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Celebrating Our Differences Through The American Thanksgiving

Selin Kilic November 23, 2016 November 23rd, 2016

America is a beautiful multi-cultural place. And to honor the melting pot that is this country, we are here to feature some melt-y deliciousness while highlighting the beauty of our differences. Thanksgiving is a time for family, food, and focusing on the good in life. See how these 15 American families celebrate the holiday with their own family twist.

(Get all 15 full recipes here).

  1. Meet Diane Yang’s family who use egg roll filling to stuff the turkey!

The Yang’s rub the turkey with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, then stuff it with bean-thread vermicelli, shredded carrots, cabbage and cilantro. Finishing the bird off by dousing it with fish sauce, the “Turkey roll” sounds AMAZING (and like nothing I would have ever concepted) and as unique as all of us celebrating this Harvest Fest.

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2. Dig into to Margarita Velasco’s pumpkin flan.

Reminiscent of her country of birth, Cuba, the Velasco family follows a very traditional Thanksgiving feast. The array of traditional desserts, however are joined by a pumpkin flan made with calabaza, a kind of pumpkin-shaped squash popular in Cuban recipes. YUM!

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3. Take a bite of Parwin Tayyar’s Kurdish casserole, Eprax.

Paying homage to the Middle East, this American family celebrates the holiday with eprax, a traditional Kurdish casserole, layered with dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and/or other stuffed vegetables combined with rows of lamb chops running throughout the center. Otherwise known as a dish from heaven (in my eyes at least). The family feasts from a tablecloth placed on the floor – which is perfect for households that always seem to be low on seating or have trouble with seating arrangements. Maybe my family should consider this…

Location NASHVILLE , TENNESSEE – Date Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016: Parwin Tayyar and her family work together to cook dolmas, a recipe that involves stuffing eggplant, tomato, onion, grape leaves, and cabbage— a Kurdish staple that has been passed down for generations and always finds its way to the Thanksgiving table.  Credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

4. No need to call for take-out, Dr. Carolyn Ling’s family makes the perfect Cantonese chicken.

Sometimes, you really don’t feel like cooking, and Ling’s holiday family meal used to align with that thought process. Originally starting a tradition of getting their Thanksgiving meals delivered, the Ling’s eventually decided to emulate their tradition with a home-cooked meal. The vaguely Cantonese turkey, is roasted beneath a rich glaze of fermented soybean paste, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and alliums galore. The bird is then served with roasted potatoes basted in the sauce and drippings of the bird. “With the umami of soy and turkey fat” the feathered friend stays juicy and rich. Patiently awaiting my invite!

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5. Carmela and Lisa Conte’s Italian spinach stuffing will have you singing ‘That’s Amore.’

Channeling Mediterranean flavors, the Conte’s make a fluffy spinach-mushroom stuffing for their turkey. Paired with olive oil and garlic roasted potatoes, then finished with fragrant platters of sliced fresh fennel and oranges, drizzled with olive oil and dusted with salt and pepper, I don’t think think anyone can wait to dig in!

Location WALL TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY ñ Date Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016: When the Conte family couldnít decide which stuffing to fill the turkey with, they made the decision to cut their bird down the center and cook each half on top of a different recipe. The Italian staple is a traditional Italian spinach-stuffing recipe that always finds its way to the Thanksgiving table. Lisa Conte and her mother Carmela work together to prepare the dish. †Credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times 30196950A NYTCREDIT: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

6. Feast upon Martha Beltrán’s pan de jamón.

Cooked slowly under a blitz of pineapple and onion until it nearly falls apart the meat is definitely the star of this mixed family’s meal. And while meat is the focus, this family definitely makes sure to include it’s best supporting actor, Venezuelan holiday bread. The time consuming carb consists of this process: yeasted and laminated over 12 hours, then rolled up with strips of ham and olives so that each slice reveals a swirl of butter-slicked fillings. #TeamNoLeftovers.

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7. Sit down with Erika Council’s family and try their braised pork neck bones with noodles.

“Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It,” is the theme in Council’s household. In remembrance of the past when neck bones were a common staple in the kitchen of enslaved African-Americans, this family pays their homage with their their braised pork neck bones with noodles dish. Built from pork neck bones and elbow macaroni, the bones and onions are simmered in well-seasoned water (red pepper flakes, ground black pepper and salt) until the mixture becomes fragrant and the gelatin from the bones has given body to the broth. Then you toss the macaroni in to absorb all flavor as it cooks. Sometimes simple is best, and honoring your family’s history is an absolutely beautiful way to celebrate a holiday built on thanks.

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8. You may need to peel your pants off after trying Nicole Ponseca’s Filipino bibingka.

This cake baked in a banana leaf is the perfect pairing of both sweet and savory. Made from rice and coconut milk, smattered with grated cheese, it gets its rich flavor from preserved salted eggs. “When it comes out, everyone perks up,” she said, “and all the grandmas go, ‘Ooh, there’s bibingka!’” Sounds about right!

Location BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – Date Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016: At her home in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Nicole Ponseca prepares a Filipino cornbread called bibingka which she has developed as her own recipe and a new tradition for her Thanksgiving celebrations.  Credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

9. Don’t be sour, Debbie Himmler has brought the Rotkraut!

Along with the typical American standards, this German family was sure to include their past generations staples Debbie’s oma’s (grandmother’s) rotkraut, a red cabbage pickled with red wine and apples. With home brewed cider and German apple cake, apfelkuchen, this family really knows how to eat!

