Even cooks who swear they will never, ever make anything other than their grandmother’s cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving sometimes need a little break from tradition.

They may leave the cranberry sauce alone, but yearn to shake up that stuffing or put a different twist on the pumpkin pie their family has eaten for the past 30 years.

The internet is so full of recipes it can be overwhelming to find something suitable, and some of the online recipes are just plain weird.

Maine is populated with standout chefs and talented cookbook authors, so why not turn to them for some fresh ideas? Here we’ve gathered their takes on some Thanksgiving classics that put a little twist on your favorite dishes without ruining them. And we’ve thrown in a different kind of appetizer – step away from the stuffed mushroom caps – for good measure.


Home cooks yearn for a couple of things at Thanksgiving: at least one recipe that does not require complicated techniques or fancy equipment, and a crowd-pleasing dish that can be made the night before.

Nick Alfiero’s Salmon Carpaccio satisfies on both counts.

Alfiero and his family are Portland’s best known fishmongers. He shared his recipe for marinated raw salmon – a great Thanksgiving appetizer – in the “Harbor Fish Market” cookbook, published by Down East Books in 2013.

“It’s one of the dishes I make when I know I’m going to have company, and they love it,” Alfiero said.

The recipe says to refrigerate the salmon for an hour before serving. If you make it the night before, just cover the fish in plastic wrap, refrigerate it, “and it’s fine,” Alfiero said.

And in case you’re wondering… yes, even with some of the best seafood on the East Coast at their fingertips, the Alfieros still eat turkey for the main course on Thanksgiving.

“I’m a traditionalist, I guess,” Alfiero said.


Serves 4

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon chopped dill

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup olive oil

Black pepper, to taste

1 pound fresh salmon fillet

1 tablespoon capers

Lemon wedge, for garnish

Dill weed sprigs, for garnish

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 teaspoon dried nutmeg

Mix the shallot, dill, sea salt, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and pepper in a bowl and set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Slice the salmon at a 45-degree angle (on the bias), as thinly as possible, and arrange the slices on the parchment paper. Put another piece of parchment paper on top of the salmon. With a food mallet, pound the salmon lightly, enough to thin it out but not crush it. Lift off the top parchment paper and spoon the mixture from the bowl over the salmon and spread evenly.

Refrigerate for one hour and remove. Place the salmon on individual serving plates. Garnish with capers, lemon wedge, and dill. Grate the nutmeg and pepper in equal amounts over the tops


The recipes for chef Mark Gaier’s herb-brined turkey with pear gravy were originally written for Barbara Fairchild, the former editor of Bon Appetit. The recipes, along with Gaier’s creative take on stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, were reprinted in “Maine Classics,” the 2011 cookbook he wrote with his kitchen partner/husband, chef Clark Frasier.

The turkey and gravy became staples on the Thanksgiving menu at Arrows, the elegant Ogunquit restaurant the couple ran for 25 years.

At first, Gaier said, “I think people were, like, ‘Pear gravy? That’s a little weird,’ but it was very popular at Arrows.”

The restaurant, located in an 18th-century farmhouse, had an antique clawfoot bathtub that the chefs used to brine their turkeys. Despite recent skepticism about brining, Gaier is a big proponent of the practice.

“I think it really makes a difference,” he said. “I think it makes the turkey more flavorful, more tender, more moist. There’s a reason why the big companies inject the turkeys with all that crap. What we’re doing is the right way of doing that.”

After spending more than a quarter-century’s worth of Thanksgivings in restaurants, Gaier and Frasier finally took a year off after they shuttered Arrows in 2013 and spent Thanksgiving that year with family in Ohio. (They still cooked a turkey, but just one.) Now they are back to it, serving Thanksgiving dinner at MC Perkins Cove, their Ogunquit restaurant with a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean. Traditional turkey gravy has replaced the pear gravy, but they are still serving their turkey brined the same way “except we don’t have a big bathtub.”


