Saturday, November 24, 2012

Homemade Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2012--Thankful to be home!

 Food is my life and family is my universe. I wouldn't be who I am today without them, and I am forever grateful. I carry my family in my thoughts everywhere I go. I make mental notes of different foods and wines they might enjoy; anticipating the next time I am home to cook for them. Cooking is my way to share my learnings and experiences.

When planning our Thanksgiving menu this year, I tried to keep true to tradition. Thanksgiving is NOT a time to mess around with new ideas from The Modernist Cuisine (albeit very exciting). Food isn't simply about what looks pretty on a plate, but rather; the associated memories. Gluey whipped potatoes might not be perfect in the culinary world, but in my mind, my Nana's over-whipped potatoes (she always used hand beaters...and I got to lick them clean!) were perfect and remind me of home.
My Thanksgiving menu this year was a story, representative of the places I've been, people I've met and things I've learned over the past year.

Frisee. Caramelized Apples. Chili Roasted Chestnuts. Lively Run Goat Cheese. Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
Every heavy meal deserves a salad. After all, green things make food healthier, right? This particular salad was an ode the first course I had at  The Wine & Food Pairing Lunch  during my Wine Studies Course at The CIA. Knowing that we were going to be enjoying Hermann J. Wiemer 2011 Dry Riesling with our meal, I thought this salad would be a good match for the wine.

Hermann J. Wiemer 2011 Dry Riesling

Finger Lakes Rieslings make me smile. :) I think they pair particularly well with the salty, herbaceous, sweet and sour foods often found on Thanksgiving tables. I was proud to see the Hermann J. Wiemer 2010 Dry Riesling (a favorite of mine) on the cover of the most recent issue Saveur Magazine.

Turkey Breast Roulade with Mushroom-Sausage Stuffing.
CIA Alumni, Chef Anne Burrell, inspired my turkey breast roulade. She grew up in a town 10-minutes from me and I'm a huge fan of her use of flavors and approach. I made a filling with everything I love about stuffing: onions, garlic, fennel, herbs, mushrooms and some cheese, eggs and panko to bind it all together. Certainly not low in calories, but a huge flavor WIN at our dinner table!

I was thankful for the Meat Fabrication and Identification Class at The CIA for giving me skills to successfully debone, butterfly and tie this massive turkey breast! I even made a brown turkey stock with the bones for some tasty-tasty gravy.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest, Parmesan Cheese, Herbs

During my externship in Napa, California, I would order and devour bowls and bowls of Wood-Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts to sooth my soul on rainy-winter nights. They are hearty and comforting and have a way of making life seem just plain good. They were often served with a blanket of Parmesan cheese and lemon zest. The cheese adds a salty richness and slightly nutty flavor while the lemon zest rounds everything out, bringing a refreshing lightness to such a bold dish.

Kabocha Squash Puree with Roasted Garlic and Fresh Ginger
Sweet potatoes are awesome. Butternut squash is great. And Kabocha Squash makes my heart go *pitter patter*. It is bright orange and resembles something of a mix between sweet potato and pumpkin.

When I'm not in class studying food, I read...about wine, food and food culture (call it a never-ending obsession). that I think about it, I read an embarassing amount of food literature--I guess it's a good thing I'm in culinary school! I remembered a recipe from last year in Bon Appetit from Chef Anita Lo  that used ginger with Kabocha Squash and thought it was brilliant.

Chive & Cheese Popovers

I made popovers in lieu of propper bread stuffing this year. This was the only item that was not an inspiration from this past year--my mom requested them and I will do anything she asks. Although with every food there is a memory and I'll never forget the first time I had popovers. I thought they looked whimsical. The gargantuan "puff" was asking to be broken. The steam billowed out. They were airy and light. I spread homemade jam on every buttery morsel and had no regrets.

Deep Dish Old-Fashion Pumpkin Pie
A perfect end to our meal--because Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without it!

I ended the day full of gratitude (and good food!). While many of my friends and colleagues in the restaurant industry were working on Thanksgiving, I was lucky enough to have the day off from classes to be home with my family. For that, I am extremely thankful. I am constantly thinking of and grateful for the men and women who serve in the military and other professions that keep them from their families and home during the holiday season.


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