Location CINCINNATI, OHIO Date Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016: Every year for Thanksgiving Debbie Himmler prepares Rotkraut, a German red cabbage recipe that was handed down to her by her grandmother. The white dish and golden spoon pictured are the same ones Ms. Himmler's grandmother, Frieda Edelmann, once used to serve her rotkraut. A photograph Ms. Himmlerís grandparentsí (Martin and Frieda Edelman) wedding day is framed behind the spread. After the death of her grandmother and mother, Ms. Himmler inherited many of their antique dishes, some of which still have "Germany" or "West Germany" stamped on the bottom. Credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times 30196950A NYTCREDIT: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

10. Grab your napkin, Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim are treating you to some Bariis iskukaris.

This platter of Somali style rice is to die for! The basmati grains are cooked in a rich, meaty stock and strewn with fried onions, raisins and peppers, or sometimes, green beans. Stained orange with saffron and perfumed with their homemade xawaash, the dish could be a meal all on it’s own! Better get my stretchy pants ready.

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11. No crazed barbers here, but maybe some crazed eaters: Maura Passanisi makes ‘Sweeny potatoes.’

Bubbling with sour cream, cheddar and cream cheese, this Irish inspired grand Thanksgiving casserole is a combination of sour, silky, salty, sweet flavor. Noms.

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12. Francine Turone’s jerk-spiced turkey is packed full of flavor.

Initially rejecting the traditional turkey, labeling it “bland and boring,” the Jamaican descendant devised a recipe to crust and baste the bird with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and juniper berries. Sticking to her roots, her table spread is anything but typical with sides of roast goat leg, rice and peas with salted pig tails and coconut oil, and, in honor of her native of Milan husband, tortellini in brodo. That sounds like a celebratory and worldly table I would be thankful to have a seat at!

Location CANAAN, NEW YORK ñ Date Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016: At her home in upstate New York, Francine Turone prepares her original jerk turkey recipe, which she cooks to celebrate her Jamaican roots.   †Credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times   30196950A                               NYTCREDIT: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

13. Get a taste of India with Raghavan Iyer’s Dudhi kofta curry.

“Coming from a land of spice, I thought, ‘Man, how boring,’” the Indian cookbook author said of his first Thanksgiving meal. But after a few family dinners at his in-laws, and incorporating his partner and his adopted son to the mix, the tri-cultural family soon made a menu of their own. Featuring crisp Indian squash dumplings (made with chickpea flour, onions and chiles simmered in a bright, cream and tomato based gingery sauce, Mr. Iyer brings a taste of his hometown to the table. So can I just grab a chair or…?

Location MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – Date Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016:  Raghavan Iyer was raised in Mambai alongside seven siblings and came to the United States at 21 to obtain his second degree in hotel restaurant management (his first degree being in chemistry).  “When I came to the U.S., I came not knowing how to boil water, so I was a self taught cook,” Mr. Iyer said with a laugh. Although his mother did not initially understand Mr. Iyer’s decision to purse the degree, she eventually became proud of his decision after he started publishing cookbooks.  “I learned to cook the Indian way in a foreign land so I knew the challenges and issues that people faced trying to replicate the flavors of India,” Mr. Iyer said. “As a teacher I thought that was the best thing I could bring to the table was my personal experiences.”  Mr. Iyer’s mother’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes was his squash dumplings, which are fried and simmered in a tomato based sauce with cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, cashews, and golden raisins. He still makes the dish but now Mr. Iyer shares his holidays with his partner Terry Erickson, their son, Robert Iyer-Erickson, and a close group of friends.  Credit: Leslye Davis / The New York Times

14. No lipstick needed for Maren Waxenberg’s Blotkake.

The Waxenberg’s follow familiar Scandinavian/Norweigen-American patterns: herring and aquavit before the meal, cloudberry preserves instead of cranberry sauce with the turkey, and blotkake (spongecake covered with whipped cream and berries) alongside the traditional pies. But let’s be honest, the Norwegian cream cake, layered with cloudberry preserves and whipped cream definitely takes home the prize. I’d like an extra large slice please!

Location NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK – Date Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016: For Maren Waxenberg, a flaw with most traditional American Thanksgivings is that people have lost the ability to feast. Ms. Waxenberg made the decision to include Norwegian bløtkake partly to celebrate her heritage but also as an alternative to the too-heavy traditional American Thanksgiving desserts like pumpkin pie and pecan pie, which can be hard to squeeze in after a proper feast.   Credit: Leslye Davis/The New York Times

15. Have a little taste of Mexico with a bite of Veronica Garcia’s Arroz con leche.

Taking from tradition (it’s her maternal grandmother’s recipe) this Mexican rice pudding is light, creamy and sweet – although she does use a bit less sugar than her ancestry. Using a split vanilla bean in place of the extract she soaks and rinses the rice twice before combining it with milk, sugar and evaporated milk. This is a dish full of texture I can gorge on!

Veronica Garcia prepares an Arroz con Leche, which is a recipe passed down by her mother and grandmother. Her family is originally from Mexico.   The recipe, while fairly simple, is a rich dish served for dessert.   Her extended family of around 40 people gathers each year to celebrate Thanksgiving, and they alternate who is responsible for the turkey.   Slug: Immigrant Story Summary: Immigrant t-giving Desk: DIN  30198186A                               NYTCREDIT: Margaret Cheatham Williams/The New York Times

Source: NYTimes

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