Chef Elihu Muhammad Reimagines Thanksgiving Dinner

Uprooting traditions is never easy, nor always desirable, but it can be accomplished with a little imagination and cultural respect. The recipes I’ve chosen are intersections of various black cultures from Africa to the Americas. The flavors found in these meals are of African, South American, North American (including Native American) and the Caribbean cultures. All the flavors found in the foods of the cultures listed above are strong indications of our oneness and origin.

My intention is that everyone of us will taste a little of our culture in each recipe presented, but mainly, I want people to have healthy recipe options for Thanksgiving – recipes that are both accessible and universal.

What better way to connect with one another than over a plate of food? So, on this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s pay more attention to the food we eat as it relates to cooking styles, as well as ingredients, and keep in mind that many of the things we eat and the ways we flavor and cook our food is generally universal.


The turkey – from our roots.


1 whole turkey (any preferred size)

Cut in ⅛ sections (breasts removed, legs, thighs, wings etc.)

This allows for an even roasting and faster cooking time. Why spent all day in the kitchen?

Preheat oven to 400 F

Usually, the rule is 20 min per pound of protein or meat, since we are shortening or cooking time, simply place pieces in a roasting pan with a little space in between them.

Pour 8 oz of chicken stock into the bottom of the pan.

Cook for 15 min on 400 F, then turn oven DOWN to 300 for 45 min (depending on the size of your cuts the bird may need longer cooking time). 

Be sure to use a thermometer to check your turkey, and be sure that it reads at 165 F for at least 15 seconds.


Ethiopian Berbere Spice Rub

5 teaspoons sweet paprika

5 teaspoons hot chili powder (optional)

¼  teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon coriander

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

⅛ teaspoon ground clove

⅜ teaspoon cardamom

⅜ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt

8 tablespoons of melted whole butter plus 4 tablespoons to be stuffed under the breast skin of the turkey


Melt butter and add all dry ingredients; rub each part of the turkey. Then, roast as suggested.


Cranberry Sauce the Better Way

10 oz of fresh cranberries

½ cup of fresh orange juice

½ cup water

¼  teaspoon of orange zest

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch of salt

1 cup of natural cane or brown sugar


In a small saucepan combine and heat liquids and sugar until sugar is dissolved.

Add cranberries over medium heat.

Gently stir in dry ingredients.

Let simmer for 15 min.

Berries will start to pop and that’s OK, perfect, even. That’s exactly what you want!

Turn off the heat and let them rest, then serve them warm or cold.


Simple and Easy Apple Blueberry Puff Pastry Pies!

16 oz frozen puff pastry dough (thawed)

12 oz of peeled, diced Michigan Red apples

1 pt fresh or frozen blueberries

2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour

⅓ cup of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of butter

1 teaspoons of lemon juice

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

⅕ teaspoon nutmeg


Melt butter in a saucepan.

Add all ingredients and cook for 8 minutes. Allow fruit to cool slightly for 10 min.

Heat over to 350 F.

Combine apples with sugar and lemon juice, add cinnamon and nutmeg.

Flour cutting board lightly and cut pastry sheet into small squares or circles of equal sizes.

Spoon your filling into the center of half your pastry squares. Place the second square directly atop the fruit filling and seal edges. Cut small L shape into the top of the dough.

For a golden brown crust, beat 1 egg and brush each pie.

Bake for 20 min.

Let rest for 5 min and serve!

Chef Elihu Muhammad is the owner of Detroit’s Cilantro Bistro

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