Carrie's Kitchen: Three Southwestern recipes to spice up Thanksgiving

This November we’re investigating Thanksgiving styles from different geographical parts of the country. I told you last week that a Southern Thanksgiving was the one I was most excited about, but the Southwestern Thanksgiving had me the most curious.

When searching for recipes for this week, I had a lot to choose from! I think a lot of times we associate Southwestern food with just Tex-Mex, but the broader region really incorporates a lot more variety. The one expectation that held up to be true, though, was that they use a lot of hot peppers in their food.


I thought I’d share another turkey recipe this week, and this one is for a stuffed turkey breast, which may be more appropriate than cooking a whole turkey if you’re hosting a smaller group. The “stuffing” was not what I expected for a Southwestern recipe: carrot, zucchini, ham, bread (versus cornbread) and Parmesan cheese. You do add lime wedges to the chicken stock so that sounded interesting. Stuffed turkey breast (or chicken breast) can be a little extra work, but it’s very elegant and will score you accolades from your guests.

Next, a cauliflower gratin. Here you cut the cauliflower into florets, blanch them, then cook them in the oven smothered in a heavy cream and cayenne sauce and layered with poblano pepper strips and cotija cheese (which is kind of like feta but different). I think this one sounds heavenly.

And finally, Bobby Flay’s pumpkin soup with a Mexican cinnamon crème. My family never does soup at Thanksgiving, but in my cooking club, we have soups at almost every meal and it is usually my favorite part. Pumpkin soup is great, and this one has a lot more chicken stock than I usually use so I’m interested to see how it turns out. Planning to make this in the near future.


Southwestern stuffed turkey breast

1½ pound turkey breast, in one piece

1 carrot, julienned

1 medium zucchini, julienned

1/3 cup ham, julienned

1 4-ounce can green chiles, chopped

2 thick slices of day-old bread

¼ cup milk

1 large clove of garlic, finely minced

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1 egg

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chicken stock, heated through

1 lime, cut into wedges

2 tablespoons cold butter, for mounting the sauce

Prepare the turkey breast: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove any skin or pockets of fat from the turkey breast. Using a very sharp knife, cut into the turkey breast on the long side, being careful not to cut all the way through. Open the breast up like the two halves of a book. Cover the turkey with a layer of plastic wrap, and flatten the breast out with a meat mallet or the bottom of sauté pan to an even thickness of about ¼-inch. Set aside, covered, while you prepare the filling.

Prepare the filling: Blanch the carrots and zucchini strips in a small pot of boiling water for 2 minutes, and drain well. Mix in a bowl with the ham and the sliced green chiles.

Soften the bread slices in a little of the milk, then squeeze them gently to remove any excess milk. Break up the softened bread into a large mixing bowl, stir in the minced garlic, parsley and fresh oregano, and the egg. Mix well, adding the Parmesan cheese, until thoroughly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Stuff and cook the turkey roll: Remove the plastic wrap from the flattened turkey breast and spread the softened bread mixture in one layer over the surface, being careful to leave a border of about ½-inch on all sides. Cover with the vegetable and ham mixture. Roll the turkey breast up tightly in jelly roll fashion, removing any filling that oozes out the sides. Tie the roll with kitchen string in several places, both crosswise and lengthwise, to secure the roll.

Heat a flameproof and oven safe casserole dish or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the olive oil, and when it shimmers, begin searing the turkey roll on all sides, turning it as you go. Add the chicken stock and lime wedges, cover, and carefully transfer the dish into the preheated oven.

Cook the turkey covered for about 15 minutes, then uncover, remove the lime wedges, and baste the meat with the stock and juices. Cook uncovered for an additional 30 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove the dish from the oven and transfer the turkey roll to a warmed plate, tenting with foil, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Make the sauce: Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, and mount the sauce by stirring in the cold butter until melted and the sauce is thickened. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cut the strings and carefully slice the roll into ¾-inch slices, making sure to hold the filling inside the roll. Serve warm with the thickened sauce.

Cauliflower gratin with queso cotija

2 heads cauliflower (3 pounds), rinsed

3/4 cup whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Salt and fresh-ground pepper

1 pound fresh poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips

12 ounces cotija cheese, shredded (see notes)

In a 6- to 8-quart pan over high heat, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim and discard leaves from cauliflower; separate heads into florets. Slice florets 1/4 inch thick. Add sliced cauliflower to boiling water and cook until tender-crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain well.

In a glass measure, stir together cream and cayenne. Line bottom of a shallow 3 1/2- to 4-quart baking dish with a fourth of the cauliflower slices. Drizzle a fourth of the cream mixture over cauliflower. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and top evenly with a fourth of the poblano chile strips and cotija cheese. Repeat three times to layer gratin, ending with cheese.

Bake in a 450-degree oven until cheese is browned and cauliflower is tender when pierced, about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Note: Cotija is a salty, crumbly cheese, available in Mexican markets and many well-stocked supermarkets. If you can't find it, substitute a mixture of 6 ounces shredded jack cheese and 6 ounces crumbled feta.

Pumpkin soup with cinnamon crème and roasted pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons unsalted butter


1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped

1 bay leaf

6 peppercorns

5 cups cold water, or 4 cups enriched chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth

3 cups pumpkin puree (not flavored pie filling)

1 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon chipotle pepper puree

¾ cup crème fraîche or sour cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 additional teaspoon Mexican cinnamon (canella)

For the roasted pumpkin seeds:

2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Kosher salt

Heat the butter in a medium stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, bay, and peppercorns and cook until soft. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl and discard the cooked vegetables. Place the pumpkin puree in a large saucepan, whisk in 2 cups of the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the spices, honey, and chipotle. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add more stock, if the soup is too thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in ¼ cup of the crème fraîche, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together the remaining crème fraîche and cinnamon (or pomegranate molasses) until combined. Ladle the soup into four bowls; drizzle with the cinnamon crème fraîche and sprinkle with roasted pumpkin seeds.

To make the roasted pumpkin seeds, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate the seeds from the pumpkin strings by rinsing them in a bowl of water. Dry the seeds between paper towels. Toss the seeds with the oil and season with salt to taste. Spread the seeds evenly on a baking sheets and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they are lightly golden brown and crisp. Let cool.

Source: Adapted from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook