Thanksgiving is an underrated holiday in the Philippines. Yes, it’s technically an American holiday, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it. I practically force my family into being together, cooking or having dinner, and breaking bread pudding over a gigantic spread of food. It’s an excuse to have a feast, and since we don’t have our own Filipino traditions, you can cook or eat whatever you want and blame it on the holiday. Turkeys can be bland, but the novelty of eating it on Thanksgiving, complete with canned cranberry jelly, and apple stuffing, brings up memories of home, and a gentle reminder that everyone’s favorite holiday, Christmas, is near. We’ve decided to make our own fall spread, using the ingredients and dishes usually associated with Thanksgiving, but with a Filipino spin on it. Maybe we’ve created a new holiday, a Filipino Thanksgiving.
1. Roast Turkey Inasal
The turkey is the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving table, and probably the trickiest one to pull off. Some people swear by deep-frying, but go traditional and roast it like your mama would. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F, and clean the chicken inside and out, making sure to rub the salt and pepper all over the cavity, and the chicken’s body. Stuff it with lemon, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and onion. Make a traditional inasal marinade for your turkey by combining ginger, garlic, lemongrass, coconut vinegar, calamansi juice, brown sugar, lemon soft drink, salt, and black pepper. You can stuff the turkey in a giant ziploc with the marinade overnight or for a few hours, or you can liberally brush the marinade over the whole bird. Place whole garlic and onion halves in a pan with the turkey, then roast for 1 and 1/2 hours, taking it out every so often to baste it with atsuete butter and the marinade. Remove the chicken after it is done (you can tell when you cut the flesh and the juices run clear rather than bloody).
2. Corn with Aligue Butter
As a side, corn on the cob is the favorite of many, with the sweet juice of the vegetable running down your chin with every messy bite. Other countries have their own take—Mexicans with elotes, cobs covered in queso fresco and spices, while Jamaicans love it with jerk mayo and coconut. Make it an even messier, Filipino treat by rubbing it in a decadent aligue butter. Heat some butter in the microwave but only until softened, or leave a block out at room temperature until soft. Mix the butter in a bowl with a generous amount of your favorite crab fat, and salt and pepper to taste. Generously rub hot corn with the butter, and don’t share with friends.
3. Longganisa, Pandesal, and Kesong Puti Stuffing
Lots of people have mixed feelings about stuffing, but I love it. It’s the perfect cross between panzanella and bread pudding, and can be so delicious that it’s eaten alone. I straw away from raisin and apple filled versions, but love meaty, bacon-y troughs. This recipe is like bread pudding on crack, using garlic Lucban longganisa, kesong puti, and pandesal. Toast big, torn chunks of pandesal until the bread is dry. When cool, throw in cooked longganisa and loads of garlic, then add in egg whisked with water, and toss the whole thing to coat. Transfer this mixture to a baking dish, then bake until the whole thing is set, with some crispy pieces, and some are still wet. Top with crumbled kesong puti right before it’s done to create a molten, cheesy crust.
4. Butternut Squash with Gata Cream Sauce and Bagoong Crumble
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without pumpkin or squash, whether its roast with spices or made into a pie. Instead, we’ve taken inspiration from traditional squash in gata, but made it a little more appropriate for Filipino Thanksgiving. Coat butternut squash in olive oil and salt and pepper and roast until soft, around an hour, depending on the size of your vegetables. To make a very decadent coconut cream sauce, sweat onions and garlic then add shrimp shells and their head juices. Pan roast, then add a crushed pork cube and toast. Add coconut milk and salt and pepper. Bring the whole thing to a boil then turn down to simmer, and strain—the longer the simmer the more flavor; the pork cube and shrimp heads add an intense umami quality, to your regular gata. Top the roasted squash with the thick sauce, then garnish with hot, crumbled bagoong.
5. Patis-Glazed Carrots
A meal isn’t a meal if you don’t have someone reminding you to eat your veggies. To help the green-averse, make your Thanksgiving veg carrots, which when cooked, can become incredibly soft and sweet. Adding a glaze enhances the sweetness, and fish sauce caramel is the perfect way to add a salty, lip-smacking note. Steam your cut carrots until just tender, but with still a little bit of that crunch and snap. Mix together honey and patis, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the glaze until is sticky and syrupy, then toss in your boiled carrots quickly.
Do you celebrate Filipino Thanksgiving? What are your family’s staples during the season? Let us know your recipes in the comments!