Alright friends. Get ready for a roundup of Thanksgiving dishes that is going to be bigger than last year’s 26-pound turkey. Hint: anytime you see anything bolded in orange, that is a link to a recipe or tips. So click away for total Thanksgiving domination.
But before we jump into the lentil gravy boat (see how I did that?) and talk stuffing, sides, and other non-traditional dishes, let me say this about this year’s low-sodium holiday feast: break tradition. I give you permission. It’s the easiest way to free yourself from the salty brines and canned soups, and create a whole new set of flavors and memories.
That means sneaking a new spice into an old recipe. Or forgetting the big bird and cooking a smaller chicken, duck, or something without wings, like lamb. Skipping the stuffing and make pumpkin pasta. Forgetting pie and making ice cream. Passing on the mash and baking the potatoes.
Just make something that sounds mmm mmm good. Even if that means cauliflower chanterelle pizza or curry turkey soup or stuffed cabbage. Let your tastebuds lead the way — not Grandma’s casserole. Try something new. And make sure that those Thanksgiving dishes are simple to make, low-sodium, and most importantly ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! Because that is what you really look forward to all year long. So let’s officially dig in.
To begin, I want to give you two new recipes. They both toss the traditional for something surprising that will give the holiday table a well-deserved spark. And, as a bonus, they cut down on cooking time, sodium, and that holiday dinner stress (cause they are so darn easy). Even a kid can make them. Not really. But they can watch and test the temperature.
Personally, I choose to pass on the turkey (although here are some of my favorite tips on how to keep it juicy and moist without a salt-loaded brine).
In its place, though, I prefer going big with small quail, cornish game hens, or a tiny chicken, roasted and spiced to my liking. This year, my father-in-law is treating me to a duck – how do you say no to that? But, I’ve also been known to make a big, boneless roasted leg of lamb. And here’s why: 1) it takes way less time to cook in the oven and it’s not as needy, 2) it stays way more juicy without any plumping or sodium-heavy injections, 3) fact: lamb tastes way more delicious, 4) you still get to present it and carve it, hooray!, and 5) lamb makes a perfect canvass for some spice creativity. Like using salt-free Japanese Seven Spice in place of more typical rosemary or dill.
Japanese Seven Spice, or Shichimi Togarashi, is a blend of Sichuan pepper, dried citrus peel, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, ginger, garlic, shiso, and sometimes seaweed. It brings heat as well as the citrus-like cooling power of the Sichuan pepper. And when made into a paste with fresh garlic and coriander seed, it makes an unbelievably exciting rub as well. Top it all off with a “salsa” made from fresh cilantro leaves and minced shallot, and you’ve got a dish that will surely wake up the holiday carving station.
But that’s just the start, because the lamb can’t have all the fun, even if it is the star of the feast this year. The sides deserve a little spice-attention, too. Which brings us to Roasted Broccoli Rabe with Dukkah Crumbs (and only 15 minutes of your precious, game-watching, family hugging, appetizer-dipping time).
Instead of breadcrumbs — or in low-sodium speak: finding low-sodium bread, then toasting this bread, and crumbing said bread — simply substitute in a mix of toasted nuts, seeds, and spices (like whole coriander and cumin) to make a Dukkah blend. Although it follows a general equation of nutty things mixed spices, everybody makes Dukkah differently. And my “recipe” changes every time I make it. So use whatever ingredients you have on hand or that suit your tastebuds and dietary needs best. If you aren’t a broccoli rate fan, definitely pick another vegetable (roasted squash, eggplant, or zucchini) to use as your canvas. And then, crumble away.
So with that, here are some tasty links of Thanksgiving past as well as two new recipes for your Thanksgiving future (as in this Thursday). Gobble, gobble. And enjoy.
TINY EATS BEFORE THE FEAST: Keep the appetizers light and simple with these crunchy pasta crackers or stuffed cucumbers or bread-free crostini. Sneak in some extra vegetables with a creamy broccoli dip. And if you have time and hickory chips, try making your own smoked fish dip to add a little surf before the turkey turf.
