A Thanksgiving Recipe Cornucopia

Thanksgiving is nigh upon us. Turkey’s a given (more or less), but there’s often room for a bit of improv when it comes to sides and desserts. Here are a few not-entirely-typical options to keep in mind as you plan the meal.


Said to be named for opera singer Pelle Janzon, this dish is a common staple in a Swedish Christmas spread or smörgåsbord. Much like a typical potatoes au gratin dish, this one features potatoes, onions, and plenty of cream. The key to the dish lies in the sprats, or ansjovisfileer. Though the Swedish ansjovis sounds like a cognate for “anchovies,” Swedish sprats are cured in a mixture of sugar, salt, vinegar, and spices, which imparts a subtler fish flavor than the in-your-face saltiness of the average anchovy. Swedish anchovy-style sprats can be found at Ingebretsen’s or IKEA for around $5 per tin.

Janssons Frestelse
(Jansson’s Temptation)

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 tbsp butter
8-10 potatoes, peeled, eyed, and finely julienned (if you have a
Cuisinart with blade attachment, use the 2-mm julienne blade)
1 ½ tsp salt, divided
1 3.5-oz tin Swedish anchovy-style sprat fillets, finely chopped with
juice reserved
2 c whipping cream, divided
1 slice of bread, dried and broken into crumbs

  1. Saute the onions in 2 tbsp of butter until translucent; set aside.
  2. Place half the julienned potatoes in a covered glass casserole dish.
  3. Microwave on high for three minutes and place in a buttered 9 x 13 cake pan. Spread the onions over the layer of potatoes and sprinkle with 3⁄4 tsp of salt and most of the chopped sprats.
  4. Microwave the remaining potatoes for 3 minutes on high and spread the potatoes over the sprat / onion / potato / salt mixture. Sprinkle the remaining sprats and 3⁄4 tsp of salt over the top. Pour 1 ½ c of whipping cream over the mixture, followed by the reserved sprat liquid. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and dot with 2 tbsp butter.
  5. Cover and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes.
  6. Pour the remaining ½ c of cream over the top. Raise heat to 400°F and bake, uncovered, for 15 more minutes.


Only two out of the five people in my immediate family liked pumpkin pie when I was living at home, and even those two weren’t huge fans. So my mom made a pie that she knew we’d all devour — chocolate cream. Though making the custard required someone to stand at the stove stirring continuously for at least 20 minutes, that didn’t deter us. In fact, we just used it as an excuse to double the recipe and make two pies (economy of scale, you know). While the custard was homemade, the crust usually wasn’t. Our favorites were Keebler’s graham cracker and Oreo varieties. These days we’ve expanded our culinary horizons and at least four of us will eat pumpkin pie, but we still prefer our chocolate cream. We save our pumpkin for muffins.

Chocolate Cream Pie

3⁄4 c + 1 tbsp sugar
1⁄3 c all-purpose flour or 3 tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
2 c milk
1 1-oz square unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

1 9-inch pastry shell

  1. In medium saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Add chopped chocolate. Stir over medium heat continuously until mixture boils and thickens. Cook two minutes longer. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir small amount of the chocolate mixture into egg yolks to temper. Stir the tempered yolks back into the chocolate mixture and return the saucepan to heat. Cook two minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla. Cool slightly and pour into crust. Chill at least six hours or overnight. Top with whipped cream before serving.


An old friend from Madison introduced me to this double-decker apple / pecan pie recipe, explaining that if one was daring, it could be served inverted — that is, the pecan layer naked atop the mountain of crust-clad apple pie beneath. This is a move only recommended to the truly courageous — even the addition of buttered wax paper doesn’t guarantee a clean inverted plating. Naturally, it’s all delicious even if the flipped pie explodes, but it’s not glamorous.

I modified her original recipe by doubling the pecan layer. Man, pecans, butter, and brown sugar are delicious. I guess I probably could have tripled it, but quadrupling would’ve been a step too far.

