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VIDEO: Chef Patton On Thanksgiving's Cultural Variations

By Noell Saunders

Thanksgiving is one of the most iconic American holidays, but in practice it includes a large batch of cultural and regional influences from all over the world.

While many family cooks across the U.S. will grapple with more traditional culinary concerns — Stuffing or dressing? Rolls or biscuits? to brine or not to brine? — in preparation for Thanksgiving, a whole slew of other possibilities are being incorporated into family traditions making the holiday truly representative of the nation's diverse population.

Among those who celebrate Thanksgiving, some families enjoy food exclusive to their own cultures or mix American and ethnic cuisine, while others seize the opportunity to stuff themselves with traditional foods, said Robert Patton, Old Dominion University's executive chef.

"America truly is a melting pot of different ethnic cuisines and cultures and that's really evident on our Thanksgiving table," Patton said.

To help get in the mood for the Thanksgiving holiday, Chef Patton highlighted a few of his favorite culturally-inspired dishes and discussed the origins of some of the most popular fare.

Watch the video to learn more and view a cooking demonstration of the following recipe:

Wild Rice Stuffing with Apples, Pecans and Cranberries


1 1/2 cups wild rice

1/2 cup long grain rice

6 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons of salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, medium diced

1 cup celery, medium diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon butter

3 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut in 1/2-inch dice

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1⁄2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley


Combine wild rice with 4 1/2 cups stock in a saucepan and the long grain rice with 1 1/2 cups stock in another smaller saucepan. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer the long grain rice for 25 to 30 minutes. Simmer the wild rice for 30 to 40 minutes.

While the grains are cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften — about three minutes. Add celery and a pinch of salt, and continue to cook until the onion is completely tender — another three to four minutes. Stir in garlic and cook. Continue stirring until it is fragrant — another 30 to 60 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.

Simmer the rice until it is tender and all of liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and cover with the lid. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Simmer wild rice until the grains have begun to open up. Drain through a strainer if there is liquid remaining, and return to the pot. Cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the onion, celery, garlic mixture to the cooked grains and stir together.

Return the skillet to the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add butter, and when the foam subsides add the apples. Cook, stirring or tossing in the pan, until lightly colored — about five minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the grains. Transfer to a lightly oiled or buttered baking dish and cover with foil.

Warm the stuffing in a 325-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

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