Three Thanksgiving Recipes from Watson, the Computer that Won Jeopardy

The best part about Thanksgiving is going home to all of the delicious food that's been cooked for you by a computer.

Nov 25 2015, 9:20pm

Image: IBM

The best part about Thanksgiving is going home to all of the delicious food that's been cooked for you by a computer.


Okay, maybe that's not how you're spending your Thanksgiving, but it might be, if Watson has its way.

You probably remember Watson most from its stint on Jeopardy a few years back. It's what IBM calls a "cognitive computer," which more or less translates to "really good AI." IBM claims that Watson can processes information more like a human than a machine, which means it can also synthesize information, generate hypotheses, and learn from its mistakes.

Those are also great skills to have when you're trying to cook food.

IBM's Chef Watson project was designed to test Watson's ability to come up with new ideas—in this case, recipes—based on its analysis of prior knowledge. What ingredients pair well together? What's the difference between a boil and a blanche? Watson knows.

But what's really impressive are the data points it uses that humans don't normally think about when cooking—say, scientific knowledge of flavor compounds and taste preference survey data. That's where cognitive cooking gets cool.

Some of the results have certainly been… interesting, but for IBM, that's just part of the fun, helping chefs come up with "unexpected flavor combinations they might never have thought to put together before."

We asked IBM if Watson was doing any cooking for Thanksgiving, and, lo! Included below are the recipes we got back.

We haven't actually tested any of these ourselves, but based on the names and ingredients involved, they do sound pretty good! If you end up making one yourself, let us know how it turns out. It could be the start of a new Thanksgiving tradition—passed down, not through generations, but iterations of Watson's mind.

Image: IBM

Thanksgiving Cocktail

Pumpkin Syrup
Makes enough for 4 cocktails

  • 1.5 oz pumpkin purée
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup water

1. Place the pumpkin purée, sugar and water in a blender, and blend until smooth.

2. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.

Thanksgiving Cocktail
Makes 1 cocktail

  • 1.5 fl. oz bourbon
  • 1 fl. oz pumpkin syrup
  • 1 fl. oz pineapple juice
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 2 fl. oz hard cider
  • 1 piece lemon peel

1. Place the bourbon, pumpkin syrup, pineapple juice and Angostura bitters in a shaker with 1 1⁄2 cups of ice cubes. Shake well, for at least one minute!

2. Pour the mixture into a glass, and top with the hard cider. Rub the glass rim with the lemon peel, and drop the peel into the drink.

Turkey Meatballs with Tomato-Hard Cider Sauce

Tomato-Hard Cider Sauce
Makes sauce for 18 meatballs

  • 5 slices bacon (about 4 oz), finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium onion (about 6 oz), peeled and diced
  • 14 oz canned chopped tomatoes salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, minced
  • leaves from 2 sprigs oregano
  • 14 fl. oz hard cider
  • 1 tbsp sugar

1. In a pan over medium heat, sauté the bacon until brown. Add the garlic and onion, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

2. Add the canned tomatoes, then season with salt and pepper, and add the lemon zest and oregano. Bring to a boil.

3. Mix in the hard cider and sugar, adjust the seasoning, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Coarsely blend the sauce using a hand blender, and reserve.

Turkey Meatballs
Makes 18 meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 2 oz white mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 oz kale, finely diced
  • 2 oz Swiss cheese, finely diced
  • 0.5 oz panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 oz hard cider
  • leaves from 2 sprigs oregano, chopped
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oven to 500 F.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Make sure the mixture is generously seasoned. Scoop out the turkey mixture with a spoon, and form into balls (you should have about 18). Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing at least 1" apart. Cook the meatballs in the oven for 12-14 minutes.

3. Add the meatballs to the tomato- hard cider sauce, and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

Image: IBM

Raspberry Pumpkin Bread

Makes 3 standard loaves

  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1⁄2 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1-1⁄2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 3⁄4 cup chopped Pecans
  • 3 cups Sugar
  • 4 whole Eggs
  • 1 can Pumpkin (15 Oz.)
  • 1 cup Oil
  • 1 cup Water
  • 3⁄4 cup Raspberries
  • 1 cup Mini Chocolate Chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and pecans in a bowl; use a whisk to mix well and set aside.

3. In a large bowl using an electric mixer combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, and water. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mixing on a low speed, beat in flour mixture until well combined.

4. Gently fold in raspberries.

5. Grease 3 loaf pans (9×4) and pour equal amounts of batter into each pan.

6. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

7. After about 30 minutes sprinkle the tops of the loaves with the mini chocolate chips and return to the oven to finish baking.

8. You'll know it's ready when the top starts to crack and when a toothpick/knife is inserted in the center it comes out clean.

9. Set out to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Bon appetit!