Saturday, August 23, 2008
There are few things as American as Thanksgiving. In fact, I think it speaks more to what it means to be an American than the fourth of July. Gathering with family, partaking in a feast with so many ingredients that were here hundreds of years ago, such as turkey, corn, cranberries, taking some time to realize how lucky we are. The fact is, we have a lot to be thankful for, and I don't think one day is really enough time to devote to gratitude for the privileges we have in this country. What's more - traditional foods served at Thanksgiving are just too good to deprive yourself of the rest of the year. So I try to make one Thanksgivingish weekend dinner every couple of months, and it helps me put things in perspective when times are tough, as they have been for much of the past year.
With the mild weather we've been having and the return to school, I've been longing for my favorite season: autumn. While I love the scarlet tomatoes and sweet corn and will be sad to see them go, I'm dreaming of roasts and braises, hearty soups and root vegetables. In this meal I found some of those fall flavors, without departing completely from the lightheartedness of summer.
Maple Herbed Roast Turkey Thighs with Roasted Vegetables
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
1 cup baby patty pan squash
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1 cup new potatoes, cut into the same size pieces as the squash
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 turkey thighs
1 tsp chopped sage
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 Tbsp softened butter
2 slices of thick-cut bacon
2/3 cup maple syrup
Preheat oven to 425. In a 9 x 13 pyrex dish, toss veggies with olive oil.
Stick a finger in between the skin and turkey meat at one edge of the thigh. Separate skin from thigh, creating a large pocket, while leaving the edges connected. Combine herbs, garlic and butter in a bowl and squish together with your fingers to form a paste. Rub paste into pocket between meat and skin. Place turkey thighs on top of veggies.
Place bacon on any seams in the turkey thighs were meat is not covered by skin. Alternatively, wrap around outside edges. Brush with some maple syrup (you won't use all of it yet). Sprinkle turkey and veggies with salt.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven, brushing with maple syrup every 15 minutes, until turkey reads 155 degrees F on an instant read thermometer and skin is lacquered, crispy and caramelized. Remove turkey to a plate to rest.
Preheat broiler. Strain vegetables of turkey drippings (reserve). Broil veggies until they're caramelized. In the meantime, mix the drippings with a slurry of marsala wine and cornstarch in a small saucepan to make a gravy. Bring to a simmer (should thicken).
Serve turkey with roasted veggies, gravy, cornbread stuffing and cranberry orange relish.
Cranberry Studded Cornbread Stuffing with Bacon and Leeks
6 large (storebought-size) or 12 small (homemade size) corn muffins- dry corn muffins work best for this, especially low-fat or fat free. If the flavor is pure corn, and it's really too dry to be a pleasant muffin, it will be perfect - day old muffins also work well.
6 slices thick center cut bacon
1 1/2 cups sliced cleaned leeks
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp cream sherry
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp chopped sage
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
coarse salt, pepper and coarse sugar
Crumble muffins onto a sheet pan. you should have some larger chunks and lots of crumbs. Let sit for 2 hours to dry out. Alternatively, toast in a 350 degree oven until golden and dried out. Place dried out muffins in a large bowl.
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat, until it has rendered it's fat and it's crispy. Remove bacon. Add leeks and cook until tender. Add remaining ingredients, including 1 1/2 cups stock (except salt, pepper and sugar) and bring to a simmer. Pour over muffin pieces and mix with a wooden spoon. If it's not moist enough, add additional stock. Transfer to an oven safe dish and sprinkle with coarse salt, sugar and ground pepper. Bake in the oven with the turkey for 20 minutes, or until golden on top.
Cranberry Orange Relish
This is my mother's recipe. It's simple, but such a bright, textural contrast to turkey, it's so much more interesting than a traditional cranberry sauce. This is a classic on my Thanksgiving table, and if you freeze a few bags of cranberries in the fall, you can have it year round. I make it with less sugar, since I like it a little more bitter than most people. This quantity of sugar seems to please most palates.
1 bag whole fresh (or thawed frozen) cranberries
1 fresh mandarin orange (also works well with clementines - but use 2)
3/4 cup sugar
Combine cranberries and zest of the orange in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
Seed and segment the orange and add orange flesh and sugar to the bowl. Pulse until it comes together in a fine relish. Transfer to a plastic container and let sit at least 2 hours (the sugar is grainy at first - this time lets the sugar dissolve and flavors meld).