Not Quite Like Mama Made It

Have Fun Changing it up this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is known for its tradition. Certain dishes are passed down for generations; yearly events like races, parades and ball games are on the minds of many; and even non-traditional celebrations become, well, tradition. But if you're toying with the idea of changing your lineup or you're looking to host a re-envisioned Friendsgiving celebration, give these recipes a taste!

Chef Chris Najmola's Brined, Grilled and Lightly Smoked Turkey

Serves: 8

You’ll Need:

  • 10-12 pounds whole turkey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 300-325 F grill or smoker with indirect heat source (I prefer charcoal)
  • 1/2 pound melted butter (for basting)
  • 2 cups favorite wood chips
  • Large pot
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Meat thermometer
  • Kitchen shears

For the Brine:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar


Buy turkey one week in advance, allowing to thaw in the refrigerator. Once thawed, using kitchen shears, remove the backbone. Discard or save for gravy. Twelve hours before cooking, mix water, 1 cup of salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar thoroughly—this brine makes a world of difference. Add turkey to brine in a large pot. Refrigerate for 12 hours. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry. In a large mixing bowl, mix turkey, oil, salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Massage into meat evenly. Allow to marinate while readying grill/smoker.

Preheat grill/smoker to a maintained 325 F. Melt basting butter. Carefully place whole turkey breast-side-up on grill, not directly over the heat source. Close smoker/grill; maintain 300-325 F for about 3 hours.

Stay with your bird! Enjoy your favorite beverage with friends and family, opening up the grill/smoker about once every 45 minutes to baste the bird and add wood chips (less is more here). When the thermometer inserted in the thickest parts of the bird reaches 165 F, carefully move bird to skin-side down over open flame, just long enough to give it color.

Remove turkey, allow to rest about 20 minutes, carve and enjoy!  

Stacey Thompson's Gluten-Free* Fried Okra

Serves: 4


1 pound fresh okra, washed and cut

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

Salt, pepper and favorite seasoning

4-6 cups vegetable oil


Mix cut okra in bowl with cornmeal, dash of salt, pepper and favorite seasoning. Make sure all pieces are coated. Fill deep non-stick frying pan with 2 inches oil. Heat oil on medium. Test oil by putting one piece of coated okra into oil, being careful not to splash. Oil is ready when okra sizzles but does not pop. Turn down heat if oil pops.

When oil is ready, use a slotted, not-stick spoon to transfer coated okra to oil. Stir okra carefully as it fries. Prepare plate with layered paper towels. Okra is done when crunchy, just before edges begin to darken. Transfer okra to coated plate. Serve hot.

*For gluten allergies: cornmeal and seasoning must be certified gluten-free; non-stick pan must not have been used with gluten recipes.

Chef Chris Najmola’s Garam Masala Pumpkin Pie with Bourbon Whipped Cream

Heard of pumpkin spice? Well, garam masala is pumpkin spice’s older, more mature sister. Garam means “to warm,” and this pie is sure to warm the hearts of your friends and family.

For filling:

  • 4 Eggs
  • 16 ounces unseasoned pumpkin puree
  • 28 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala spice
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 14 ounces your favorite bourbon (optional)
  • 350 F oven
  • 8-10 ramekins
  • Large, flat-bottomed casserole dish

For crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Very small pinch of salt
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Small sheet pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Dried beans
  • 400 F oven

For whipped cream:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon


Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix all ingredients for crust thoroughly, then roll into a thin sheet. Place crust onto lightly buttered sheet pan. Prick crust with fork in several places to help prevent bubbles. Top with parchment paper, then enough dried beans to weigh paper down. Bake for 15 minutes, remove parchment and beans (careful: they will be hot), then bake 15 more minutes. When crust is golden brown, take out to rest, turning oven down to 350 F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, garam masala, condensed milk, pumpkin and a pinch of salt. Note: for adults-only version, replace 1/2 condensed milk with bourbon. Fill Ramekins 3/4 to top with pie filling. Place ramekins in flat-bottomed casserole dish. Pour 1 quart warm water into dish around ramekins. Bake for 1 hour at 350 F, filling house with wonderful aroma. After 1 hour, carefully remove from oven and allow to cool. Whip heavy whipping cream, bourbon and sugar till stiff peaks are formed, then chill.

Once everything has cooled, top each pie with bourbon whip. Break freeform “cookies” from pie crust and insert into each pie, bringing it all back together. Enjoy this nice twist on an old favorite with your closest friends and family.

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