This year, for no particularly compelling reason, more friends are talking about bucking the traditional Turkey Dinner menu for something completely different. How different? Courses of gumbo and fish have been mentioned.
Guess it depends where you stand on messing with a good thing. But if you’re seeking to put your own signature on this menu or perhaps venture from the hum-drum, I’d argue that you needn’t veer far to add your own splash to a Thanksgiving meal.

As pointed out in this New York Times piece, Chefs’ Tips for the Thanksgiving Meal, Boredom, in any event, is the enemy of all cooks, and of all successful Thanksgivings. In cooking and serving Thanksgiving meals, restaurant chefs say, they must balance tradition against stasis, their own style of cooking against the desires of the customer.
Here are some ways how:
1. Take a tip from vegetarians.  Yes. You read that right. And, no, I’m not talking Tofurkey. Vegetarians know how to make the best veg dishes. If that mini-marshmallow crusted sweet potato dish and green bean casserole are not your thing, there are many better ways to serve up your veggie sides. The New York Times’ Well blog offers a Vegetarian Thanksgiving Series with great recipes and tips.

2. Explore your culinary roots, or adopt some with fascinating food history:

  • Again, from the Times’ Well blog, Joan Nathan offers dishes from the Jewish-French tradition perfect for Thanksgiving. I’m tempted to try the Alsatian Pear Kugel with Prunes.

3. Take a tip from Oprah and do Turkey your way.

  • Try Oprah’s Turkey Pot Pie
  • Or if gumbo how about Turkey Gumbo? This version courtesy of Emeril Lagasse.
  • Prepare your turkey on the grill, a great way to add a twist to tradition. And, yes, this is even possible for a Thanksgiving in Minnesota. I’ve seen proof. The National Turkey Federation has a great how-to.

There’s really no end to how you can customize your Thanksgiving Day menu, without veering far from tradition. Share your favorite ways with us here.

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