Holiday Cheer: Local chefs share some of their favorite nontraditional Thanksgiving recipes 

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The perfect post-Thanksgiving dish is equal parts family activity and delicious. Amie Gehlert, chef de cuisine at Barrios Fine Mexican Dishes, 1000 N. Hudson Ave., envisions the perfect use for leftover turkey: tamales.

“In the Mexican culture, [tamales are] a big holiday custom, but it’s moved in the last 20 to 30 years up through Texas and is now a tradition in a lot of American families,” Gehlert said. “Tamales are so delicious, but they take so much work, so a lot of times, people shy away from it. When you’ve got everyone sitting around or you have leftover turkey, it can be something everyone does together.”

Gehlert devised a tamale that combines roasted turkey and sweet potatoes as a filling that is topped with cranberry sauce, fried sage, toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and cotija cheese.

Gehlert wants to leave the filling to personal taste, but she did provide a few tips for making tamales.

“Make sure you soak the cornhusk in water so that they’re pliable,” Gehlert said. “The dough is made with lard, and you have to whip the lard first; it is a crucial step. It’s an easy recipe, and the ingredients are available at any supermercado in the area. The sauce is up to you; you can top it with gravy if you want to.”

Tamale dough

2 cups lard (about 16 ounces)

1 tablespoon baking powder

5 1/4 cups corn flour

(19.5 ounces)

3 cups hot water

2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon salt

Mix the corn flour and the water and set it aside. In a mixer, whip the lard with the paddle until it’s light and fluffy. Continue to mix while adding the corn flour a little at a time. Then add the broth a little at a time also. Add the salt and check the seasoning.

Soak the cornhusks in water so they are pliable. Use 2 ounces of the tamale dough and spread it on the lower half of the husk, leaving about a 1/4-1/2-inch edge. Add 1 tablespoon of leftover turkey (light or dark) and 1 tablespoon of roasted sweet potatoes (can use leftover candied yams). Then roll the tamale with the husk, fold up the end that has no dough on it and tie it off with a thin strip of the husk.

Using a steamer or Dutch oven (you can add water or broth to steam), place the tamales in with the open side up, stacking them on top of each other. Cover and steam for 40 minutes. To check for doneness, pull one tamale out and let it rest for several minutes. If they do not stick to the husk, they are ready.

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Cranberry chile sauce

1 package of fresh cranberries

1 ounce of fresh sage

4 cups of water

3/4 cup of sugar

1 roasted Anaheim chile, peeled/seeded/diced

(can use green chiles)

1 cup Barrios salsa verde

1 tablespoon salt

Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Cook until the cranberries are soft. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 15 minutes on low-medium heat. Taste and adjust seasoning (salt, sugar, spice) as necessary.

Duck Confit and Gnocchi Casserole

Are you looking for a poultry alternative to Turkey this Thanksgiving? Consider this duck dish from Jonathon Stranger, executive chef at En Croûte and St. Mark’s Chop Room & Bar, that has recently been added to the seasonal menu at En Croûte, 6460 Avondale Drive.

“It’s a great dish for main entree and can also work as a decadent side dish,” Stranger said. “If someone did not have time to make the duck confit, it can easily be purchased, and same with the gnocchi.”

For the duck confit

6 duck legs

1 orange, sliced

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 bunch fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoons fresh black peppercorn

1 quart duck fat (pork fat or extra virgin olive oil can be substituted)

Heat your oven to 280 F. While the oven is warming, place 1 tablespoon of the duck fat into a sauté pan. Season the duck legs with salt and brown them on all sides over medium heat. When they are done, place them in a shallow baking dish. Warm the rest of the fat so it turns to a liquid. Cover the duck with the orange slices, fresh thyme, rosemary and the black peppercorns. Cover with the duck fat and seal the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Cook it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the duck is very tender. Let it cool and remove the duck legs from the pan. By hand, pull all the meat from the legs and set it aside. This can be done up to three days in advance.

