The chef and owner of Cheeni Indian Food Emporium infuses her recipes with warm spices and a hint of different flavors for a well-seasoned twist on tradition.
By Ayn-Monique Klahre | photographs by Eamon Queeney
Preeti Waas warn born in India, but she married into a family of “potato lovers” who love their traditions. In the early days of her marriage with husband John, she says, “I remember cheerfully broaching the idea of a tandoori turkey, and the horrified looks I got from the family!” So instead, she’s slowly honed a menu that’s full of Thanksgiving staples, just slightly tweaked with warm spices and Indian ingredients. The Waas family regularly hosts dozens of people for Thanksgiving, so she has a few prep tips, too. Read on for Preeti Waas’ tips and Thanksgiving recipes.
Serve Cheese as an Appetizer
Since folks can get hungry waiting for the mail meal, as an appetizer, Preeti’s daughter Amy pulls a cheese plate together with selections from her favorite source, Trader Joe’s. She serves dried oranges and several chutneys alongside the cheese, including Preeti’s cranberry chutney, a family favorite that uses whole orange and sometimes pineapple, plus cardamom and fresh ginger.
RECIPE: How to Make Cranberry Chutney
Preeti boils sugar and water (“it makes for a more jammy chutney”), then adds fresh cranberries, a cut-up orange,rind and all (“the pectin will help it gel,” she says), and sometimes pineapple. Fresh ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and a dash of roasted cumin finish the taste. “You want to cook it until the berries burst but aren’t pasty.”
Make Turkey with Ghee
Preeti brines her turkey ahead of time, then brushes it with ghee and sprinkles it with salt and pepper. (Ghee has a higher smoke point, which means it can get the skin crispier without burning.) She puts her turkey in the oven for 15 minutes, then lowers the temperature to 350 for 2 hours, without opening the door. Just before it’s ready, she brushes the turkey with ghee again.
Roast Multiple Turkeys
When Preeti has a lot of people over, she’ll cook two or three turkeys. “It gives me better control over roasting, versus trying to roast a turkey for five hours,” says Preeti.
RECIPE: How to Make Preeti’s Saffron Infused Mashed Potatoes
The key to her mashed potatoes is saffron. She boils and mashes her potatoes the regular way, but before adding milk, she gently boils the herb in the milk until the color and aroma release, then strains out the pieces and mixes the milk in with her potatoes. The only other seasoning she uses in them is white pepper.
Roast Brussels Sprouts Ahead of Time
Preeti roasts her Brussels sprouts up to a day ahead of time. Right before serving them, she tosses them in a tamarind chutney and black garlic and broils them. After they’re cooked, she garnishes them with pomegranate seeds.
RECIPE: How to Make Tamarind Chutney
To make tamarind chutney, Preeti starts with a little bit of oil, then adds in fennel and cumin seeds, as well as tamarind concentrate (not paste). She then adds water, a little red chili powder, salt and jaggery, and cooks it “until it’s thick and tasty.” She tosses her Brussels sprouts in the chutney for a little spice.
Include Curry Leaves in Your Dressing
Preeti makes a cornbread and jasmine rice dressing that includes whole roasted garlic and curry leaves.
Toss Root Vegetables with Citrus and Indian Spices
Preeti chops a mix of root vegetables including sweet potatoes, beets and carrots of different colors. She tosses them in olive oil and roasts them ahead of time, until they’re almost all the way cooked. Then right before serving, she’ll toss them in a little bit more oil and broil them. Afterwards, she squeezes lemon juice over them and sprinkles them with chaat masala, a savory Indian finishing spice.
Make Green Bean Casserole from Scratch
Preeti makes a classic green bean casserole, just “the way I think it was originally made,” she says, from scratch! She starts by sautéeing earthy wild mushrooms and haricots verts, then folds in a homemade béchamel sauce. She bakes the casserole, then tops it with pan-fried onions.
Fold Warm Indian Spices into your Pies
Preeti’s “very proud” of her pies, thanks to her baking background. She makes pumpkin maple pie, pecan pie and a spiced walnut pie with nutmeg in the crust (not shown), each served with a soft cardamom whipped cream. “Cardamom is such a beautiful floral note that comes through,” she says.
Swap Molasses for Jaggery
She often uses jaggery, an unprocessed sugar common in India, to add sweetness. “It’s similar to molasses and has some salinity to it,” she says.
This article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.