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A Tropical Thanksgiving

Nov 02, 2015 03:26PM ● By Maria Terry

As weather in northern parts of the world begins to cool down, a trip to the tropics makes an ideal fantasy get away. Why not take your family there for Thanksgiving, or at least serve them a meal that will take them there in spirit? Since the warmth of the tropics is ideal for growing delicious produce all year-round, here’s a way to add a little sunshine to this year’s Thanksgiving, with the classic flavors of pineapple and coconut.

Spicy Citrus Shrimp Cocktail is an elegant first course. This recipe comes from Ecuador. Fresh orange juice and ketchup add sweetness, and hot pepper sauce and red onion bring heat. Try it paired with a Balalaika cocktail. The combination of orange liqueur and tart lemon are like a fresh squeeze of juice with the shrimp.

The highlight of this Thanksgiving meal is an Armadillo Turkey. It gets its name from the pineapple skin that protects the breast from becoming overcooked as the thighs finish cooking. Your guests will ooh and aah as it emerges from the oven looking like a lumbering armadillo. The fruit from the pineapple finds its way into this tart and creamy Pineapple-Avocado Salad, and the turkey drippings make delicious gravy to top mashed white or sweet potatoes. These bright, tropical flavors require a lighter, floral wine like Gewürztraminer. Choose one from a cool winery region like Alsace, France, or Mendocino, California.

Paula Deen’s recipe for French Coconut Pie is one of the easiest pies to make ahead of time because there is no custard to stir. This pie is basically just eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and milk holding together coconut. Leave it to Paula to keep it together with butter! Serve this super sweet pie with bitter Mocha Yemen Coffee. And, here’s a fun fact: coconut is not a fruit; it is a drupe. In botany, a drupe is an indehiscent fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell with a seed inside. Other drupes include mango, peach, and coffee. So there it is, coffee and coconut, the perfect drupe pairing.

Go on. Pair Up! 

Maria Terry is a Certified Sommelier and Wine Educator in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Spicy Citrus Shrimp Cocktail


1 cup orange juice

1 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup ketchup

1/3 cup vodka

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 pounds cooked peeled large shrimp

1 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 3/4 cups)

1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro 


Combine juices, ketchup, vodka, and hot pepper sauce in a large bowl. Whisk in oil. Add shrimp and cilantro and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 6 hours. Drain before serving. Yield: 6 servings



1 ounce vodka

1 ounce orange liqueur

1 ounce lemon juice 


Combine ingredients in a shaker. Fill with ice, shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass. Garnish with orange peel. Yield: One drink


Armadillo Turkey


1 turkey, 12-15 lbs.

1 lime, washed and halved

Salt and pepper

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

1 large pineapple

1 1/2 cups canned pineapple juice



Preheat oven to 325°. Rinse and dry turkey. Squeeze the lime into the turkey cavity and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the lime halves and onion in cavity.

Scrub the pineapple with a brush and hot water. Slice off the top of the pineapple and set aside. Remove the skin from the pineapple in four equal parts. Leave 1/4” of pulp on two pieces of the skin to place on turkey during cooking. Reserve fruit for salad.

Pour 1/2 cup pineapple juice over turkey. Roast until deep golden brown and leg joints move freely, about 3.5 – 4 hours. Baste the turkey every 30 minutes with juice or pan drippings once all the juice is gone. One hour before the turkey is done, place the two pineapple skins on the breast, securing with skewers. This will keep the breast meat extra moist.

Allow the turkey to rest 30-45 minutes. Make gravy with the drippings as desired. Discard pineapple skins, carve the turkey, and garnish the platter with pineapple top.  Yield: 10-12 servings


Pineapple-Avocado Salad


Fruit from one pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups diced avocado



3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tbsp. lime juice

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. sherry vinegar

1/4 tsp. minced fresh ginger

1 shallot, peeled and minced

Salt and pepper 


Mix dressing ingredients and toss with pineapple. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add avocado and toss just before serving. Yield: 10-12 servings


Paula Deen’s French Coconut Pie 


4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 (3 1/2–ounce) can shredded sweetened coconut (about 1 cup)

1 cup milk

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell


Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, flour, sugar, coconut, and milk. Pour into pie shell. Bake until firm, about 45 to 60 minutes.  Yield: 6-8 servings