Spice your holiday up

Everyone loves the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and all the sides.

But sometimes you have to spice things up. How about getting back to your Texas roots with a few Tex-Mex and Southwest twists on traditional holiday favorites, and make your Thanksgiving into a spicy fiesta?

Spice is front and center of this year’s spread with zesty flavors, like a chile-rubbed turkey.




6 pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded

30 cloves garlic (5 finely chopped)

1⁄3 cup orange juice

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 tbsp. whole black peppercorns

1 (12-lb.) turkey

1 large onion, quartered

1 orange, quartered

1⁄2 cup port or red wine

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

4 cups turkey or chicken broth

1 1⁄2 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp. water

1⁄2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

2 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 orange, sliced, for garnish


In a 10″ cast-iron skillet over high heat, toast chiles, turning once, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water; let soak until soft, 20 minutes. Transfer chiles and their liquid to a blender along with 25 cloves garlic, orange juice, oil, honey, 1 tbsp. salt, and peppercorns and purée until smooth, about 2 minutes. Set chile rub aside.


Heat oven to 500° and place rack in bottom third of oven. Season inside of turkey with salt. Rub turkey with chile rub and stuff with onions and oranges; transfer turkey breast side up to a rack set in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes; lower heat to 325° and cook for 30 minutes more.


Remove turkey from oven and, using kitchen towels to protect your hands, flip turkey breast side down. Roast, basting occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh but not touching the bone registers 165°, about 3 hours total for a 12-lb. turkey. Lower oven to 150°. Transfer turkey, breast side up, to a baking sheet; return to oven to keep warm. Remove turkey from oven 15 minutes before serving.


Meanwhile, add port to roasting pan and heat over high heat. Scrape up any brown bits; cook, stirring, until mixture has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Set a sieve over a bowl; strain liquid and discard solids. Put liquid into freezer and leave for 30 minutes. Skim and discard fat; set liquid aside. Melt butter in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic; cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add broth and reserved liquid; boil to reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch mixture; boil; strain through a sieve into a 1-qt. saucepan. Stir in nutmeg and parsley; season gravy with salt and pepper.




You know what goes great with that Southwestern turkey and gravy? How about a little grilled corn, cranberry salsa, and tamale cornbread dressing?


The salsa is easy – Place fresh cranberries in a blender; pulse until finely chopped. Place the crushed cranberries in a bowl and mix together with chopped white onions, chopped jalapenos jalapeños and minced leaves. Pour lemon juice and sugar over and stir together.

Grilled corn? Come on. You know how to do that. 

And the real star of the side dishes – the tamale-cornbread dressing.

Here you go.

  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups crumbled cornbread (1/2 of a baked 10-inch skillet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 4 ounces pepper Jack, shredded (1 cup)
  • 6 beef, pork, or chicken tamales, chopped
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.


  2. In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter on medium-low heat. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.


  3. Once cooked, remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the cooked onions and garlic to a large bowl. Add to the large bowl the crumbled cornbread, cumin, sage, cilantro, corn kernels, diced jalapeños and pepper Jack cheese. Stir until well combined. Gently stir in the chopped tamales, and return the dressing to the skillet. (Alternatively, you can place the dressing in a greased 9×9 baking dish.)


  4. Pour over the dressing the chicken broth and gently stir to combine. Adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 more minutes or until top is lightly browned and the edges are crisp.