An Authentic Native American Feast

Way beyond the bird: Serve up a traditional menu inspired by the culinary roots of our nation’s earliest settlers.

An Authentic Native-American Feast


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Let us give thanks for gourmet takeout and fast food on other days. This holiday, serve up a traditional home-cooked meal based on the culinary roots of our nation’s earliest settlers. (If it brought the Pilgrims and Indians together, think what it’ll

do for your family’s feuds.)

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By Nancy Claus Giles

Photography by John O’Donnell

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Styling by Sandy Hapoienu


While Native Americans were the guests at the very first Thanksgiving, turnabout is fair play. Native American John Reynolds, head chef at the catering firm Wm. Nicholas & Co. and at Willy Nick’s Café, both in Katonah, has turned the tables to create a special Thanksgiving meal reflecting his heritage. No sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, green bean casserole or creamed pearl onions on his menu. “In the spirit of the first Native-European Thanksgiving, this menu brings together indigenous ingredients—maple syrup, lima beans, squash and corn—and European ingredients—processed sugars, goat cheese and hard cider— to the same table,” Reynolds says. “It’s the best of two worlds working harmoniously together—something to be thankful for!”

Amen to that. And please pass the popcorn balls.


Mohegan Maple

Popcorn Balls

Great as a starter, especially when kids are around.


1 package microwave popcorn

   (uncooked, plain or butter)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp butter

2 cups maple syrup


Cook popcorn according to package instructions, season with salt and cinnamon. Heat butter and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until a candy thermometer reaches 250°F. Toss popcorn and syrup mixture into a large bowl and mix with a rubber spatula. Allow mixture to cool to the touch, then form into desired-sized balls with “oiled” hands. Cool completely on rack or wax paper. (Store in an airtight container if saving for later.)


Native Corn and

Crab Chowder

Maple-smoked bacon and sharp Vermont cheddar add a savory tang to this subtly sweet soup. 


6 oz maple-smoked bacon, diced

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced carrot

3/4 cup diced celery

1 lb corn kernels (about 8 ears

   fresh or 4 cups frozen)

1 qt clam juice

1 qt milk

2 qt chicken stock

1/4 lb butter and 1/2 cup flour, blended

1 cup waxy-skinned potatoes, diced

1 lb lump crab meat (picked clean

   of shells)

Old Bay seasoning, fresh snipped chives, salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp honey to taste

In a heavy-bottomed, 10- to 12-qt. pot, sauté bacon with canola or salad oil over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Add onion, carrot and celery; sauté until softened and caramelized (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add corn, clam juice, milk, and chicken stock, adjust heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and whisk in butter-flour mixture by the tablespoon to thicken. Simmer 10 minutes. Add potatoes, crab meat and seasoning, simmering until potatoes soften. Add honey to taste.


Red Cloud Pudding

This fluffy berry pudding is simple to make and beautiful to behold.


5 cups cran-raspberry juice

1 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Farina (breakfast cereal)


Heat juice, syrup, allspice and salt to a boil. Add Farina and whisk on stovetop for 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Place in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes. The “pudding” will almost triple in volume and should have a “fluffy” texture.


Watercress Salad with Cranberry, Maple Walnuts, Goat Cheese and

Cider Vinaigrette

The contrasting flavors of bitter, sweet, salty and sour blend harmoniously in this light, crisp salad.


4 bunches watercress, 1–1/2 in. of

   stems removed

2 cups dried cranberries

1 cup crumbled goat cheese

2 cups maple walnuts (Combine 2 cups walnuts with 1/4 cup maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet in 350˚F pre-heated oven for 10 to

12 minutes.) 


For the vinaigrette, mix:

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Toss maple walnuts with all other ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with the vinaigrette dressing.


Three Sisters 

Closely related to succotash, this vegetable dish falls somewhere between a casserole and salad, and is a great accompaniment to hearty fall entrées.


1 medium butternut squash (approximately

   2-1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into

   1-1/2-inch cubes

6 ears corn, shucked clean (or 2 cups,

   10 oz  frozen kernels)

2 cups lima beans, shelled (or one

   10 oz. box, frozen)

Salt, pepper, sage and pure maple syrup

   to taste


Toss squash with canola oil to coat; add salt and pepper to taste. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast in pre-heated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes until softened and lightly caramelized.


Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Boil ears of corn for 8 to 10 minutes until cooked through, but still crunchy. In the same pot, boil lima beans 3 to 5 minutes. (If using frozen corn, boil corn and beans together for 3 to 5 minutes.) Drain water and set aside corn and beans to cool. Then, cut kernels from cob and mix together with beans and squash. Add seasoning to taste. For a creamier consistency, purée 1/4 of the mixture in a food processor and reincorporate it into the dish.


Maple-Basted Turkey with Wild Mushroom Gravy

Frequent basting is the key to a moist and delicious turkey.

1 medium turkey, 12 to 14 lbs, preferably

   brined or kosher

1 tsp McCormick Poultry Seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can non-stick spray (e.g., Pam)

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery or celery tops

3 soaked aromatic tea bags (e.g., Earl Grey)

1 bottle hard cider (12 oz.)

1 stick butter

1/2 cup maple syrup


Wash and thoroughly pat-dry turkey. Reserve turkey neck and giblets. Rub entire bird with poultry seasoning, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stuff body cavity with onion, celery and tea bags before trussing. Spray rubbed bird with non-stick spray to lightly coat and ensure even browning. Place in pre-heated 350°F oven to roast. Allow turkey to cook for 40 minutes before basting. For basting mixture, melt butter in saucepan; add hard cider and bring to a boil. Brush liberally on bird every 20 minutes, rotating frequently for even browning. A turkey will cook at a rate of approximately 1 lb per 20 minutes (approximately 4 hours for a 12- lb bird). During the final 40 minutes, baste with pure maple syrup only.


For Gravy:

3 cans low-sodium chicken stock, 12 oz each

Reserved turkey neck and giblets

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Pan juices from turkey

2 Tbsp butter

White wine for deglazing

2 cups mixed sliced wild mushrooms

   (shiitake, chanterelle, oyster, wood ear, etc.)

1 medium shallot

Salt, pepper and truffle oil (optional) to taste


Make a quick turkey stock by combining chicken stock with reserved turkey parts and simmer. Reduce until you have about 4 cups of stock. Pour roasted turkey pan juices into a glass measure, skim and reserve 1/4-cup fat. Add

1/2 cup of the de-greased pan juice to

turkey stock.


Melt butter in pan, then sauté mushrooms and shallots for about 6 to 8 minutes until cooked through and nicely caramelized. Deglaze with white wine and reserve. Heat reserved fats in pan; add flour and whisk into a roux. Cook roux for 3 minutes, then add hot stock mixture, whisking to prevent lumps. Whisk and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken. Add sautéed mushrooms, truffle oil and seasoning to taste.


Pecan and Chocolate

Chunk Pie

(makes 2 pies)


Chunks of chocolate are a perfect addition to this traditional favorite.


1 cup dark brown sugar

21 oz light corn syrup

3.5 oz butter

1/8 tsp salt

4 eggs, large

1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup pecans

3/4 cup extra bittersweet chocolate chunks

2 10-inch pie shells


Heat sugar and corn syrup until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Add butter and salt, let sit 10 minutes. Fold eggs and vanilla into mixture: Be careful not to cook eggs (this could happen if the butter-sugar mixture is too hot).


Place pecans and chocolate chunks in a 10-inch pie shell. Pour sugar mixture up to the rim of pie shell. Bake in pre-heated 350°F oven for 30 minutes (rotating once at 15 minutes). Pie will have a moist and gooey texture when sliced.





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