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Thanksgiving menu: Turkey Day with a twist

For a twist on some classic Thanksgiving fare, try these alternative yet still holiday-appropriate recipes. 

More Thanksgiving menus: Make ahead | Last minute | Simple | Americana | Cooking for two | Vegetarian | Vegan | Calorie conscious | WaPo Favorites

Olive Oil Biscuits

The subtle flavor of rich olives permeates the flakes of biscuit. These would pair nicely with any soup, or even with a sliced tomato tucked between the halves.

  • Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for brushing
  • 2 1/4 cups store-bought or homemade self-rising flour (see NOTE)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
  • Flour, as needed

Position the top oven rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 425 degrees. Have your baking pan of choice at hand; if you are using a baking sheet, brush it with a little softened butter.

Fork-sift or whisk 2 cups of the self-rising flour in a large bowl, preferably wider than it is deep; reserve the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Use the back of your hand to make a deep hollow in the center of the flour.

Pour the oil into 3/4 cup of the buttermilk (in a measuring cup), reserving 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and then pour the combined liquids into the hollow. Stir with a rubber spatula or large metal spoon, using broad circular strokes to quickly pull the flour into the liquid. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the sticky dough beings to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If some flour remains on the bottom and sides of the bowl, stir in 1 to 4 tablespoons of the reserved buttermilk, just enough to incorporate the remaining flour into the shaggy, wettish dough. If the dough is too wet, use more flour when shaping.

Generously dust the work surface with all-purpose flour. Turn the dough onto the floured surface. Use more of the flour to coat your hands.

Fold the dough in half; pat it out into a 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick round, using a little additional flour only if needed. Fold the dough in half a second time. If the dough is still clumpy, pat and fold a third time. Pat the dough out into a round 1/2-inch thick for a normal biscuit, 3/4-inch thick for a tall biscuit and 1-inch thick for a giant biscuit. Brush off any visible flour from the top. For each biscuit, dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into the reserved 1/4 cup of flour; cut out the biscuits, pressing firmly, starting at the outside edge and cutting very close together, being careful not to twist the cutter.

Dough scraps may be combined to make additional biscuits, although they make tougher biscuits.

Carefully transfer the biscuits to the pan or baking sheet. Bake the biscuits on the top rack of the oven for 10 to 14 minutes, depending on thickness, until light golden brown. After 6 minutes, rotate the pan in the oven so that the front of the pan is now turned to the back and check to see if the bottoms are browning too quickly. If they are, slide another baking pan underneath to add insulation and retard browning. Bake for 4 to 8 minutes, until the biscuits are light golden brown.

When the biscuits are done, remove from the oven; lightly brush the tops with softened butter. Turn the biscuits out upside down on a plate to cool slightly. Serve hot, right side up.

NOTE: To make self-rising flour, combine 1 cup all-purpose Southern flour (such as White Lily, which has more gluten), 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 months, or freeze for up to 1 year.

Arugula and Grapefruit Salad

This combination of tart grapefruit and bitter greens provides a nice counterpoint to any turkey meal that has a lot of sweet components.



  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar, or sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tablespoons semi-sweet riesling, or other semi-sweet white wine
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives


  • 4 pink or ruby red grapefruit, peeled, pith removed and separated into segments
  • 12 cups arugula, washed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup thinly shaved Parmesan cheese

For the vinaigrette: In a blender on low speed or in a bowl using a whisk, combine the vinegar, mustard, Riesling and maple syrup and process on low speed. With the motor on or still whisking, slowly add the oil. Transfer the dressing to a mixing bowl and stir in the pepper and chives. You should have about 1 cup.

For the salad: Cut the outer membrane from the grapefruit segments. Tear the arugula into bite-size pieces and distribute equal portions onto chilled salad plates. Top each with an equal portion of grapefruit segments, sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan cheese and drizzle each salad with about 2 tablespoons vinaigrette; serve.

Beet-Sweet Potato Packets With Goat Cheese Cream

The Powhatan Indians of Northern Virginia didn’t use vessels to cook in; all their cooking was done over an open fire. The same method can easily be re-created in a hot oven. The results are terrific — and the foil packets can fit in a crowded oven.



