Immigrant Communities Put Their Own Unique Spin On Thanksgiving Traditions, Here Are Some Of Our Favorites
Among the many holidays celebrated in the United States (and Canada!) perhaps Thanksgiving is the one most closely related to family. Each year, hundreds of thousands of families reunite even if their members live in a different state or even a different country. Thanksgiving, in its contemporary iteration, is a celebration than is also a reminder that the land that is now the United States has been fertile ground for stories of second chances and dreams fulfilled (we should not forget, of course, that the land was never ceded by the original Native-American owners and that other than the original indigenous population everyone is a guest).
One of the ways in which folk celebrate their own cultural identity during Thanksgiving is giving the traditional turkey and fixings a personal taste derived from the culinary traditions of their own home countries, or the part of the world from where their families originally come from.
However, taking a liking to the very American turkey is not always an easy feat for some migrant communities.
As a recent article in The Washington Post wittily points out: “Many first-generation immigrants to America can’t help but eyeball the bird with skepticism, no matter how much they want to adopt the customs of their new home. Turkeys — often hulking specimens, hard to cook, rather bland — are not native to many countries around the world”. You can only imagine what a Mexican abuelita who knows how to make mole the traditional way, with about a million ingredients, must think of just sticking a big bird into an oven and lazily waiting for it to cook with butter, garlic and a bit of herbs and spices. Not for her! We are sure this hypothetical abuelita is up for a bigger challenge!
So what about adding a bit of this? Yes, the smokey chile ancho!
Mexican-American chef Adán Medrano recently revealed his secret to The Washington Post: the humble ancho chili, which is nothing more than a dried and sometimes smoked poblano. He created a recipe for Turkey Enchilado, channeling the culinary tradition of his family’s native Coahuila, in Northern Mexico. His recipe is spectacular in its simplicity. Medrano describes it like this in his blog: “A delicious Mexican favorite, this recipe for Turkey Enchilado, or Guajolote Enchilado, will bring mouthwatering smiles to your family and amigos, amigas. I use only one type of chile, Chile Ancho, because I like the direct flavor and also because this is the dried chile that my mom used most often during the holidays”. Here’s the absolutely delicious and simple recetita. You are welcome.
What about pavo con mole? Nothing screams “Mexican abuelita” like this timeless classic.
Mole is a complex sauce that, among many other things, contains chocolate, chilies and broth. This recipe is adapted for those more gringo inclined palates and has a bit of a sweet and tangy feel to it. It has plenty of shortcuts (like using Dona Maria mole instead of making it from scratch, just don’t tell your tias or they will eat you alive with chismes). This sweet and savory turkey can be the centerpiece of a good Cena de Accion de Gracias, and you can complement it with all the Mexican sides, such as papas con chorizo, nopalitos and of course a container full of steaming tortillitas. Find the recipe here.
And did you know some dishes from India have a piquancy similar to the one found in some Latin American dishes?
Have you ever tried tandoori? It is a delicious mix of spices that is used in the area known as Punjab, in Northern India. It is used to season grilled meats and make them tender and juicy on the inside, so it is the perfect fit for a Thanksgiving turkey. If you have a Latino family and want to be just a bit daring, this might be the way to go. Raj Thandhi, an Indian-Canadian woman and editor of the blog Pink Chai Living came up with an amazing recipe that honors her roots while also being the perfect hero for a family dinner. Tandoori is as complex as any mole and the paste requires a series of perfectly balanced ingredients. Just look at this list, which is enough to make your head spin!
3 cups yogurt
2 tbsp chilli powder
1.5 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp coriander
1.5 tsp chaat masala
1.5 tsp garam masala
1.5 tsp black peper
1.5 tsp crushed fenugreek leaves
2 tsp black salt
5 tbsps each ginger and garlic paste
3 tbsps oil
2 tsp red food color 2
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1/2 cup chopped mint
Ready to get down and dirty in the kitchen and impress all your guests?