  • 3 3/4 (9 x 2 3/4-inch) silver gelatin sheets
  • 250ml / 1 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp fresh unsweetened coconut water
  • 40g / 2 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar, or more if needed

Blood Orange Granité:

  • 720ml / 3 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 70g / ⅓ cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar, or more if needed
  • 170g / 6 oz blueberries
  • 170g / 6 oz raspberries
  • 20g / 3/4 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1 ripe peach, cut into chunks
  • Coconut ice cream, for serving (optional)


To make the coconut tapioca:

  1. Bring 1.4L / 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, whisk in the tapioca. Boil until the tapioca is translucent, whisking occasionally so that the tapioca doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. This will take 35 to 45 minutes. You’ll see the color of the water change; the tapioca becomes clear, but the water takes on a caramel color. 
  2. Using a spider, transfer the tapioca to a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Set aside. (You can leave it overnight in a covered container at room temperature.)
  3. In a bowl, combine the coconut milk and granulated sugar and whisk together until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add the tapioca to the coconut milk mixture and whisk to combine. As the mixture sits, the coconut milk will hydrate the tapioca more, causing the mixture to become thicker.

To make the leche flan: 

  1. Put 200g / 1 cup of the granulated sugar in a saucepan and add water just until all of the sugar is wet. (It should look like wet sand.) Cook the sugar on high heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s an amber color.
  2. Pour the caramel into a 9 x 5-inch metal loaf pan and tilt from side to side until the caramel layers the entire bottom of the pan. Be quick, or the caramel will set before it coats all of the pan. Set the pan aside for the caramel to cool and set.
  3. Heat the oven to 300°F. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  4. Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, remaining 75g / ⅓ cup plus 2 tsp granulated sugar, the egg yolks, eggs, and lime juice in a bowl. Blend with an immersion blender until all of the ingredients are emulsified. Pour the mixture over the set caramel.
  5. Put the loaf pan in a roasting pan and pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan so that it comes two-thirds of the way up the outside walls of the flan pan. Cover with foil. Carefully place the roasting pan in the oven.
  6. Bake until the flan is set but jiggles like Jell-O, about 1 hour. Let cool and then set overnight in the refrigerator.
  7. Turn the flan out onto a cutting board and cut into 2-inch squares.

To make the passion fruit gelée: 

  1. Submerge the gelatin sheets in a bowl of ice water. As soon as they soften, squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.
  2. Coat another 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with plastic wrap. Set aside.
  3. Put the passion fruit juice, water, and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk until dissolved. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Cut into 1⁄4-to 1⁄2-inch squares, then return to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the coconut gelée: 

  1. Coat another 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with plastic wrap. Set aside.
  2. Submerge the gelatin sheets in a bowl of ice water. As soon as they soften, squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.
  3. Put the coconut water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk until dissolved. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Cut into 1⁄4-to 1⁄2-inch squares. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. To make the blood orange granité: Sweeten the blood orange juice with the granulated sugar to taste. Make sure to whisk until all of the sugar has dissolved. Pour the mixture into a shallow container. Let set in the freezer until completely frozen. Scrape with a fork to fluff the ice and create granité. Keep frozen until ready to use.
  5. In a pint glass, layer the ingredients, starting with 1⁄4 cup of the coconut tapioca. Add a square of the flan. Add the blueberries, raspberries, and pieces of peach. Add 2 pieces of the passion fruit gelée and 2 pieces of the coconut gelée. Top with 1⁄3 cup of the granité and a scoop of ice cream, if desired, and a sprinkling of puffed rice.
  6. Serve immediately.

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Michell Eloy



  • Bricia Lopez - co-proprietor of Guelaguetza, author of “Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling”
  • Naz Deravian - author of “Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories”
  • Anissa Helou - chef, culinary instructor, author of “Feast”
  • Nicole Rucker - author of “Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers”
  • Margarita Manzke - pastry chef at Republique, and author of the book “Baking at Republique”