Thanksgiving on the beach
Get recipes and planning tips for an incredible Mexican-inspired Thanksgiving meal alfresco
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
Recipe: Pumpkin Tacos
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).
Recipe: Canela Tea
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.