Thanksgiving on the beach
The menu is loosely themed around Gilbert’s Tex-Mex roots with a dash of California—which means dishes worth craving year-round, like chile-rubbed turkey with mole gravy, and chocolate cakes with a cayenne kick.
It’s a toss-up as to whether Shelly’s group enjoys the food or the beach more. Which makes us think that all Thanksgivings should at least involve a walk in the open air. Nature, after all, is partly what we have to be thankful for.
Appetizers, main course and sides:
- Pumpkin Tacos
- Tortilla chips and green and red salsas (optional; try our recipe for Salsa Ranchera)
- Cranberry, Apple, and Orange Relish
- Chile and Spice Grilled Turkey with Mole Gravy
- Chorizo Apple Stuffing
- Grilled Rosemary Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted Chile Cornbread
- Fall Salad with Nuts and Pomegranates
- Roasted Chile-Lime Broccolini
Drinks and desserts
Brining: It’s the secret to a moist bird. Brine the turkey, breast down, in an oversize pot such as a boiling-water canner (if it fits in the fridge). Or use an ice chest.
Double-bag turkey using two 13-gal. plastic trash bags (not recycled plastic). Put bagged bird in chest, pour brine over turkey, and seal bags tightly. Add ice to cover.
Tying: For the most even cooking, leave turkey legs loose. Or if you prefer a tidy look, tie them.
Garnishing: Add color with herbs, a banana leaf, and fruit like kumquats.
Mexican Chocolate Cakes: Very chocolaty, with a chile kick—and fabulous with cinnamon ice cream. We decorated the cakes with stencils made from an autumn leaf traced onto tagboard.
Cinnamon Ice Cream: A super-easy addition to the table, inspired by Shelly’s favorite fall flavor from Fosselman’s Ice Cream, a SoCal landmark in Alhambra.
Long Beach Lime Pies: In honor of the Strazises’ Florida roots, Shelly’s mom whips up luscious Key lime pies. We use Mexican limes (the West Coast name for Key limes).
Here’s how two cooks can pull off this big meal—with one cook working indoors, using a single oven, and one working outdoors at a single grill. If you don’t have ample fridge space, you may need to store some food at a neighbor’s.
1 week ahead
- Make cranberry relish.
- Make cinnamon ice cream.
4 days ahead
- Start thawing turkey in fridge, if frozen.
1 day ahead
- Make pies.
- Bake chocolate cakes.
- Toast seeds and nuts for relish and salad.
- Make pumpkin spread and slaw for tacos.
- Brine turkey.
- Make stuffing through step 2.
- Grill sweet potatoes.
- Bake cornbread.
- Make salad dressing.
- Roast broccolini.
4 hours before
- Heat grill and start turkey (allow 31/2 hrs. for cooking, resting, and carving).
- Spread topping on lime pies.
- Top cakes with powdered sugar.
3 hours before
- Start gravy.
2 hours before
- Add almonds to cranberry relish.
- Finish tacos: Toast chiles, warm pumpkin spread and tortillas, then set out compo-nents. (Or do this as guests arrive.)
1 hour before
- Bake stuffing.
- Assemble elements of salad; toss at serving time.
30 minutes before
- Reheat sweet potatoes.
- Finish gravy.
- Reheat broccolini and cornbread.
- Let turkey rest, then carve.
- Set out desserts.
- Make canela tea.