Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gobble, Gobble

I love Thanksgiving! Before moving to Seattle I think I only had 1 real Thanksgiving dinner in about 10 years, usually because I was either working or too tired to cook. But for the last 3 years of being at this restaurant the other owners and I have been hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our closed restaurant for those of us close friends who have been transplanted into Seattle and don't have family to spend the day with.

This year I am deep-frying a turkey that I brined with fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, chervil, garlic and coriander. I also like to have some sort of pork alternative to turkey so I am also making mini hams using pork cushions that I will be roasting while basting with a Dr. Pepper glaze, an extension of a traditional southern way of baking ham with Coca-Cola.

Beyond that I'm keeping with my own tradition of serving Parker House rolls, mashed potatoes, herbed gravy and my ever so popular dressing made with bread, hot and sweet sausages, banana peppers, herbs and half-and-half. The guests will be bringing the side dishes of their choice with the explicit instruction to make something indigenous to their family or where they're from. Probably my favorite aspect of the dinner!!

The meal is finished with pumpkin and Derby pies made by Stacey (with my recipes) and my wife Anna's first attempt at making Bourbon Balls, another Kentucky holiday classic that are supposed to be made a week ahead... Let's just hope we haven't eaten them all before then!

As for the restaurant we'll only be open for dinner Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday nights but we will still be open for all of our regular brunch hours Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which, at the time of posting this only leaves a snow crippled Wednesday and Saturday to wow people with a Thanksgiving-inspired dish that will intrigue them enough to order it, despite the fact that they will be (or have had) their fill of the traditional version on Thursday. I Feel confident that I have succeeded yet again.

I really wanted to come up with something new that was comparable to last year's Thanksgiving interpretation in both style and success with as little repetition as possible for a themed dish as this. The first thought that struck me was to make a pasta by using half chestnut flour and half bread flour, creating a flavorful base that has the bold taste of the holidays to come. Since I left my spaghetti cutter attachment at home and had to walk to work today due to the snow/ice I went with the old stand-by of cutting the sheets by hand into what could be considered a tagliatelle shape.

In what is probably my last use of pumpkins for the year due to its limited season I felt it necessary to add it here to symbolize their use in pies but instead roasted chunks with garam masala (an Indian spice blend that contains similar ingredients to our pies but used in savory cooking) and some dried chipotle pepper for zip.

The hardest part is the turkey. Since most people only enjoy it on Thanksgiving I have an added pressure by using it in a special during the same week. But you know me; I'm gonna try to make it better than your Mamma's!!

I cooked my turkey legs in duck fat, known as turkey confit, until the meat was moist and juicy before shredding it once cooled. No dry meat here!!

I finished the dish the same way that I started it: I melted butter in a saute pan with a little fresh thyme and parsley, and a good bit of chopped rosemary to create a simple sauce that screamed the flavors of the season. I used the herbed butter to cook local hedgehog mushrooms ('tis the season in the Pacific Northwest...) and warm the roasted pumpkin while the chestnut pasta cooked to order, using a touch of the pasta's cooking water to help build the sauce. After finishing it with a pinch of Parmesan inside and out I realized that this one might actually be better than last year's interpretation, and I really loved last year's dish!!

So you think that something is missing from my Thanksgiving dish, eh? Say, maybe some cranberry?? Well, I didn't forget about our little red friend. Actually, I've been planning this one for a while now in anticipation of this wonderful week.

At the beginning of this month fresh, local cranberries became available and I jumped on them. At the time I had already been infusing gin with plum for about a month and loved the progress that it was making, so I felt that cranberries would absolutely complement the complex flavors of gin as well. I roughly chopped the little gems in a food processor with a dash of sugar and let the mixture sit covered at room temperature for a day before adding the gin in order to leech out the flavor and natural color.

My foresight paid off today when I tasted the strained result of the infusion: an intricate combination of sour, sweet, citrus and juniper that can only be explained by tasting yourself. I used this special spirit as the start of a cocktail by pouring it over ice in a rocks glass along with 2 counts of simple syrup and topping it off with a good portion of our sparkling cava.

It isn't cranberry sauce, but I bet you would prefer it at your Thanksgiving dinner table!!

With Love,