Serves 8


5 gallons water

1 (1-pound) box coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup whole black peppercorns

Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier at a book launch for “Maine Classics” at MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit in 2011.

1/2 cup fresh thyme sprigs

1/2 cup fresh marjoram sprigs

1/2 cup fresh sage sprigs

12 bay leaves

1 (13-pound) turkey

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups low-salt chicken broth

1 cup pear juice

2 tablespoons dark rum

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram


Select a container large enough to hold the turkey. Add the water and the salt and stir until the salt dissolves. Stir in the peppercorns, thyme, marjoram, sage, and bay leaves. Add the turkey to the brine. Place a large plate on top of the turkey to submerge it. Place in a cold place and soak for 8 to 10 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brine. Rinse and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Rub the butter over the turkey. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the turkey in the oven and reduce the heat to 325 F. Roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 175 F, about 2-1/2 hours. Transfer the turkey to a platter and tent with foil. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before carving.



Spoon off the fat from the drippings in the roasting pan, reserving 1/4 cup of fat. Measure 2/3 cup of pan juices and set aside. Melt the butter and the reserved fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Mix in the flour. Stir and cook until light brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the chicken broth, pear juice, and the pan juices. Simmer until thickened, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rum. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the turkey with marjoram and serve with the gravy.

Kate Krukowski Gooding is best known for her expertise in cooking wild game, from moose and venison to bear and beaver.

Gooding, author of several cookbooks and wild game food columnist for The Maine Sportsman magazine, likes to cook a wild turkey for Thanksgiving, when she is lucky enough to get one from a turkey-hunting friend. (Her backup: a free-range turkey.) A lot of people think wild turkeys will taste gamey, Gooding said, but she describes the flavor as “fresh” and “real.” A wild turkey is smaller and not as moist as a store-bought bird, so if you’ve never cooked one before it’s easy to dry it out, she said. “You cannot cook them any more than 15 minutes a pound,” she said.

A wild turkey still needs good side dishes, and Gooding likes serving these potatoes with her holiday bird.

“I like them for Thanksgiving just because everybody is looking for rich food, and it’s a great complement to the turkey,” she said. (This dish also goes well with lamb, she adds.)

Gooding says the white sweet potatoes mess with her guests’ heads. They’re not much different in flavor than regular sweet potatoes, but the color confuses their brain cells and taste buds.

“I served them one time and they were actually caught off guard,” Gooding said. “They couldn’t figure out what the taste was. They didn’t know what to do.”

She makes another version with herbs and Gruyere cheese that also throws off peoples’ palates.

Either way, the dish goes well with an “earthy” stuffing, Gooding said.


Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus enough butter to grease a casserole dish

2 pounds white sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

21/2 cups heavy cream

2 cups grated Parmesan

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13 casserole dish. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, salt and pepper, and half the garlic. Toss to coat. Pour potatoes into buttered baking pan. (Layer the coated potatoes into the baking dish for a more elegant presentation.)

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in frying pan. When it has melted, add remaining half of the garlic and the shallot, and cook until softened. Add cream and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes, then add 1 cup Parmesan and heat through until melted down and warm. Pour over potatoes and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chives.


All families have certain dishes at Thanksgiving that are sacrosanct – the cornbread stuffing with just the right amount of sage, the pumpkin pie that tastes exactly the way Aunt Edna used to make it. The cook messes with these family favorites at her own peril.

For food writer Kathy Gunst, it’s her cranberry sauce, included in her 2011 cookbook of Maine seasonal foods, “Notes from a Maine Kitchen.” She tweaks the recipe a little from year to year, ever-so-slightly, but doesn’t dare make wholesale changes “or people get very upset.”

Adding fresh pineapple was one such tweak. One year she was making the cranberry sauce and spied a pineapple that had been sitting on her kitchen counter for a few days, and thought why not?

