When To Experiment On Thanksgiving And When To Stick To The Classics

Some holiday dishes are staples on traditional dining tables, and well, if they aren't there, there may be voices of dissent rising from hungry guests. Yet planning menus for Thanksgiving Day has become a bit of a challenge, as chefs are faced with a variety of food preferences, allergies, and recipes. Settling on which dishes to serve, which ones to leave out, and which ones to amend can become a challenging affair. Thankfully, food writer and recipe developer Christina Chaey has tips, taking to Instagram to provide recipes that give traditional menu items flavorful upgrades.

Take Chaey's turkey recipe, for example. Chaey grew up with the taste of Kikkoman Soy Sauce, as her family would use the ingredient in Asian dishes and she learned to incorporate the rich umami flavor into dressings and sauces. Chaey prepares Thanksgiving turkeys with the ingredient, dashing soy sauce into both brine and glaze to deliver picture-perfect birds to festive holiday spreads. With only four ingredients — water, soybeans, wheat, and salt — adding extra ingredients like soy sauce helps chefs accommodate allergies and dining preferences while building out holiday menus. 

But which dishes should be left alone — and which ones need extra holiday oomph?

Choose cooking experiments wisely

As told to Tasting Table, Christina Chaey admits there's a certain boredom that comes from cooking the same dishes year after year. She looks to fight any culinary fatigue associated with more traditional recipes through experimentation — but she chooses her experimental projects wisely.

Dessert seems to find a bit more forgiveness with guests, notes Chaey, who serves at least two classic pie recipes and presents one more adventurous take, like a pie made from kabocha squash instead of the usual pumpkin filling. If guests aren't crazy about any of the new additions, there are always slices of known flavors to fill plates.

If you're wanting to get creative in the kitchen, side dishes and vegetable recipes also lend to creative approaches, Chaey explains. Plus, should your preparation or the cooking process turn upside down, no one will mind (too much). Just make sure the more substantial — and relied upon holiday favorites — are ready to be served.