  • 2 tablespoons whole, dried juniper berries
  • 16 golf ball-size golden beets, peeled
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (long rather than fat ones), split in half lengthwise
  • 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons malt vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sorghum syrup (see headnote)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water


  • 4 ounces crème fraîche
  • 2 ounces good-quality goat cheese (chevre)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

For the packets: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the juniper berries in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant. Cool, then crush.

Tear/create eight 8-inch squares of aluminum foil, laying them out on the counter side by side as you work, bending their corners up to create rounded bowls.

Combine the beets, sweet potatoes, toasted/crushed juniper berries, grapeseed oil, fish sauce, malt vinegar, sorghum syrup and a large pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl, tossing to coat and incorporate.

Divide the mixture among the packets, arranging 2 beets and 1 sweet potato half in each one and making sure each portion gets enough of the saucy mixture from the bowl as well. Add 1 tablespoon of the water to each packet.

Crimp to seal each packet tightly. Bake for 40 minutes or until the beets feel soft (check through the foil by squeezing).

For the cream: Whisk together the crème fraîche and goat cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Taste, and season lightly with the salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Unwrap the packets, letting the contents fall onto a platter or individual plates. Serve hot, with a dollop of the goat cheese cream.

Kalua Turkey

This might be the next-best thing to Hawaii’s traditional kalua turkey, cooked in a covered pit. Serve with white rice, freshly cut pineapple and traditional Thanksgiving side dishes.

  • 1 1/2 cups coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 16-pound fresh turkey, giblets, neck and any other packets removed
  • 1/2 cup liquid smoke seasoning, or more as needed
  • Water (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have at hand a roasting pan with rack that fits inside.

Use all of the salt to rub the exterior of the bird, its cavity and gently under the skin as much as possible. Then pour all of the liquid smoke seasoning outside and inside the bird, rubbing it into the skin to spread it evenly. Place the turkey on the rack in the roasting pan; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 4 1/2 to 5 hours, until much of the skin is lightly browned and a thermometer inserted into the thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165 degrees. The turkey should be falling off the bone. Uncover, and let the turkey rest for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain the pan juices into a small saucepan. Add water (to dilute) or a little liquid smoke seasoning (to intensify the flavor) as needed. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and keep warm; its consistency will be thin.

Discard all the skin and remove the bones from the turkey, reserving the bones for another use, if desired. Transfer the meat to a separate large pan or casserole dish or platter. Use two forks or your clean hands to shred the turkey to the consistency of pulled pork.

Before serving, pour the heated pan juices over the turkey and toss lightly to coat. Serve warm.

Cranberry-Gingersnap Ice Cream Pie

The smooth ice cream and sweet-tart cranberry sauce work perfectly with the buttery, crispy gingersnap crust. Use this easy recipe to take care of leftover cranberry sauce and ice cream — if there is such a thing as leftover ice cream.

SERVINGS: 10 – 12
  • 1 1/4 cups crushed gingersnaps (about 25 cookies)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream (or frozen yogurt for a lighter pie)
  • 1 1/2 cups leftover cranberry sauce or 14 ounces canned whole-berry cranberry sauce (see NOTE)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tangerine or orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Process the gingersnaps in a food processor or blender until they are the texture of cornmeal. (If using a blender, you might have to do this in batches.) Transfer to a medium mixing bowl, add the butter and use your fingers to combine thoroughly. Firmly press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, lining the bottom and sides, and bake for 10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.

Allow the ice cream to soften for 10 to 15 minutes so it will be easier to spread.

While the ice cream is softening, combine the cranberry sauce, sugar, zest and vanilla extract in a medium bowl to make the topping.

Fill the crust with the ice cream, leveling and smoothing the top.

If you like a bicolor effect, spread the topping over the softened ice cream and use a flexible spatula to swirl it a little, so that white streaks from the ice cream are visible. If you prefer a solid red topping, freeze the ice cream-filled crust for about 2 hours, then cover the entire pie (or just the center, if desired) with the cranberry mixture. Freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours, until the ice cream is firm.

Remove the pie from the freezer 15 to 30 minutes before serving (depending on how long the pie has been frozen) to soften a bit.