“It’s incredibly juicy, it’s natural sweetness, and it pairs well with the cranberries,” Gunst said. “It’s certainly not a native fruit, but it does complement cranberry sauce.”

(If you must use canned, crushed pineapple in this recipe, she advises, cut way back on the sugar and maple syrup. Canned pineapple is, she said, “way too sweet.”)

Gunst always makes at least a double batch because her family eats the cranberry sauce for days after Thanksgiving. They spread it on sandwiches, pound cake and butter cookies. They spoon it over ginger ice cream. It goes really well with chocolate cake, Gunst said, or even on a breakfast of yogurt and granola. “It can live anywhere,” she said.

With two grown daughters out of the house, this will be the first Thanksgiving in Gunst’s entire adult life that she hasn’t cooked a turkey and the entire Thanksgiving feast. She’ll be making something, but she’ll be taking it to share at a “Friendsgiving” gathering. Rather than feeling relieved, or grateful for the break, she’s a little wistful.

“I love making Thanksgiving for many reasons,” she said, “but one of them, being a food writer, I love the idea that almost everybody in the country is doing what I’m doing for once. They’re all cooking, and we’re all cooking something that’s somewhat similar. I take great comfort in that.”


Makes about 6 cups

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 pound fresh cranberries

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup julienned orange rind

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped candied (or crystallized) ginger

1 cup chopped fresh pineapple

1 cup pecans, or your favorite nut, chopped

Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sugar syrup begins to thicken slightly and turn a pale amber color. Add the maple syrup and the cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. Add the orange juice, orange rind, and orange zest and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Add the fresh and crystallized ginger, and the pineapple, and cook 2 minutes. The sauce should be full of flavor and slightly thickened. (If the sauce still seems thin – remember, it will thicken as it chills – remove the cranberries and flavorings with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Boil the liquid in a pot over a moderate-high heat until it is thickened slightly, about 10 additional minutes, if needed. Place the cranberries back in the slightly thickened sauce.)

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the nuts, stirring well. Let cool completely. Place in a clean glass jar and cover; refrigerate for up to 10 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.


Erin French of The Lost Kitchen, whose restaurant and story have attracted nationwide attention, included this Thanksgiving pie recipe in her first cookbook, “The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine,” which came out in May.

In the book, she says: “I request this for Thanksgiving every year. It’s like having the most delicious cloud of pumpkin pie – light and fluffy yet with all the deep flavors of the heavier classic version. Exactly what you want after eating such an indulgent meal. My mom uses a can of One-Pie pumpkin filling – which is completely acceptable – but using your own winter squash puree feels rustic and grown-up.”


Makes one 9-inch pie; serves 8-10


11/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough

12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup ice water


1 (1/4-ounce) envelope gelatin

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

3 large eggs, separated

11/2 cups pureed roasted winter squash, such as kabocha or butternut (see instructions below), or 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1 pint heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter and salt until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the ice water and pulse again until just incorporated.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Work it into a ball with your hands and then roll it out into a 16-inch round about 1/8-inch thick. Lay the dough over a 9-inch pie pan and remove the excess dough from the edge, leaving about 1 inch to crimp decoratively.

Line the crust with foil and fill with pastry weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges are golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and weights, and let cool.


Combine the gelatin, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the evaporated milk, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Whisk constantly over low heat until the gelatin and sugar dissolve and the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the squash, salt, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Chill the mixture, stirring occasionally, until completely cool.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and then fold in the chilled squash mixture. Pour into the prepared pie shell and chill for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Serve topped with big dollops of perfectly whipped cream.


In a stand mixer or working by hand with a whisk, preferably with a chilled bowl, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla on high speed until soft peaks form.


Preheat the oven to 425 F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Brush the flesh with 1/4 cup olive oil and season each half with 1 teaspoon salt. Put a tablespoon of butter on top of each, wrap individually in foil, and transfer to the oven. Bake until the squash is fork-tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and puree.

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