My big, fat Indian-Inspired Thanksgiving Menu
Traditional Thanksgiving meals are wonderful. But sometimes, it’s refreshing to shake things up a little. Here’s a spiced, aromatic Indian feast peppered with cardamom and curry to inspire you. Don't worry, there’s still turkey.
While my nuclear family is anything but traditional, I did grow with many years of all-American Thanksgiving meals. They were usually hosted at my grandmother’s house down the street and lasted the full day, with movies and second helpings at night. Along with my mom and some aunties, she would prepare a turkey, stuffing and gravy. Sides were green beans and that marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole that any kid would be crazy not to love. Dessert was pecan pie or an assortment of other treats made by family or neighbors. It was lovely. And one day (maybe next year), I’ll host one that’s exactly like it.
But not this year.
While this is the very first time I’m getting a chance to host Thanksgiving at my very own house, I’m not going the traditional rout. Maybe it’s because I’ve had an untraditional year. Or maybe it’s because all of my husband’s Indian side of the family (mother, father, brother, wife, cousins and all!) is descending on my house. Or maybe it’s because I just love a challenge — and spice.
Whatever my motivation, what matters most is that I get to create and eat good food with the people I love the most. And (lucky me) I really, really love my husband’s side of the family. They’ve introduced me to a whole new world of traditions and flavors, and perhaps unknowingly, encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and think outside the box in the kitchen.
With that said, for the menu I tried to think of ways I could spice up traditional Thanksgiving ingredients, including the turkey, gravy and green beans. Pumpkin is in a curry and the cranberry sauce is more of a chutney. All the traditional elements are there, they’re just a little bit more flavorful.
The other beautiful thing about this menu is that several things — including the pumpkin curry — can be made in advance and might even taste better after sitting for a day.
All the ingredients come from Bi-Rite, one of my favorite family-owned San Francisco grocery stores, which is encouraging people to create traditions around food with their loved ones this year. I love shopping with them because they care about where their food comes from. They make it a priority to source locally and tell the stories of their suppliers. They recently launched an online marketplace to make it easy to get access to their organic produce and locally-sourced meats, which you can shop here.
Now, let’s dig in to this Indian-inspired menu.
Tandoori turkey with tamarind gravy
The masala blend is where all the flavor is at. It can be a a week in advance. For the garam masala, make sure you get a good brand that you trust. Your bird should marinate for at least 8 hours overnight, so plan accordingly. I found it easiest to have my butcher cut the turkey into several pieces, but you could cook this whole if you have a large enough dutch oven or roasting bag and pan.
MAKES 8 SERVINGS
PREP TIME: 20 minutes COOK TIME: 1 hour TOTAL TIME: 1 hour, 20 minutes (plus 8 hours overnight marinade)
For the tandoori masala
1 1/4 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dried fenugreek
½ teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
For the marinade
1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoons tandoori masala
1 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon hot chili powder
2 to 4 teaspoons kosher salt (depending on size of turkey)
1 6-8 pound turkey, cut into pieces
For the gravy
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 limes, sliced
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
- Start by making the tandoori masala.
- In a skillet over medium heat, toast all the spices for the tandoori until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a coffee grinder or spice mill and pulse until powdered. (This can be made a week ahead.)
- Next, it’s time to marinate that bird.
- In a large bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients. Add the turkey and rub the marinade all over, until every last bit is covered. Cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator to marinate.
- The next day, heat the oven to 400°F. Place the turkey and all the remaining marinade in a large roasting pot or dutch oven. Cover, leaving the top slightly ajar to let out some steam. Roast for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 350°F and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 160°, about 30 minutes longer.
- Remove the turkey from the dutch oven and place on a rimmed baking sheet. IMPORTANT: Reserve all the juices that have accumulated in the bottom of the pan (this is for your gravy).
- Turn on the broiler. Place the turkey on the second-to-bottom rack and broil until the skin is just slightly charred and crispy, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Meanwhile, make the gravy. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the reserved turkey marinade juices. Whisk in the tamarind paste and flour until incorporated. Remove from the heat.
- Serve the turkey with slices of lime, red onion, cilantro and accompanying gravy.
Coconut, cumin and mustard seed green beans
This recipe calls for curry leave, which you can find at any Indian grocery store. Don’t sweat it if you can’t find them, however. This recipe is still delicious without.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes COOK TIME: 20 minutes TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES 6 SIDE SERVINGS
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
6 curry leaves
2 dried red chilies
1 small red onion, chopped
½ cup shredded coconut
1 pounds green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup coconut milk
Freshly ground black pepper
- In a frying pan or wok over medium-high heat, warn the coconut oil until melted. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves and red chillies and cook, stirring, until the mustard seeds start popping, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the onions and cook until just soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add half of the shredded coconut and cook, stirring, until golden brown.
- Add the green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until combined, about 1 minute.
- Add the remaining coconut, coconut milk and salt and pepper, to taste. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the green beans are slightly tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium and cook until the gravy thickens slightly, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Taste for seasoning and serve. Garnish with more coconut, if you’d like.
Pumpkin and chickpea curry
I call for roasting the pumpkin in the oven before cooking it in the curry sauce because I think it tastes way, way better this way, since the pumpkin gets a chance to caramelize. You can skip this step and cook the pumpkin until soft in the sauce if you’d like. Also, this can be made a day in advance.
PREP TIME: 15 minutes COOK TIME: 35 minutes TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes
MAKES 6 SIDE SERVINGS
1 medium pumpkin, cut into 2-inch cubes and seeds reserved
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1, 3-inch piece ginger, minced
1 Serrano chili, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons garam masala
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoons hot red chili powder
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
1 14-ounce can chickpeas
1 lime, juiced
Small bunch cilantro, chopped
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Place the pumpkin on a sheet pan and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast until soft and slightly caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, start making the curry. In a large sauce pot over medium heat, warm the remaining coconut oil. Add the onion and cook until just soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chili and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then add the spices and cook, stirring, until just fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, crushing with your hand or a spoon, and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring, until the gravy starts to thicken, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Then add the coconut milk, chickpeas and lime juice. Stir to combine. Add the cooked pumpkin and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the flavors have melded, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt, as needed.
- Serve and garnish with cilantro and extra lime wedges.