Ricotta gnocchi

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 lemon, zest

1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a bowl, whip together the ricotta cheese, egg, lemon zest and salt. When everything is well mixed together, add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing by hand. When all the flour has been incorporated, you should have a nice, sticky dough. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. If the dough is too sticky, knead in a bit more flour and make sure the dough is still nice and soft. Divide the dough into five pieces and roll it into long ropes until the rope is about 3/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into 1-inch-long pieces. When you have all of your gnocchi formed, cook it in batches in the boiling water. When the gnocchi float, remove them from the water and set them aside.

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For the sauce

1 cup fresh goat cheese

1 cup Brie, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup blue cheese

2 shallots, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 lemons, zest and juice

1 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup heavy cream

In a saucepan, add the butter over medium heat. When bubbles begin to form, add the shallots and garlic and gently simmer until translucent. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, goat cheese, Brie and blue cheese. When the cheese begins to melt, add the cream and reduce the heat to low. When you can see that the rind of the Brie has begun to melt, add the duck confit and gnocchi to the pot and stir everything together. Turn off the heat. Place the mixture into a 9-inch glass baking dish and let it cool. Once it has cooled, you can begin to finish the dish.

To build the casserole

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup melted butter

Turn oven to 350 F. Mix all the ingredients together until everything is incorporated and all the breadcrumbs have been touched by the butter. Take the casserole mix from the refrigerator. Cover the casserole with breadcrumbs evenly and bake it for 35 minutes. Remove and serve.

Spicy cranberry relish

Under the guidance of Boo Hee Thomas, Cheever’s Cafe, 2409 N. Hudson Ave., has turned into a city favorite. The restaurant took first place in five categories during this year’s Best of OKC voters’ poll, including best restaurant overall. Thomas has recommended a pair of nontraditional holiday recipes that are personal favorites.

“Within the last few years, I’ve started making this spicy cranberry relish,” Thomas said. “It’s a condiment to go with your turkey dinner and a twist on the canned stuff your parents used to have. I like to use fresh cranberry and I like spicy food, so I added jalapeños.”

4 pounds fresh cranberries

10 green onions

4 tablespoons grated fresh ginger or 1 tablespoon ground ginger

5 fresh jalapeños, seeds and all

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 limes, juiced

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until evenly blended. Chill and enjoy with a leftover turkey sandwich.

Apricot cookies

The cookies have become such a favorite for Thomas, they were even served at her wedding this year, where she said they were a hit with guests.

“It’s a general shortbread, but when you add the apricot preserves in there, it takes it to a whole new level,” she said.  “They’re bite-sized and not overly sweet because the shortbread is kind of savory, but then you add the apricot and it is sticky and sweet.”

8 ounces original cream

cheese (room temperature)

2 sticks butter (room temperature)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

24 ounces apricot preserves

Mix all ingredients except the preserves with your hands and form the dough into a ball. Divide the ball in half and roll it out until it’s 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into 2-by-2-inch squares. Dollop one ounce of apricot preserves in the center of each square. Bake at 375 F for about 12 minutes or until the corners turn golden brown.

Gluten-free skillet cornbread dressing

Thanksgiving shouldn’t be a time to forget about those of us embracing a meat-free lifestyle. Tevin Grupe, co-owner of vegan comfort food restaurant and food truck The Loaded Bowl, 1211 SW Second St., offered up her take on a Thanksgiving classic.


2 cups unsweetened soy milk (or almond milk)

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1/4 cup corn grits

1 cup oat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

oil to coat skillet

Preheat oven to 450 F. Coat cast-iron skillet with oil of your choosing. Place oiled skillet in oven and begin making batter.

In a large bowl, combine soy milk, apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, corn grits, oat flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly whisk the dry mixture into the larger bowl until fully combined.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour in the batter. Place the skillet in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for 30 minutes. When finished, set aside to cool.


1 1/2 cups celery, chopped

2 cups onion, diced

1 1/2 cups baby bella

mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons ground sage

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups vegetable stock

Remove the cooled cornbread from the skillet. Place it in a large bowl, breaking it apart in large pieces with your hands. Fold in chopped vegetables, spices and vegetable stock. Once all ingredients are evenly combined, put the mixture into the re-oiled skilled and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to one hour or until the top is crispy and the center is above 160 F internal temperature.

Print headline: Beyond turkey; Local chefs share some of their favorite nontraditional recipes for the holiday season.

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