Zarela Martinez Creates an International Thanksgiving Feast

By Fabiana Santana

The holidays are a time of excess. We spend too much, we decorate too much, and we promise too much, we eat too much. And then we complain too much that we promised to make something amazing to eat, when really we just want to sit at a table and stuff ourselves, not slave over a stove.

But the SUV of American holidays doesn’t have to feel like a chore this year and some very helpful chefs offer suggestions and recipes as to why.

When I spoke to celebrity chef David Burke last year about what to serve for a great Thanksgiving dinner, he suggested using classic ingredients in an unclassic way. It’s been his signature for years: PB & J made with foie gras and strawberry-vanilla jam, cheesecake lollipops, pretzel-crusted crabcakes.  Last year, he served a butternut and goat cheese soup at davidburke&donatella (one of his NYC restaurants) for Thanksgiving.  “ I used the butternut squash as a base for the soup, because it’s naturally sweet and rich; and the goat cheese adds even more richness and a hint of tang. I wanted there to be a real farmhouse feel here, with down to earth ingredients. We’ve added some complexity with a little orange zest and pumpkin seed oil as well.” On the menu this year, tradition again takes a back seat to Burke’s big eye tuna parfait and scallop and corn bisque. This is not your mama’s turkey dinner. It’s yours, so do it up and think outside the recipe box.

pic1Tradition is the focus of Zarela Martinez’s Thanksgiving dinner. It is the one-day her family closes their respective restaurants (she owns Zarela and her son Aarón Sánchez who was a runner up on Food Network’s Next Iron Chef competition owns the trendy Centrico and Paladar, also in New York City) and enjoys a meal together. One that is primarily American, but “Mexicanized” by Zarela with a few additions here and there. How? By topping sides like sweet potato casserole with piloncillo  – brown sugar cane (but you can use regular brown sugar, too) and brussel sprouts with chorizo – a Spanish sausage. She even bumps up cheesecake with pumpkin and a Mexican cinnamon called canela.

And in addition to a turkey, Zarela serves a whole suckling pig at Thanksgiving dinner.

pic2Purists who prefer to make like the pilgrims may prefer their standby staples of recipes for the day, no doubt consisting of turkey, stuffing and a table full of pies. Whatever direction your meal takes you, remember the reason for the season and give thanks.

Click here for recipe foro Zarela Martinez’s Sweet Potato Souffle

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SMW’s Food Editor, Fabiana Santana, is a freelance food writer, editor, and recipe tester and developer. Articles bearing her savory stamp have appeared in based in Family Circle, Profile, Vanity Fair, Portfolio, Maxim, Stuff, Men’s Health, Star, TV Guide, The Daily, and renowned chef Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Living, as well as such online media outlets as Shecky’s,, Time Out NY.