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What are your Thanksgiving oddities?

chilerWe’re not terribly tradition bound with our Thanksgiving meal. Sometimes we stuff the turkey and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s cornbread and made with stale baguettes. Vegetables are whatever looks good in the market. Gravy is a matter of last-minute inspiration (or whatever replaces inspiration in the clutch).

But there are two dishes that we always have: 1) cranberry salsa made with lots of ginger, hot peppers and cilantro, and 2) a chile relleno casserole (left). I think because we were living in the West when we got married and had our kids that those flavors really seems to resonate.

The leftover salsa makes the best turkey sandwiches on the planet. There never is any leftover chile relleno, which plays along with all the other contents of the plate a lot better than you’d think.

Do you have any similar oddities?

If you’re interested in the recipes, here they are:

Chile Relleno Casserole

Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

A San Diegan with whom we often share the holiday prepares this chile-cheese bake. Though it seems a weird interloper on the table, I now couldn’t imagine Thanksgiving without it.

  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 (4-ounce) cans whole green chiles (available in foreign food section of most supermarkets), rinsed and cut into 1-inch strips
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • Salt, pepper, thyme and cayenne to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a 3-quart casserole or souffle dish.

Layer cheeses and chiles in bottom of dish. Beat eggs, flour, milk and seasonings and pour over cheese and chiles; dish should be half full. Bake for 1 hour. Mixture will rise, brown and should be relatively firm in the center.

Per serving: 414 calories (percent of calories from fat, 56), 24 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 26 grams fat, 211 milligrams cholesterol, 653 milligrams sodium.

Cranberry Salsa

Makes 10 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Chilling time: at least 1 hour

I started making this dish when we lived in Colorado. Try to find the small serrano peppers, which taste so good in combination with fruit, to use for this salsa. If you can’t, jalapeno peppers are an acceptable substitute. And don’t hesitate to add more sugar, lime juice, rum or minced pepper, to your taste.

  • Zest of 1/2 navel orange, peeled with a vegetable peeler, then finely minced
  • 1 length (1 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus extra if desired
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 2 serrano peppers, halved, seeded and minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup plucked cilantro leaves, chopped, not packed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon rum or vodka

Combine the minced orange zest, minced ginger, sugar and water in a small, nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, chop the cranberries finely in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Transfer cranberries to a nonreactive bowl. Cook the sugar mixture until very thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Pour over the cranberries, using a rubber spatula to scrape every bit. Add minced peppers, salt, cilantro, lime juice and rum. Mix well. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Note: May be made up to a week ahead.

Per serving: 65 calories (percent of (calories from fat, 1), less than 1 gram protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, less than 1 gram fat, no cholesterol, 16 milligrams sodium.

-by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

27 comments Add your comment


November 15th, 2011
12:12 pm

Both of those dishes sound great for any season. I look forward to trying them soon.

[...] to create a Thanksgiving feast on a budget? Maybe some great recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers? Quirky family traditions? Share them below. [...]


November 15th, 2011
12:44 pm

This isn’t really MY oddity but my in-laws always had a big ol’ plate of homemade lasagna as an appetizer to the Thanksgiving meal. I was always full before I finished eating it! (Now I fix dinner at my house)


November 15th, 2011
2:23 pm

Dinner at 1 or 2, and turkey sammiches for dinner. With bacon. Must have bacon. And chips and homemade onion dip. We are very relentless with our traditions, and we even have a family “tradition police” who you have to run stuff by if you want to change. ;)

[...] Also, check out food critic John Kessler’s Thanksgiving food oddities. [...]


November 15th, 2011
3:32 pm

Hey, ya’ll, I made 4 dozens pints of applebutter at the cannery Thursday. Very good on biscuits. MJG, I will bring you some when I see you again!


November 15th, 2011
3:33 pm

Not so much an oddity but tradition… dirty rice and salted pecans. My wife’s family is Cajun and her mother makes an outstanding version of this Cajun classic. The salted pecans were something that my Grandmother served in tiny ramekins and I’ve continued the tradition. I think we might add two new dishes to the mix this year. Thanks for the recipes.


November 15th, 2011
3:38 pm

Hey, ya’ll, I made 4 dozens pints of applebutter at the cannery Thursday. Very good on biscuits. MJG, I will bring you some when I see you again!

Typical Redneck

November 15th, 2011
4:36 pm

I will be trying both. We don’t have any oddities, very traditional. Except for the cranberry moonshine;)


November 15th, 2011
4:40 pm

Spice is always nice. Cream cheese stuffed jalepenos with a strip of oh so good bacon wrapped
around it. The best Thanksgiving appetizer, look forward to trying the casserole John, sounds goooooood.


