World of Mouth: Thanksgiving with a twist

The column that brings you food festivals from around the world; this week what ethnic dishes have made their way into your thanksgiving meal.

Knish 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Knish 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Johanna Bailey is a blogger, freelance writer and student at the Hofmann Culinary School in Barcelona, Spain.
The first time I met my future mother-in-law, she prepared for me a full-on Thanksgiving dinner. She is Colombian and in her mind, Americans only eat marshmallows, peanut butter, cake mix and Thanksgiving dinner. Since she could not very well serve any of the first three for dinner, Thanksgiving it was, never mind that it was the middle of July.
Everything was there- the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry jelly, the mashed potatoes, the pumpkin pie; but there was also one other rather unexpected dish- Coca Cola rice. My initial reaction upon seeing this (aside from being perplexed) was concern that perhaps foreigners think that Americans are so dependent on Coca Cola that we even prepare our rice with it. But then she explained to me that arroz con coca cola is actually a very typical Colombian dish, often prepared on special occasions. Furthermore, I later came to learn that for most Colombians, a meal without rice is simply not a meal. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating lasagna, clam chowder or well, Thanksgiving dinner. There must be arroz.
RELATED:World of Mouth: The Day of the GauchoWorld of Mouth: Underground food festivalsAs Thanksgiving rolls around this year, I have begun to wonder what other foods are making appearances on the holiday tables of some of the many culturally diverse people that make up the American melting pot. After all, as an essentially non-religious holiday with a message that is tough to argue with (give thanks for what you have amongst friends and family), Thanksgiving is celebrated by people from all manner of cultural backgrounds and faiths.
After looking into it, I found that indeed, there are some very interesting (and delicious sounding) culinary variations when it comes to the Thanksgiving dinner table. I read about Puerto Ricans preparing mofango stuffing (containing green plantains, bacon, garlic and chili peppers) and eating pernil (roasted pork shoulder) and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) alongside their Thanksgiving turkeys. I heard stories of Mexican Americans preparing their turkey with molé sauce (a rich chili and cocoa based sauce) and Cubans who set aside the turkey entirely in favor of a succulent lechón asado (roast suckling pig).
Muslim Americans might celebrate by ordering a halal turkey (the demand for them has been increasing in recent years) and Jewish families may decide to stuff their turkey with challah or serve a sweet noodle kugel alongside the traditional pumpkin pie. My friend Janet told me that she occasionally makes knish at Thanksgiving rather than mashed potatoes and when I looked into it, I discovered that she is not the only one who does this.
The recipe may have come from Jewish Cookery by Leah W. Leonard which was published in 1949. (Janet says that this was the only recipe book her mother ever referred to). Because it had to be kosher, the recipe used margarine but Janet has adapted the recipe to use olive oil instead. She has also added sweet potatoes and possibly fried onions (she doesn’t remember if her mother used them) to the recipe.
Potato - Sweet Potato Knish
Dough for two long knishes
-400 gr (about 3 ⅓ cups) all purpose flour (I use white spelt flour)
-1 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 egg beaten
-2 Tbs white vinegar
-4-6 tbsp. water
-1/4 cup Parsley leaves, washed and dried
In a bowl whisk together the flour and salt. In a separate mixing bowl beat the egg with the oil adding the vinegar to make an emulsion. Add the flour, combining with a fork, adding water until it forms a uniformly textured ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
For the potato filling
-475 gr peeled sweet potatoes (I used 2 medium sweet potatoes)
-650 gr peeled waxy potatoes (I used 3 medium potatoes)
-200 gr (1 ½- 2 cups) onions coarsely chopped
-ground pepper
-2 tbsp olive oil (or more to taste)
Cut the potatoes into large chunks, put them in a pot of cold water just covering them, add about a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil and cook until a fork passes through easily. Drain and mash adding the 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Sauté the onions in olive oil until they're transparent and slightly browned and caramelized. Add them to the potato mixture. Set aside and let cool.
Preheat oven to 350˚F or (180˚C).
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the dough in two equal parts. Roll out one part  on a floured sheet of parchment paper or pastry cloth until it's very thin and makes a rectangle of about  13" x 10" (26cm x 34cm). At this point I dot the dough with beaten egg on which I adhere parsley leaves.
Flip the dough over on the parchment or pastry cloth and spread the filling along one length of the rectangle, leaving a one inch border from the edge. Lifting the parchment paper or cloth, roll up the knish. Brush the top with the beaten egg and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Bake for 45 - 50 minutes. Cool and slice.
Read more of Johanna's thoughts on food at: