I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and was wondering if you have a few winner sides in your books that I should explore? I am no Terry Walters, but I’ll be a wanna-be for the big event!”
This was an email in my inbox just this morning, from a cousin I adore! Caught up in the stress of my day, I nearly replied with a list of page numbers, but that just wasn’t enough. My first choice would have been to drive down and prepare dinner with her, but sadly, that’s not an option…at least this year. Having just finished teaching a jam-packed cooking class where the most talked-about topic was NOT the meal we were preparing, but rather what I’ll be preparing for Thanksgiving, I decided that a sneak peak at what I’ve got up my sleeve for the holiday was in order!
1. For starters, I’ve started. Yes, I spent last Sunday nursing two ginormous Dutch ovens full of Cranberry Chutney. Chutney isn’t difficult, but multiply the recipe by 4 and even I get tired of chopping. Nevertheless, that’s what I do, because once my girls eat my chutney at Thanksgiving, they crave it until spring. So, I make enough for Thanksgiving plus or minus two girls times five months. Plug your requirements into the equation to determine what YOUR family will want, and click here for the recipe (CLEAN FOOD, page 163).
2. I’ve started to prepare my stuffing. I start with an extra-sour sourdough bread made by one of my favorite bakers, Kathy Duffy of Sweet Sage Bakery. Kathy uses grains grown in Connecticut, milled in Rhode Island, her own incredible starter, and lots and lots of love. I’ve already cubed, toasted and frozen 4 loaves of her Rustica Bread, but I think I’ll need two more to serve the 22 guests I’m expecting. I use this recipe as my guide (click here for the recipe, CLEAN FOOD, page 269), but improvise as the spirt moves me with maitake mushrooms (as available), plenty of roasted chestnuts, herbs, spices and whatever seasonal and locally grown treats come my way. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a beautiful large Hubbard squash to partially roast, scoop out and use as a vessel to roast and serve my stuffing. This makes a very dramatic and delicious centerpiece for my table as well.
3. There will be more Brussels sprouts than any one group could possibly consume… just so that there is enough to snack on for days! THIS is the sole reason I bought my 15-inch cast iron skillet. Nothing caramelizes the thinly sliced sprouts quite like it! Add gobs of crushed hard-neck garlic, shiitake mushrooms, olive oil, salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes and that is my definition of heaven (at least until we get to the next item).
4. My daughter is responsible for the mashed potatoes, even though I roast the 6 heads of garlic she puts in them! Nobody goes home smelling like roses after our Thanksgiving! I’m afraid I am not at liberty to give away the rest of her secret formula.
5. There IS a turkey – straight from Vermont where it has been humanely raised and cared for by the family-run Stonewood Farms. I brine it, roast it and could die from the amazing aroma that fills my home Thanksgiving morning, even though it usually doesn’t make it to my plate. There’s only so much room on my plate and my real loves are all of the other side dishes!
6. And of course there is dessert… which perhaps should be it’s own separate blog. The only recipe I insist on making every year is my pumpkin pie, and I make many, as this is the perfect appetizer for my morning breakfast of leftover Brussels sprouts, stuffing and chutney! I let my guests fill in with their favorites, except for my dear friend Vicki who brings her famous chocolate pecan pie and carrot cake. If I didn’t ask her to bring them, both her family and mine would stage a revolt, I’m certain.
And so, my dear cousin, I will miss you this Thanksgiving, but here is your template for success! Wishing you a delicious and nourishing Thanksgiving celebration and may we all have much to be thankful for this holiday.
Eat clean live well!