November 15th, 2011
4:58 pm

Sauerkraut as a side. With brown sugar and caraway seeds and served warm.


November 15th, 2011
5:18 pm

A big jug of hard apple cider on the table for all but the kiddies.


November 15th, 2011
5:40 pm

I have been making this chile relleno casserole for years. It is delicious. Makes a great brunch dish anytime of the year. What could be more American than a Mexican casserole?


November 15th, 2011
5:45 pm

Sauerkraut? Lorenzo you must be from Maryland.


November 15th, 2011
8:15 pm

Oyster casserole.


November 16th, 2011
7:17 am

Our tradition is overly dry turkey, canned green beans, my mom’s mashed potato salad…(should I countinue? LOL) So every year we do a family and friend’s thanksgiving the weekend before and so by the time we get to the turkey jerky we are kinda done with turkey anyway and it isn’t such a dissapointment.

This year I brined my turkey and seasoned inside and under skin, fill cavity with orange, onion, lemon, garlic, celery and carrot. rub skin with honey butter and pour chicken broth and champaign over it and roast. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!


November 16th, 2011
7:32 am

Carla…….your turkey sounds like it will be outstanding. I buy a big bag of turkey brine from World Market, it lasts all year long.

Blessed beyond a doubt

November 16th, 2011
8:43 am

Yummy! I love green chilis.

We have a Thanksgiving journal that is a true blessing in our family.


November 16th, 2011
3:15 pm

I like making sweet potato souffle in “orange cups” (hollowed out oranges). I use some of the orange pulp and juice in the sweet potato filling. Bake them in bain-marie (so the shell doesn’t burn).

One of the worst “oddities” I’ve ever encountered was going with a friend to his family’s home for Thanksgiving. Nearly every dish was “contaminated” with shellfish. I am severely allergic to any shellfish, they put oysters in the stuffing, dried shrimp was used as a seasoning in almost everything. I couldn’t even eat the turkey since the stuffing was cooked inside it. I ate packaged yeast rolls and canned cranberry sauce while everyone else feasted. Soon after dinner, I left and made a dash for McDonalds, I was starved!


November 16th, 2011
6:07 pm

janet… are right! What could be more American than a Mexican casserole! Used to be a great Mexican resturant in ATL in the late 70’s early 80’s called the American Bar and Grill. Remember they had a spitted goat cooking in the front window! Bet they served this American classic also!


November 16th, 2011
6:30 pm

I WISH my family would step outside the traditional fare, but unfortunately they’re stuck. Everyone has their own “thing” that’s their specialty. Mom – the bird and deviled eggs. Sister – the cornbread dressing (we don’t do stuffing – my Mother feels it isn’t safe). Grandma – turnips and a pecan pie. Aunt/Cousin – some awful storebought dessert. For some reason, they won’t let me (and I’m ex-Johnson & Wales) do anything. One year I convinced them to let me make a cranberry relish but my Dad complained the entire time that he didn’t have his “slice” of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. :(

Not that I ‘really’ mind, because the staples of a Thanksgiving dinner are all tasty in their own right. And it ‘is’ nice not to cook sometimes.


November 17th, 2011
1:05 pm

My family and I switch it up. One year, we had a Mexican feast, another Italian. We’ve also done seafood, with crab, shrimp, etc. Our standard is celery stuffed with pimento cheese for snacks! Yummy.

Rodney=Long Lost Twin

November 21st, 2011
8:59 pm

Rodney, your description was an uncanny description on my Thanksgiving experience. Hilarious, especially the “slice” of cranberry sauce

I'm Hungry

November 21st, 2011
9:23 pm

What was the ethnic heritage of your host? Just curious.


November 21st, 2011
9:31 pm

What the @#$% is a “sammich” and why would anyone ever say something like that?

Back off Steve

November 21st, 2011
10:11 pm

Steve, get out once in a while and do us a favor and quit wasting our precious oxygen.


November 21st, 2011
10:19 pm

Steve, you must not be from “round these parts” or you wouldn’t ask what a sammich is. You also wouldn’t insult someone who says it. As for the rest… ours is overly traditional but the MUST HAVES do not include turkey. Instead, they are deviled eggs and oyster casserole. The only year we’ve missed oyster casserole was when oysters were so expensive that it would have cost nearly $300 to make the amount we need! Thankfully, they are back down in price because it’s just not the same without it!!