The Supporting Cast: Latino Twists on Traditional Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Jonathon Kambouris

Yes, everyone knows it’s all about the turkey, but one way to step up your Thanksgiving game is with kick-ass sides and desserts. It’s easy with these Latin riffs on five homey dishes. Show up on your host’s doorstep with gorgeous chipotle gratin or luscious pumpkin arroz con leche, and you’ll impress everyone, even those hard-to-please guests. Best of all, you won’t have to spend the day slaving away in the kitchen. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Chorizo-stuffed acorn squash
2 cups wild rice
4½ cups chicken broth
¼ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 small acorn squash
Canola oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
12 oz. Spanish chorizo picante, chopped
2 tsp. dried sage
¼ cup chopped parsley
¾ cup chopped dried cranberries
¼ cup maple syrup

PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 375°F. Rinse rice. In medium saucepan, bring rice, broth and 1/4 tsp. salt to boil. Cover and simmer until rice is tender, with some grains split open, about 45 to 60 minutes; add extra liquid or drain excess if necessary. Transfer to large bowl. Meanwhile, cut off squash ends if necessary to stand them upright, then cut in half lengthwise and seed. Brush inside and out with oil and place cut side down on baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 325°F. In sauté pan, melt butter. Over medium heat, cook onion until soft. Add chorizo and sage and cook 5 minutes. Add to bowl with rice. Scoop out squash so edges are 1/4inch thick; add pulp to bowl. Stir in parsley and cranberries and add salt, to taste. Mound stuffing into squash halves and drizzle with maple syrup. Bake until heated through, about 25 minutes. Makes 8 servings.
TIP: Try Pamplona Auténtico Chorizo Picante Español ($9 for 7.9 oz., amigofoods.com).

Chipotle gratin
Butter (for greasing baking dish)
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1½ tbsp. pureed chipotle in adobo sauce
3½ lb. (about 4 large) sweet potatoes
1 onion, thinly sliced
1½ cups shredded pepper jack cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter large, shallow baking dish or gratin pan. In medium bowl, whisk together cream and chipotle. Peel potatoes and slice very thinly, using mandolin if possible. Arrange one layer of overlapping potatoes in bottom of dish. Top with half of onion slices and cover evenly with one-third of cream mixture and one-third of cheese; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Repeat procedure for second layer. For top layer, arrange potatoes and top with remaining cream and cheese; season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 25 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown and potatoes are tender. Let cool before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
TIP: The gratin can be made early in the day and reheated when you reach your destination. After preparing, cover and chill. Reheat, covered, in a 400°F oven, until hot, about 15 minutes.

Dulce de leche popcorn clusters
Butter (for greasing bowl)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
8 cups popped natural popcorn
2 cups roasted, salted almonds
¾ cup roasted, salted pepitas
Kosher salt

PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 425°F. In pie plate, pour condensed milk and cover tightly with foil. Set pie plate in roasting pan with hot water filled halfway up sides of plate. Bake until milk is thick and caramel-colored, about 1 hour. Remove from heat and whisk briskly; cool slightly. In large buttered bowl, place popcorn. Stir in almonds, pepitas and salt, to taste. Pour in small portion of dulce de leche and gently stir to coat, then repeat process until popcorn just sticks together and is coated evenly. With buttered hands, carefully form mixture into clusters about 3 inches across and set on wax paper–lined sheet pan. Cool until set, at least 1 hour; refrigerate to set if necessary. To serve, wrap individually in cellophane paper and tie with ribbon. Store at cool temperature until ready to serve. Makes about 18 to 20 clusters.
TIP: Don’t worry if your clusters don’t form into uniform balls. They should look unique!

Ancho cinnamon cranberry sauce
1 cup sugar
12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries, picked through
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ancho chile powder
Zest of 1 lime
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp. kosher salt

PREPARATION: In medium, saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water and sugar to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries, ancho chile powder, lime, cinnamon and salt, and return to boil. Lower heat to medium and cook until sauce has thickened and most berries burst, about 7 to 10 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Makes 21/4 cups.
TIP: Cinnamon adds a festive touch.

Pumpkin arroz con leche
7 cups whole milk
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
3 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups arborio or short-grain rice
1 can (15 oz.) packed pumpkin
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. dark rum (optional)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup dark brown sugar

PREPARATION: In heavy, large saucepan, add milk, salt and nutmeg. Tie cloves and cinnamon in cheesecloth and add to pot; heat until bubbles begin to form. Add rice, bring to boil and stir. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rice is slightly tender but chewy, about 20 minutes. Uncover and stir in pumpkin, sugar, vanilla and rum (if using). Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until pudding thickens but some liquid remains, about 15 minutes (it will also thicken as it cools). Discard spice bundle; stir in butter. To serve, sprinkle with brown sugar. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
TIP: A coffee filter can substitute for cheesecloth

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About this author1

Mariela Rosario,

I'm a raging opinionista and I love to share my ramblings on everything from pop culture to food to stuff that makes me laugh & cry! I've worked in all types of media (TV, film, print) and was previously the online editor at Latina magazine before joining Mamás Latinas. On most nights you can find me working my way through my library of cookbooks or playing with my puppy Lola (my only child so far). I have a wonderful hubby who shares my passion for any and all kinds of travel. Together, we've formed a semi-professional wine drinking team.

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