Start planning your Thanksgiving and other holiday feasts with these tips and recipes from local chefs

click to enlarge A new twist on Thanksgiving staples: stuffing fried rice and cranberry harissa sauce. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
A new twist on Thanksgiving staples: stuffing fried rice and cranberry harissa sauce.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Thanksmas, Festivus or something else entirely, there's one thing we can all agree on: Enjoying good food with those we hold dear is a universal ritual.

In honor of Thanksgiving next week, we asked a few Inland Northwest chefs to share some of their best tips for stress-free preparation in the kitchen before sitting down to a tasty meal, along with a couple of their favorite recipes.

Chef Aaron Fish of the regional Eat Good Group prefers a less traditional approach to Thanksgiving staples, melding classic flavors or recipes with unexpected ingredients. Take his stuffing fried rice, for example.

"Most of the time I like to do fun twists, like the stuffing fried rice, which is something I haven't done before," Fish says. "It still has familiar flavors, but is different."

Fish recently taught a cooking class in Post Falls sharing that recipe along with a few others, like his cranberry harissa sauce inspired by the African hot chile pepper paste.

"For that class, it was the same concept — how can you take stuff that has familiarity to it and has a fun, non-regional twist; something not North American," he notes.

When it comes to keeping things manageable for big meals like Thanksgiving, Fish stands by the "less is more" approach.

"Pick a few things and make them really good," he says. "It's better to keep things simple and focus on making something tasty."

Spokane restaurant owner Celeste Shaw, meanwhile, sticks to time-honored tradition when cooking Thanksgiving dinners, using recipes from her collection of well-loved old cookbooks.

"I don't even need to tab the page; when I find them I go to the pages that have the most use," Shaw says, adding that her favorites are "tried and true; recipes women had learned to love and rely on for special occasions."

Shaw, who owns Chaps Diner and Bakery and Paper & Cup cafe in Spokane, says she chooses traditional Thanksgiving food — "turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, white dough rolls, cranberries, jello salad, vegetable side dishes, stuffing, pumpkin pie" — because of what they represent.

"Traditions and traditional foods offer constancy, stability, familiarity and a semblance of order and predictability," she reflects. "They comfort us, give us a sense of belonging, and, to me, make us feel safe and secure."

To keep your own spread manageable, Shaw also recommends paring down the menu.

"I promise you, you don't need as much as you planned on making. It can be so tempting to go huge and make a ton of different dishes, but it's so much easier to make large quantities of a few recipes than it is to make moderate quantities of a bunch of recipes," she says.

Start planning your own holiday dinner menu starting with the following recipes shared by Shaw and Fish. ♦

CRANBERRY HARISSA
Recipe by Aaron Fish, Eat Good Group

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries (frozen OK to substitute)
  • 6 New Mexican chiles (dried)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Instructions

  1. Place cranberries, sugar and salt into a small sauce pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick over medium/low heat, taking care to not scorch.
  2. De-stem chiles. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Strain and remove seeds from chile pods.
  3. Place the cranberry mix, chiles and remaining ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth. Check for seasoning.

STUFFING FRIED RICE
Recipe by Aaron Fish, Eat Good Group

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups cooked long grain rice (best to cook and chill the day before)
  • 1 cup chicken or turkey stock, reduced to 1/4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add butter. When butter is melted, add celery and onion. Sweat until translucent, stirring often.
  2. Add sausage and cook, breaking up sausage into little bits, until fully cooked through.
  3. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the garlic to the well. Stir for 30 seconds or until fragrant to ensure garlic is cooked through.
  4. Add rice and break up any clumps. Stir well and fry for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Turn heat up to high and add reduced stock. Toss or stir well to absorb the liquid. Remove from heat and add herbs and season to taste.

LAYERED CRANBERRY JELLO SALAD
Recipe by Celeste Shaw, Chaps Diner and Bakery
Serves 12

Ingredients

Cranberry layer:

  • 1 package (3 ounces) cranberry or raspberry gelatin
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 can (14 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce

Lemon layer:

  • 1 package (3 ounces) lemon gelatin
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve cranberry gelatin in boiling water; stir in cranberry sauce until blended. Transfer to an 8-inch square dish. Refrigerate until set.
  2. In another bowl, dissolve lemon gelatin in boiling water. Beat cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth; stir into the lemon gelatin with the pineapple. Refrigerate until slightly thickened, about 2 hours.
  3. Fold the cream, marshmallows and pecans into cream cheese mixture. Spread over cranberry layer. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.

MASHED PEPPER TURNIPS
Recipe by Celeste Shaw, Chaps Diner and Bakery
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 medium turnips (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1-1/4 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

Instructions

Place turnips, potatoes and enough water to cover in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain; return to pan. Mash vegetables to desired consistency. Stir in remaining ingredients. ♦

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About The Author

Chey Scott

Chey Scott is the Inlander's food and listings editor. She compiles the weekly events calendar for the print and online editions of the Inlander, manages and edits the food section, and also writes about local arts and culture. Chey (pronounced Shay) is a lifelong Spokanite and a graduate of Washington State University...