5 Last-Minute Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

Are you still looking for last-minute Thanksgiving recipe ideas? Seriously!? Well, it's OK. I'm not going to judge. Lord knows I am a fan of last-minute everything...

And I have a few ideas that you might like...

1. Mofongo Stuffing

This stuffing blows all those regular Thanksgiving dressings out of the water. Forget Stove-Top or other mushy breadcrumb based concoctions. Mofongo stuffing is a plantain-based recipe with lots of garlic, sofrito, and a generous handful of crispy slab bacon.

The flavorful stuffing can be cooked inside the turkey or simply prepared on the stove and served alongside the bird. In Puerto Rico, where this recipe originated, mofongo is traditionally eaten as a side dish throughout the year, often topped with stewed shrimp, steak, or sauteed crabmeat.

2. Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Spanish Olive Dip

I like to refer to these little babies as "meat candy." Sweet medjoul dates are stuffed with sliced almonds and then wrapped in bacon. These are baked for 15 minutes and they come out of the oven crisp on the outside and sweet and soft inside; the perfect combination of salty and sweet. The tangy olive dip (which can be blitzed up in less than 5 minutes), provides the perfect contrast and makes this an unforgettable (and easy!) appetizer to serve your guests.

3. Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas)

If you were to take a peek at my family's Thanksgiving table, you'd notice that along with all the traditional dishes, there is a definite Latin twist evident on most of the plates. I'm not talking tropical fruits and paper umbrellas (although that would be kind of retro-awesome), but rather a
subtle sprinkling of recipes born from the marriage of our Puerto Rican heritage and classic American tradition.

Along with the mofongo stuffing, my mom usually serves Arroz con Gandules; an easy and savory rice dish that's similar to the slightly more well-known "Rice and Beans." Cooked ham and a generous sprinkling of seasoning make this an out-of-this world sidedish. And for a little extra authenticity, be sure to save the "pegao" (the salty and crispy bits that stick to the bottom of the pot) for your favorite guest. (I always used to beg my grandmother for it.)

4. Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi with Brown Butter & Sage

These little dumplings are a gnocchi's tender cousin. Pronounced nyoo-dee, the word means naked in Italian, since the nuggets are basically naked ravioli (think ravioli stuffing without the pasta outside). These can be prepared ahead of time and boiled just before serving. Like most fresh pasta, they only take a few minutes to cook and can be on the table quickly.

Instead of a heavy red sauce, opt for a light and rich brown butter sauteed with torn sage leaves and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. The warm and toasty flavors will be a perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving turkey.

5. Bourbon & Spice Pumpkin Mousse

I call this one my "lazy pumpkin pie," because it's basically all the flavors of pumpkin pie with none of the fuss. A wonderful creamy dessert that can even be easily adapted to a sugar-free version for people following low-carb or diabetic eating plans. And it literally takes about 25 minutes to make (10 of those are just while the mixture chills in the fridge a bit!)

Mofongo Stuffing (Fried Green Plantain Stuffing)

6 Green Plantains (you want really green ones with almost no sign of black)
Coconut or vegetable oil for frying
6 strips, thick-sliced slab bacon
3/4 cup sofrito (recipe follows)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken broth, as needed
Kosher salt
Black Pepper

For the sofrito:
1 medium yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup crushed or pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro with stems
1 cup roughly chopped parsley with stems

1. Fill a 5 qt pot with 4 inches of oil. Heat oil to 375 degrees for frying (use a deep fat themometer)

2. Peel the plantains and slice into rounds on the diagonal so that the slices come out somewhat oval shaped (much the same way you would slice a baguette).

3. When the oil hits the right temperature, fry the plantain slices in batches for 3 minutes each. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain for 2 minutes (don't turn off the heat). Use the bottom of a glass or the side of a rolling pin to smash each fried plantain down. The plantain should squash into a flattened patty.

Fry the flattened plantains again for 2 additional minutes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain.

4. Dice the slab bacon and saute in a hot skillet until crisp. Remove the crisp bacon and reserve.

5. Prepare the sofrito: in a food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth. (Note: The leftover condiment can be used as a base for stews, to marinate meat, for Spanish rice, or to saute with egg scrambles.)

6. In a large bowl, use your hands to knead and break up the plantains. Add the 3/4 cup sofrito, the fried and crisped bacon, 1/3 cup of olive oil and stir. Add the chicken broth in slowly, 1/4 cup at a time as you combine everything. The stuffing should be moist but not mushy. Add salt and black pepper and test for seasoning.

This can be served immediately, stuffed inside a turkey or chicken, or it can be refrigerated overnight and then reheated for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven (add a little more chicken broth if you choose to reheat in the oven).