Feel free to punch it up by adding a splash of liquor (dark rum or bourbon) to your pecan layer and some cranberries (plus a bit of compensating sugar) to your apple layer.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Double Decker Apple Pecan Pie

2 c chopped pecans (toasted is best)
1 c brown sugar
2⁄3 c melted butter
2 pie crusts, uncooked
6 c sliced apples (peeled and cored, of course)
¼ c sugar
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Combine pecans, brown sugar, and butter. Spread in bottom of pie plate.
  3. Put one crust over the pecans in the plate.
  4. Mix apples, flour, sugar, and spices. Put in crust-lined pan.
  5. Top with second crust, seal edges, and cut slits in the top crust.
  6. Bake 40-50 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown and the apples are tender.
  7. Serve warm. If you’re feeling bold, invert onto a plate to serve.


In my house, this recipe is called Mel’s Cornbread, but it’s adapted from The Baldpate Collections. This cornbread falls solidly on the sweet end of the cornbread spectrum, so if you think you might be too full for dessert at the end of the meal, make sure to get some of this on your dinner plate. The creamed corn gives it a great flavor and it’s always popular at group meals. You can change out the kinds of cheese to change the flavor somewhat.

Mel’s Cornbread

1 c butter
1 c sugar
4 eggs
2 c creamed corn (or 1 can and ¼ c milk)
½ c grated monterrey jack cheese
½ c grated cheddar cheese
1 c flour
1 c cornmeal
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

  1. Turn the oven to 350° F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one a time. Mix in creamed corn and cheese, then remaining ingredients.
  2. Spread in greased 9- x 13-inch pan. Put in oven and reduce the heat to 300° F. Bake 1 hour. Top will be moist, center should be set.

Cornbread sausage stuffing is a traditional southern-style addition to Thanksgiving. My family has been using this recipe for three generations: my grandfather, my mother, and now me. Growing up, my mother and her family moved around quite a bit, so I imagine this recipe was picked up at some point during their time in the southern states. An excellent leftover open-face sandwich suggestion: one slice toasted white bread, a few slices turkey, some sausage cornbread stuffing. Drizzle sandwich with gravy and proceed to fork and knife it.
Cornbread Sausage Stuffing
Makes 10 cups
1 package (10 or 12 oz) cornbread mix
1 lb sausage meat
3 c chopped celery
2 ½ c chopped onion
¼ c chopped parsley
1 ½ tsp of savory, sage, thyme, salt
1 can (13 oz) chicken broth
3 eggs, beaten

  1. Prepare cornbread and cool. In a large skillet, saute sausage until lightly browned. Add celery, onion, and parsley and saute 10 minutes.
  2. Crumble cooled bread into large bowl. Add sausage meat mixture and all seasonings. Gradually add chicken broth and eggs, tossing lightly with a fork.
  3. Stuff in turkey or bake in buttered casserole at 350°F for 45-50 minutes.


  1. Karl Gerstenberger

    Jaanson’s Temptation – the last time I saw this dish was at the old Aquavit in Minneapolis. A coworker propelled a small cube using a pallet knife as launcher and it landed in between my heel and the foot bed of my clog. Much hilarity. The other surprise at Aquavit was the Swedish love affair with Hormel cocktail wieners. In a restaurant with extreme technical skill they unpacked the little wienies with Swedish pride.

  2. Scott

    While we celebrate Christmas with Jansson’s Temptation, it would be a great addition to you Thanksgiving, but because I equate it so much to our Christmas traditions, I would have a hard time pairing it with turkey. And I will heartily agree with Maja…it’s the sprats that make the dish; it just would not be the same without it.

    Oh, and if you happen to be in St. Peter over the weekend of December 5th, and happen to be fortunate to dine at the Gustavus Adolphus College Swedish Smorgasbord they will be having during their annual Christmas in Christ Chapel event, be sure to try the Jansson’s. They do it up right (Swedish Lutherans, ya know).

  3. Maja Ingeman

    Karl — Ahhh, Aquavit — one of the most-missed late Minneapolis restaurants, in my book. Their Jansson’s was tasty… and I’m jealous that you worked there!

    Scott — We, too, typically made it for Christmas… along with Swedish meatballs and a whole host of other heart-stoppingly creamy dishes. However, over the years our Thanksgiving spread became less about turkey and more about what sounded good, or what time-intensive dishes we were willing to take on… hence the Jansson’s. I promise the original recipe didn’t call for the microwave; we just found that it shaved off a decent amount of cooking time in the oven! Also, thanks for the tip on the Christ Chapel smörgåsbord… it sounds delicious!

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