On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans of every faith celebrate Thanksgiving Day, an annual holiday celebrated nationwide in the US since 1789 after a proclamation by President George Washington.
Immigrants to America have embraced the Thanksgiving holiday, as it’s a chance for families and friends to share a meal and give thanks. While the main Thanksgiving meal revolves around a roast turkey, each community has its own take on the dish – and Iranians are no exception.
The first Thanksgiving meal most probably consisted of corn, walnuts, chestnuts, venison, goose, duck, passenger pigeons, wild turkeys, eels and shellfish like lobsters, clams and mussels. The modern-day Thanksgiving meal centers around a turkey with stuffing, various side dishes, and pumpkin, pecan or apple pies for dessert. Iranian-Americans have come up with exciting variants on that traditional menu.
Here is our selection of Thanksgiving recipes by famous Iranian chefs and food bloggers. From all of us here at Kayhan Life, Bon Appetit – Nush-e Jan!
MAIN COURSE: AROMATIC PERSIAN SPICED TURKEY
By Shadi Hasanzadeh Nemati
Ingredients: 1 turkey: Mine was 11 pounds, thawed, cleaned and pat dried completely. Compound Butter: 1 stick butter room temperature 1 tsp chili powder 1 tsp cumin 1/2 tsp cinnamon Filling: 3 large carrots chopped 2 cups chopped celery 2 tomatoes chopped 3 lemons cut into quarters 3 onions cut into quarters 10 cloves of garlic peeled Olive oil Persian Spice Mixture: 3/4 cup olive oil 2 tsp turmeric 2 tsp paprika 1/4 cup bloomed saffron Persian Caramelized Walnuts: 1 tbsp olive oil 1 onion chopped 1 cup walnuts chopped 1/2 cup barberries (or substitute with chopped dried cranberries if barberries are not available) 1/2 tsp turmeric 1/2 tsp salt 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare your roasting pan. Compound Butter: Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, using your hands, create space between the meat and the skin on the turkey and rub the compound butter everywhere under the skin and on the meat, especially the breast. Filling: Mix all the ingredients, stuff the turkey and sew it completely.
Spread the rest on the filling vegetable at the bottom of the roasting pan. Olive oil Persian Spice Mixture: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, brush it all over the turkey completely. Place the turkey in the roasting pan and roast in the oven for one hour. Then cover it with aluminum foil and roast for another 2 1/2 hours.
After 30 minutes brush it with olive oil mixture again and also baste every hour. 30 minutes before it’s done, brush with olive oil one more time. Insert a thermometer between the thigh and the leg, it should reach 165F and then the turkey is done. Cover with aluminum foil for 30 minutes and then carve.
Persian Caramelized Walnuts: Heat olive oil in a pan, saute onion until translucent. Add in walnuts and stir for a minute. Add in the barberris, turmeric, salt and pomegranate molasses and cook for two minutes. Turn the heat off and add pomegranate arils. Serve the turkey with Persian Caramelized Walnuts
SIDE DISHES: I SAY BALAL, YOU SAY CORN
By My Persian Kitchen
Half fill a carafe or a large bowl with hot water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Mix until water and salt are well incorporated. You can either grill the corn or just place it on top of your burner. Either way is fine. Make sure that you turn the corn every few minutes of even cooking on each side.
The color of the corn will change to a deep yellow. It goes pretty quickly so make sure that you keep an eye on it so that the corn doesn’t burn. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes. Once your corn is ready, submerge the whole thing in the water for a few seconds then remove. I know this sounds strange if you are non-Persian, but trust me, it is so good this way. Once you take the corn out, the water will evaporate pretty fast as both the corn and water are hot.
PERSIAN JEWELED RICE by Najmieh Batmanglij
Najmieh Batmanglij is an Iranian-American chef and the author of several award-winning cookbooks, including her most recent: Joon: Persian Cooking Made Simple. This recipe is provided courtesy of Mage Publishers.