TURKEY TALK: Here’s everything you need to know about buying brine free birds, creating big salt-free flavor (and crispy skin), and carving the dang thing. Plus a nifty video from Sodium Girl and the National Kidney Foundation.
MAKING THE MASH: If you want creamy and “cheesy” use these tips. If you want crispy and easy, try these hasselback potatoes. And if you want something without the spuds, make fluffy cauliflower instead. Or swap in something new, like pesto or roasted peppers. This other new and nifty National Kidney Foundation video has plenty of ideas for you.
STUFFING STUFF: Surprise those tastebuds by adding pickled cherries, baked grapes, and roasted garbonzos for unexpected tang and texture. Or serve up this roasted sweet potato salad with cranberries for a total holiday mash up.
ON THE SIDE: Give the traditional a little twist with mini green bean casseroles, butternut squash and red lentil soup, and spaghetti squash casserole. Or cover roasted vegetables (or those mashed potatoes) in this chunky carrot orange dressing instead of gravy.
EATING WITH OTHERS: If you’re attending someone else’s holiday table this year, here are tips on staying full and sticking to your diet.
PINTERESTED: Pictures (err..recipes) to inspire this year’s holiday table.
SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW: Fresh off the mayflower, lamb and broccoli rate for this year’s table…below!
JAPANESE SEVEN SPICE ROASTED LAMB
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 to 3 tsp Japanese Seven Spice
- 2 to 3 tsp olive oil
- One 4 to 5 lb boneless leg of lamb, tied and rolled and fat trimmed
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 lime, zest and juice separated
Remove the top oven racks (this is so your roasting rack with fit). Then preheat oven to 425dg F.
Place the garlic, Japanese Seven Spice, and 2 tsp olive oil in a food processor. Blend until it forms a paste and add more olive oil as needed. Then set the paste aside.
Line a roasting or baking pan with foil and then, place the lamb on a roasting rack on top of the pan. If you don’t have a roasting rack, you can always you a cookie cooling rack instead over a large enough skillet or pan (to catch the drippings). Then use your hands to cover the lamb completely in the rub (and if your butcher tied the line with netting versus twine, try to get the rub under the netting as much as possible). Place the lamb in the oven and cook until the top browns, about 15 minutes. Then lower the heat to 375dg F and continue cooking for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Because every oven is different, this is when you will start removing your meat from the oven and checking the internal temperature using a meat thermometer. When placed into the meaty center (not in fat and not poking all the way through), the lamb should read 135 to 145dg F for a medium rare. If the temperature is still too low, put the lamb back in the oven for 15 minutes and then recheck. Repeat as needed.
When ready, transfer the lamb to a carving board — the kind with divots to catch the juices. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes and remember that the temperature will rise as it sits there. While you wait, mix the cilantro, shallot, lime zest, and 1 tsp of the lime juice in a small bowl. Taste and add more lime juice as desired.
Then put the lamb on a serving platter with roasted root vegetables, shredded Brussels sprouts, or whatever sides you’ve prepared. Sprinkle the tip with your vibrant cilantro salsa, with extras on the side for guests. And then serve to your adoring family, friends, and fans.
ROASTED BROCCOLI RABE WITH DUKKA CRUMBS
- 1 lb broccoli rabe, washed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup unsalted pine nuts
- 1/2 tsp whole coriander seed
- 1/2 tsp red peppercorns
- 1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1 shallot, cut in half and thinly sliced into half-circle shapes
Preheat oven to 425dg F.
Put the broccoli rabe in a 9 by 11-inch, oven-safe baking dish. Add the minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Use your hands to mix everything together until well combined. Then place in the oven to roast until the broccolini begins to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and pine nuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden in color and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the seeds, nuts, coriander, peppercorns, and red chili pepper flakes to a food processor and pulse until they form crumbs.
Take the broccoli rate from the oven. In a small bowl mix the shallot and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the oil and shallot to the broccoli rabe. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together again until well combined, scraping up any browned bits that formed on the bottom of the pan. Then sprinkle the top with 1 to 2 tablespoons of your dukkah blend. Place back in the oven again for a final 5 minutes. Serve warm with extra dukka spice on the side.