Pig Out with These Alternative Thanksgiving Recipes

Clockwise: Ginger-cranberry cheesecake, Thai-style marinated rib, apples on piggyback, rice, butternut squash and bacon jam - Casey Howell
Casey Howell
Clockwise: Ginger-cranberry cheesecake, Thai-style marinated rib, apples on piggyback, rice, butternut squash and bacon jam

The idea of roasting a turkey stresses us out. There’s the matter of cleaning out the ugly bits, and patting it dry for what seems like hours to get that crispy, crunchy skin. Regardless of when you go to the grocery store, you’ll find hordes of Thanksgiving zombies milling around the sweet potatoes and the green beans. Oh, and there will be chingos of leftovers that will usually go uneaten because you’re flat out sick of stuffing.

This T-Giving, we’re flipping the script and dropping traditional Turkey Day offerings for a varied and pig-happy menu that features pancetta, bacon jam and pork spare ribs for a feast that will keep guests guessing at what comes next, while also minimizing your kitchen time, as most of these recipes can be made ahead. This feast should easily serve 6-8 people.


Apples on Piggyback
The evening kicks off with a one-two flavor punch of crisp pancetta and melty Manchego paired with a crunchy hint of sweet Pink Lady apples.

16 thin slices of pancetta,
1 Pink Lady apple, peeled and cut into 16 wedges
3 ounces Manchego cheese, sliced ¼-inch thick and cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks
16 toothpicks

Heat a grill pan on medium high heat. Arrange pancetta slices on a work surface and place an apple wedge followed by a cheese stick in the center of each slice. Wrap the pancetta around the filling and secure with a toothpick.

Grill skewers until pancetta is golden and crispy and cheese is melted, about 5 to 6 minutes. Serve while hot. If making ahead, give the skewers a quick warm up on the grill pan.

Modified from Food & Wine


Butternut Squash and Bacon Jam
This recipe lends itself to customization. First off, if you want to make your life a lot easier, just buy some bacon jam. It’s currently available at Sur La Table at La Cantera, or you can order some at skilletstreetfood.com. Second, the bacon jam recipe below makes about three cups, so to double or triple the recipe all you need to do is roast another squash or two. Third, you can substitute any herb or spice for the chipotle if you want to avoid spiciness. Rosemary would be a lovely addition. Note that you should adjust the sweet factor down if you remove the heat.

1 large butternut squash halved lengthwise and seeded*
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Bacon Jam
1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup strong brewed coffee
1 teaspoon chipotle powder or 1/2 chipotle pepper in adobo

In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until lightly browned, working in batches if necessary. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat and reserve excess. Add onions and garlic to remaining bacon grease and cook until onions are translucent. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, chipotle and coffee. Bring to a boil while stirring. Add bacon and stir to combine.

Cook mixture uncovered on low heat for 3 hours, or transfer to slow cooker and cook uncovered on high for 3-4 hours, until liquid is syrupy. Transfer to food processor and pulse until mixture is finely minced. Can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 weeks.

During the last hour of the bacon jam’s cooking time, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare butternut squash by coating in oil/butter and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Roast squash cut side down in glass baking dish for 30-40 minutes. Flip over, fill cavities with 1/2 cup bacon jam each, and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes or until squash is easily pierced with fork.

Place squashes on serving dish and slice cross-wise. Encourage guests to top their slices with bacon jam.

*You may also peel and slice the squash before baking and toss with bacon jam before serving. Easier for guests to eat, but not as presentable as the squash half.

Inspired by Underbelly restaurant in Houston. Jam modified from Martha Stewart.


Marinated Thai-Style Ribs
Fragrant is an understatement: These tender ribs will fill your home with a sweet, tangy and garlicky aroma. Ditch the fancy napkins for some wet naps.

1 cup sliced shallots
10 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
8 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro including thin stems
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
4 pounds pork spare ribs (ask your butcher to cut across the bone into 2- to 3-inch “racks,” each cut between the bone into individual 2-3-inch long riblets)
1 cup chicken broth

Place shallots, scallions, ginger, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, pepper and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process to a loose, finely chopped paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.

Place the pork ribs in a large bowl or heavy sealable plastic bags. Coat the ribs with the marinade, massaging the paste into the flesh for a minute or so. Cover and marinate at room temperature for two hours or overnight in the refrigerator, tossing the ribs once or twice.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the ribs out, bone-side down on two baking sheets. Pour chicken broth around ribs and cover with aluminum foil. Bake until ribs are deeply colored and very tender but not yet falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours. Make sure to rotate the pans for even cooking. Remove from the oven and serve over rice.

Modified from Lobel’s Meat Bible: All You Need to Know About Meat and Poultry from America’s Master Butchers by Stanley, Evan, Mark and David Lobel with Mary Goodbody and David Whiteman


Ginger-Cranberry Cheesecake
Another customizable recipe. The crust can be made with practically any kind of cookie, and the topping can be any kind of fruit, but for Thanksgiving, it’s a good way to bring cranberries front and center, instead of hiding them between stuffing and sliced turkey.

20-30 gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
3 1/2 cups (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, rinsed
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

2 eight-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 eight-ounce container sour cream at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cranberry-ginger liquid reserved from topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse cookies in food processor until ground to crumbs. Add butter, sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Spread cookie crumb mixture on bottom of 9-inch springform pan and firmly press to adhere. Press excess crumb mixture along sides of pan to form crust. Bake crust 10-15 minutes in oven. Can be made three days in advance.

While crust is baking, bring cranberries, 1/3 cup water, sugar and ginger to boil in a heavy saucepan. Meanwhile, in small bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon water and let stand about 1 minute. Remove cranberries from heat and reserve 1/2 cup liquid. Add gelatin to saucepan, stirring until dissolved.

Arrange oven racks so one is in the bottom-most position and one is in the middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350 if not already heated from baking crust. Place glass baking dish half-full of water on bottom rack. (This helps to prevent cracks forming in cake)

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in flour and add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in sour cream, vanilla and cranberry-ginger liquid until well combined. Batter may have small lumps.

Pour filling into crust and bake on middle rack for 1 hour. Cake will be somewhat wobbly in center but light golden around edges. Turn off oven and let cake cool with oven door cracked for one hour or more. Remove cake from oven and spread cranberry ginger topping evenly. Chill cake, loosely covered, for a minimum of two hours and up to three days. Before serving, run knife along edge of cake and remove springform sides.

Modified from Gourmet and Real Simple (topping) recipes.

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