Ingredients (serves 6): 3 cups long-grain white basmati rice 1 cup dried barberries 1 cup oil, butter, or ghee 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds 1/4 cup sliced raw pistachios 1/2 cup seedless golden or green raisins 1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup orange blossom water 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar 3–4 large oranges (1 cup slivered orange peel) 2–3 large carrots (2 cups peeled and cut 3-inch strips) One 4-inch cinnamon stick 2 tsp ground cardamom 1 tbsp orange blossom water
INSTRUCTIONS: Wash the rice by placing it in a large container and covering it with water. Agitate gently with your hand, then pour out the water. Repeat 5 times. To soak the rice, cover with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt, and allow to soak for 2 to 24 hours (soaking results in longer grains of rice). Drain in a fine-mesh colander. Set aside.
Clean barberries by removing their stems and any grit. Place the barberries in a fine-mesh colander, and place the colander in a large container full of cold water. Allow barberries to soak for 20 minutes. Any sand will settle to the bottom.
Take the colander out of the container and run cold water over the barberries. Drain and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and pistachios, and stir-fry for 20 seconds. Add the raisins and give it a stir, transfer to a small bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, place 1 tablespoon oil, 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons sugar and the barberries, and stir-fry for 4 minutes over medium heat. (Beware, barberries burn easily!) Set aside.
To remove the bitterness from the orange peel: Drop the orange peel in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and the orange peel, and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup sugar, a drop of the saffron-infused orange blossom water, the cinnamon and the cardamom, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add 1 cup water, bring to a boil, and cook over medium-high heat for 7 to 10 minutes until lightly caramelized. Drain, reserving the syrup. Set aside.
In a large non-stick pot (I use a 5-quart Anolon pot that is 11.25 inches in diameter and 3.25 inches deep), add 10 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt, and bring to a boil. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot and add 1 tablespoon orange blossom water. Boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes (depending on the type of basmati rice you are using). Bite a few grains of rice. If the rice feels soft and all of it has risen to the surface, it is ready.
Drain the rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse with 2 cups water. To make a golden crust (tah-dig): In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup water, a few drops of saffron-orange blossom water, 3 spatulas of rice (about 2 cups), and spread the mixture over the bottom of the pot. Give the pot a shake to even out the base. Take one spatula full of rice at a time and gently place it on top of the saffron-rice mixture, gradually shaping the rice into a pyramid. This shape leaves room for the rice to expand and enlarge. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Swirl 1/2 cup water, the remaining oil and the reserved syrup from earlier over the rice. Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean dish towel and cover firmly to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 70 minutes over low heat. Remove the pot from heat. Allow to cool on a damp surface for 2 minutes without uncovering it. This helps to free the crust from the bottom of the pot.
Uncover and loosen the edges with a wooden spoon. Gently taking one spatula full of rice at a time (use a wooden spatula and don’t disturb crust), place it on a serving platter in alternating layers with the caramelized carrot mixture, caramelized barberries, and the almonds, pistachio, and raisin mixture. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Detach the crust from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spatula, place on a small platter, and serve on the side.
DESSERT: PERSIAN SAFFRON RICE PUDDING (SHOLEH ZARD)
By My Persian Kitchen
Ingredients: 1 cup rice 9 cups water 2 cups sugar 1 tsp saffron 1 cup rosewater 2 pods cardamom 1/4 cup slivered almonds Cinnamon & slivered pistachios for garnish
Lightly crush the two cardamom pods and place in one cup of rosewater. Set aside. Wash rice until water runs clear. Cook rice uncovered until tender. This should take about half an hour. Grind saffron with a pinch of sugar. Add 3 tablespoons of hot water to the ground saffron and shake well. Allow to brew while the rice cooks.
Add sugar to the rice and cook for another half hour until the water and rice become dense. In the meantime, be sure to stir the rice every so often so that it does not stick to the bottom. Add brewed saffron and continue to cook for another half hour.
Add rose water with cardamom pods and slivered almonds. Mix well. At this point you can continue cooking the pudding on the stove top on low until it is completely dense, or place it in an oven proof pot and put it in the oven. THEN turn the oven to 350ºF and leave the pudding in there for 15 to 20 minutes.
Discard cardamom pods. Place the Sholeh Zard in small bowls or in one big shallow oval or rectangular dish. Garnish with cinnamon and slivered pistachios. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours. Serve chilled.
Suggested wine pairing:
Persian Tradition wine – Napa, California
Red: Shiraz “Persepolis”
White: Chardonnay “Isfahan”