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Green Olive Dipping Sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence

30 Medjoul dates
15 bacon slices, halved and uncooked
1 cup sliced and toasted almonds
Green Olive Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)

For Green Olive Dipping Sauce:
1 cup green olives stuffed with pimentos (the kind that come in a jar)
2 shallots, peeled
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 handful flat leaf parsley (fresh), with stems
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or sherry vinegar

To make:
Use a paring knife to make a slit down the center of each date. Remove the pit and fill the empty cavity with a pinch of sliced almonds. Squoose the date closed and set aside. Repeat with all the dates.

Take one stuffed date and place at the end of one of the bacon halves. Wrap it up all the way like a little blanket, then use a soaked skewer or toothpick to secure (I just skewered 2 or 3 dates per skewer). Repeat with all the dates.

Prepare your Green Olive Dipping Sauce by combining all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and processing (or blending!) until smooth. Add more oil if necessary.

Cooks Note: This part can all be done up to 24 hours in advance.

When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the skewers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 5-7 minutes then remove from the oven and turn the skewers over. Bake for another 5-7 minutes and then turn again. Bake for a final 5 minutes until crisp. Remove from the oven and serve with a bowl of Green Olive Dipping Sauce.

Arroz Con Gandules
Serves 4-6 people as a side dish

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sofrito (recipe follows)
1/2 cup diced cooked ham or diced and crisped slab bacon
2 cups long-grain white rice
4 cups water
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon achiote (a color booster with slight flavor, can be found in the latin grocery aisle or hispanic neighborhood market, optional)
1 15-oz can gandules (pigeon peas--most common brand is Goya or Jibarito, ideally the brown "dried" version although the green will do)

For the sofrito
1 medium yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup crushed or pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro with stems
1 cup roughly chopped parsley with stems

To make:
First, prepare the sofrito: in a food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth. (Note: The leftover condiment can be used as a base for stews, to marinate meat, for Spanish rice, or to saute with egg scrambles.)

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Saute 1/2 cup of the sofrito and ham or bacon for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice, water, spices, and gandules. Bring to a boil and let boil for 3 minutes.

Cover, lower the heat to medium-low and let cook for 35-40 minutes. Do not lift the lid while the rice is cooking or the rice will come out too soggy.

When finished cooking, uncover and stir once before serving.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi

This dish works best if left to dry in the fridge for a minimum of 4-6 hours and up to overnight. Prepare it early in the morning and it will be ready to cook around dinnertime.

1 pound fresh spinach, large stems removed, washed well
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 cup ricotta cheese, drained for 30 minutes in a fine sieve
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Semolina, for dusting
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh sage, plus about 8 leaves

To Make:
Put a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water then add the spinach and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then use a knife to chop it finely. Roll into a cheesecloth or paper towel and squeeze out the excess liquid. Dump the spinach (minus the cloth) into a large bowl.

Stir in the egg yolks, cheeses, 4 tablespoons flour, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a bowl and combine well with the spinach.

Pour 1 cup of flour into a little pile on a cutting board or in a shallow pan. Using heavily floured hands, shape 1 tablespoon of the spinach mixture into a little oval dumpling (like a big gnocchi) and drop into the flour. Roll around until well coated then use a spoon to gentely transfer to a baking sheet that's been dusted with semolina. Repeat with the rest of the spinach mixtures. Sprinkle more Semolina over the entire batch and then refrigerate uncovered for minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.

When you are ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Gently add the gnudi to the water in batches and boil until the gnudi rise and settle on the surface (about 5-6 minutes). Repeat with the rest of the gnudi.

While the gnudi are cooking, melt the butter in a medium skillet and let cook over medium-high heat until the butter starts to turn golden and smell somewhat nutty. Add the torn fresh sage leaves and saute. Season with salt and butter.

When the gnudi are ready, remove from the pot with a slotted soon and arrange on a serving dish. Drizzle the butter sauce all over the top and garnish with a few fresh sage leaves.

Serve immediately.

Bourbon & Spice Pumpkin Mousse
This pumpkin pie cousin can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes and keeps well overnight. Serve in wine goblets or parfait glasses and garnish with toasted nuts and a cinnamon stick.


1 can pumpkin puree (plain with no seasoning)
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tonka bean, grated (optional)

For garnish: toasted sliced almonds or pecans

To make

In a medium size saucepan, combine the pumpkin, sugars, bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and grated tonka bean. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat until all the sugars are dissolved and the spices well incorporated. Remove from heat and pour into a large glass bowl. Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to cool.

While the pumpkin mixture cools, whip the three cups of heavy cream until medium peaks form.

When the pumpkin is room temperature, gently fold in the whipped cream in batches until light, fluffy, and well combined. Pour into a serving dish and let chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

When ready to serve, spoon into wine goblets or parfait glasses and sprinkle with toasted nuts. Add a cinnamon stick as a decorative touch.

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