If stepping out on a limb with holiday food this Thanksgiving or Christmas feels a little too unnatural but staying with traditional items seems too bland, try a variation with your favorite foods.
Patrick Lowe, Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel executive chef, said he thinks people are curious to try new variations of traditional holiday food. However, since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, people have returned to traditional or comfort foods.
"It's been a nationwide trend that people are switching from contemporary and unknown dining adventures to comfort foods," Lowe said.
Lowe said high-end restaurants in big cities are taking away feaux grais's and cheese fondues and replacing these menu items with meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
"We're seeing a big transition back to good old Yankee food," Lowe said.
Lowe said every family and every chef, for that matter, have deeply-rooted traditions with food. Lowe's been able to take some of the secret home recipes and give them to others.
Lowe sat in The Cabin, Steamboat Grand's fine-dining restaurant, revealing his secret methods to his favorite foods. He doesn't have any written recipes but flies by the seat of his pants to create a feast for those in Steamboat.
Jacques Wilson, Sheraton Steamboat Resort executive chef, said he thinks people eat holiday foods that are more typical of their geographical region.
"People are still going to eat what they're going to eat," Wilson said. "But tradition is not totally out the window."
Regional cooking means that people will create certain menu items depending on what grows closest to them.
For instance, people in California may use more artichokes or avocados. People in Maryland may use more crab and oysters, Wilson said.
People will eat more traditional foods for the holidays because they fall during autumn and winter. Comfort foods are based during those seasons, Wilson said.
"I really do think it's more regional than anything," Wilson said.
People don't have to give up green-bean casserole, turkey or cranberry. But the 21st century has brought old recipes to a new light.
For instance, the Sheraton's menu offers a traditional roasted turkey but has varied it with herbs and garlic. To accompany the turkey or as a substitute, people also have the choice of salmon or a pepper crusted roast beef.
"Roast beef is always nice being in a cow town," Wilson said, adding last year the Sheraton put turkey and lamb on the menu.
However, the Steamboat Grand also has added variation to a somewhat traditional menu.
The Cabin offers three different kinds of stuffing: wild mushroom and sage, cornbread and chorizo and wild rice with dried cherries and almonds.
The Steamboat Grand offers a butternut squash soup. The Sheraton offers pumpkin bisque.
Marty Woodbury, Tread of Pioneers Museum executive director, searched through bundles of recipes in the museum's archives and found a pamphlet that recommended three different menus for the holidays.
The menus she found consisted of basic items that were probably popular in one area during the 1940s: sweet potatoes, clam broth, beets, boiled onions, roast goose and red cabbage. All menus provided pickles with the holiday meals.
Benita Bristol said when she was a young girl in the 1920s and 1930s her family mostly ate traditional Thanksgiving foods right from their backyard outside of Steamboat Springs.
Her mother's garden and her father's farm fed the Bristol's, but every now and then they had a treat of noodles instead of mashed potatoes or candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar.
Bristol said she's varied her menu with the times. Instead of pumpkin pie, she may make apple pie and peanut brittle because many of her children don't enjoy the taste of pumpkin.
from Jacques Wilson
Spicy pumpkin soup with toasted pepitas
Achiote butter-basted turkey with ancho chili gravy
Roasted turkey with a mole sauce
Corn bread and chorizo sausage stuffing
Medley of zucchini, chayote and yellow squash
Cranberry, orange and cilantro salsa
Pears poached in tequila with prickly pear-raspberry sauce
Traditional Mexican rice pudding
Blackeye pea soup with hamhocks
Roast turkey with cornbread stuffing and giblet gravy
Roast turkey with apple and prune stuffing and gravy
Baked Virginia ham
Potato, chestnut and celery root puree
Mustard greens with turnips
Green beans with smoked bacon
Glazed sweet potatoes with pecans
Cracked pepper buttermilk biscuits
Jellied apple cranberry sauce
Brandied pumpkin pie
Sour cream apple pie
East Coast (New England)
Shellfish chowder with fresh thyme
Maple-glazed roast turkey with mixed-herb gravy
Herb crusted turkey with mushroom gravy
Herbed bread stuffing
Glazed root vegetables
Creamed green pea and pearl onions
Parker house pan rolls
Mixed garden greens with apples and cider vinaigrette
Apple cinnamon pie
Indian pudding with nutmeg ice cream
West Coast and the Northwest
Grilled turkey with cranberry gravy
Barbecued turkey with maple-mustard glaze
Cedar planked salmon with maple glaze and mustard mashed potatoes
Sourdough, apple and almond stuffing
Whipped chipotle sweet potatoes
Date, goat cheese and mesclun salad
Grapefruit, avocado and fennel salad
Spinach and lentil salad with Oregon blue cheese and tart cherry vinaigrette
Roasted pears with hazelnut syrup and candied hazelnuts
Warm pear and walnut cake with lemon custard sauce