Welcome to the annual LunaCafe Thanksgiving recipe roundup: Thirty-three lip-smacking, crowd-pleasing dishes to bring the Spirit of Thanksgiving to your table and the hearts of those you hold most dear. These dishes were created with love and gratitude just for you.
f I could have only one dish this Thanksgiving, it would be a tossup between this stuffing and this tart. Wait, I also need these rolls, these mashed potatoes, and this gravy. Okay, it’s hopeless; may as well throw in this salad and this turkey. But even though each of these dishes is memorable, I bet this stuffing wins “Best of Show” at our Thanksgiving table this year. I can’t seem to get enough of it.
Roasting a perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey is a cinch—especially if you keep a few things in mind. The first and most important of these is to buy a premium, FRESH turkey. Below are some of the options available in Portland, Oregon. The biggest myth I hear from folks about roasting turkey is that it “takes all day.” I just roasted a 16-pound bird to perfection in 2¼ hours. It’s resting on the stovetop now for another 30 minutes. Then we will eat it with the best stuffing I’ve ever made: Spicy Ciabatta & Cornbread Stuffing with Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs. (Posting next.) So minus the brining (48 hours) and warming to room temperature (1 hour), the bird is ready to eat in under 3 hours.
A large roast turkey is considered mandatory for many families as part of the massive meal that typifies Thanksgiving. It’s big, bold, beautiful, and definitely celebratory. When you have a large crowd to feed, there is no grander way to go. But what if your family is small, dispersed across the country, or for whatever reason, you long for a more intimate but still festive dinner with only a few close friends?
True confession. This is my first real encounter with romanesco. Tempted by it many times over the years at the Portland Farmers Market, this past weekend, I succumbed. I bought two heads without a clue what to do with them. A member of the brassica oleracea family, romanesco has an exotic, almost alien beauty and can be a little formidable to the uninitiated.
I am very fortunate that the newest member of our family, Christopher Weaver, LOVES cheesecake. Because I love to create endless variations, and can’t afford all those calories hanging out in the fridge taunting me. Chris is a workout machine, so he doesn’t worry a fig about calories. If there are a few slices of cheesecake left after a family dinner, he saves me by taking them home.
Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to Zuni Café culinary goddess, Judy Rodgers, for turning me on to dry salt curing. had wet brined poultry and pork for years before trying the salt curing process Chef Rodgers describes in The Zuni Café Cookbook. To compare the two methods, I conducted several tests, and to my palate, salt-curing wins. Although both methods have advantages, you just can’t beat salt-curing for ease and juiciness of the cooked meat.
I’ve been making roux since I began to cook our weekday meals in the second grade. In my family, a light golden roux was the base for pan gravy, which was the mandated accompaniment to mashed potatoes. Many years later, I learned about a darker version, which is the base for French brown sauces and traditional Creole dishes, such as Gumbo.
In my estimation, the ultimate Thanksgiving gravy depends on a properly made roux. It’s not difficult to produce and lends the gravy a roasted flavor dimension that can’t be obtained with a simple flour and water or cornstarch and water slurry.
I grew up in a Yankee household with a Southern father. So even though I said “you guys” instead of “y’all” and didn’t act one bit like a “lady” unless under strict orders accompanied by threat of dire consequences, some Southern mores were passed on to me nonetheless.
For instance, in our Seattle house, stuffing was called dressing, which is what my very lady-like Kentucky born-and-raised Grandmother called it. It didn’t matter if it was baked in the bird or alongside the bird, it was dressing nonetheless. It was served with perfect mashed potatoes (a point of pride for Kentucky cooks) and a silky, roux-based, turkey gravy.
Last week, I received a copy of Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz. I began immediately to flag the pages (a sure sign that I may actually cook from a book) but then paused on page 90, at a recipe titled, Apple-Red Wine Tart. David, what a great idea!
I poach pears and apples in red wine and a variety of spices nearly every fall, but it never occurred to me to expand the concept into a tart. How lovely that would that be. I actually went as far as buying a bottle of inexpensive, but hopefully decent, merlot to try the recipe when another mental pause occurred.
What if I macerated the apples in reduced apple cider, instead of wine? I knew from past cooking adventures, such as Spiced Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, that reducing and then caramelizing apple cider produces the most sublime nectar imaginable. I wondered if I could combine this idea with my Caramelized Pear & Anise Tart (not yet posted). And this superb tart is the result of all that wondering and David’s inspiring new cookbook.
Every year I develop a new pumpkin pie recipe and add it with a pretend drum roll to the Thanksgiving dessert table. I do this even though no one in the Bradley family, except me and our son Joshua, actually likes pumpkin pie.
So you can imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when we were invited to a Thanksgiving potluck and asked to bring ONLY the pumpkin pie. (How could they know that was my favorite part of the meal?) I used the opportunity to create SIX new pumpkin pies that year and of course brought them all to the potluck, each with a little description alongside. Some folks in that appreciative gathering actually ate a tiny slice from each of the six pies. I was delighted.
To tell you that this pie is beyond delicious is not to do it justice. But perhaps you will get some inkling of how good it is when I reveal that MauiJim ate an ENTIRE LARGE PIECE. Oh sure, he tried to avoid the pumpkin custard while focusing on the caramel, but in the end that effort proved futile, so he ate the whole darned thing. And then he raved about it and asked how long he had to wait to have another slice.
When October hits the Pacific Northwest and the Cascade foothills begin to turn iridescent shades of crimson, honey, and gold, I develop an intense craving for anything and everything pumpkin. This year, I’ve already created a new pumpkin bisque and salad, so I decided it was time to focus on something sweet. But I wasn’t up for anything too complicated or time-consuming, so the tea bread category sprang quickly to mind.
Is there anything finer in the world of vegetable cookery than a properly made Potato Gratin? Not in my book. However, there is a complicating factor that needs consideration. Potatoes are surprisingly acidic and have a definite tendency to curdle milk, half-and-half, and even, but to a lesser degree, heavy cream. What’s the cook to do?
Although it’s easy to make perfect mashed potatoes every time, many cooks face this particular culinary technique with trepidation. There is nothing like gluey, runny mashed potatoes to ruin your confidence as a cook. And if this happens to you during the preparation of an important meal, well the damage to your confidence may be even more […]
Every year when fresh cranberries hit the markets, I immediately stock up, and then almost as immediately, make this delectable tart. OK, to tell the truth, I am in the markets a few weeks early, whining to whoever will listen, or muttering to myself even, about the absence of cranberries. “Shouldn’t they be in by […]