If you’re anything like us, Thanksgiving is your day. The chance to stuff yourself with juicy, perfectly cooked turkey, creamy potatoes, pies, and all the other carbs without judgment? Sign us up! And yet, perhaps, you’re jonesing for something…different. Perhaps you searched one of the top 10 most searched food items for Thanksgiving on Google (which we list below), craving a variation that will stand out. But like, not in a way that your mom asks you never to make it again. What follows are the exact ideas you’re looking for from chefs (and a few of our own staffers) who know a thing or two about making our nation’s food coma day one to remember.
Don’t feel like taking the time to roast a whole bird? Do as Ed McFarland, chef of Ed’s Lobster Bar in New York City, and make turkey meatballs instead. “Mix it with some stuffing and cranberry sauce,” says McFarland. Though he usually uses Thanksgiving leftovers to make these tasty snacks, you can easily skip the stuffing and cranberry sauce and stick to just ground turkey meat and slather with gravy.
take some of the dressing and make it into patties. Then fry them in a non-stick pan until crispy,” says Jake Strang, chef of Nashville’s L27. “They’re heaven!” Stuffin’ muffins are also fab, and give you another reason to break out that dusty old muffin pan. As for leftovers, make stuffing waffles! Just press an even layer of stuffing into your waffle maker and cook til warmed through and crisp outside, then top with the usual leftover sandwich ingredients for an open-faced delight.
Looking for a new type of stuffing altogether? “I highly recommend polenta stuffing,” says Molly Siegler, associate coordinator of culinary development at Whole Foods. Cube cooked polenta and bake them until golden brown and crisp, then combine with your favorite stuffing add-ins, egg (you’ll need more than you usually use to properly bind it all together), and lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. “I like to add sautéed onions and shallots, wild mushrooms, and scoops of ultra-rich Tallegio cheese to really harness that Italian vibe,” Siegler adds.
Put your sweet potato and marshmallows on hold and try something a little more modern, says Tara Bench, food stylist and entertaining expert. “Roast sweet potatoes and top with an avocado cream and POM POMs Fresh Arils for a trendy, savory-and-sweet side.”
At Chowhound, we like to make scalloped sweet potato stacks (also made in muffin tins!), change up the usual casserole flavors (check out our Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole recipe with pecan streusel, or our Tempura Glazed Sweet Potato recipe with crispy panko), or simply roast up a medley of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnips, parsnips, and plenty of onion. In the latter case, keep the flavor simple—olive oil, some sea salt, black pepper—so the flavors of the other dishes can really shine through.
“Try making scalloped potatoes,” says Cat Cora, Food Network Iron Chef and judge of ABC’s new show Family Food Fight. “They’re creamy, silky, cheesy, and potatoey—just liked mashed!