Thanksgiving: A return to tradition
What is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner now, nearly 400 years after what historians call The First Thanksgiving? We think turkey and sides, except the wild turkeys then were nothing like the Butterballs now, or even what our grandfathers might have brought home from their factory jobs for our grandmothers to cook.
That’s what my maternal grandfather, the great Frank Hugh, did. But my grandmother Yok Ping let my Uncle Eric roast the bird. He was American as all get-out and was even once crazily courted to be a young Chinese Elvis before he joined the U.S. Army. But his Thanksgiving turkeys were rubbed with black bean and garlic sauce, then chopped up like Chinatown ducks. Delicious though differently traditional.
This year, after quite frankly what’s been one of the most divisive years in our lifetimes, we wanted traditional Thanksgiving recipes, with a nod to indigenous and immigrant flavors.
For the turkey, I turned to our history. Poring over a decade of recipe archives, I was drawn to one of columnist JeanMarie Brownson’s recipes but swapped in maple syrup for the brown sugar, then added a finish of smoked salt, for a kiss of sweetness and fire.
Award-winning Chicago chef and restaurant owner Iliana Regan is also a master forager. Her recipe for buttered chanterelles can be found in the new “Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook” from the indie magazine of the same name that celebrates women and food irreverently. Regan may use mushrooms from the woods around her family farm in Indiana, but you can substitute what’s available in stores.
Tribune test kitchen chef Mark Graham shares his recipe for crispy Indian-spiced Brussels sprouts. He thoughtfully blanches what can be tough little buggers before roasting them until tender and intensely flavorful with familiar fall spices. Graham carries that warmth to this year’s cranberry sauce, adding a whisper of evergreen herb.
Plus I offer my own nonrecipe recipe for roasted root vegetables seasoned with a lazy vinaigrette, for fellow plant-based feasters.
We give thanks for not only the harvest, as our ancestors did, but the hope to imagine a happy Thanksgiving 400 years in the future where our best traditions endure.
Roast Turkey Kissed With Maple And Smoke
Prep: 45 minutes
Brine: 4 hours or overnight
Cook: 3 hours
Makes: 12 to 14 servings
1 turkey, 13 to 15 pounds
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coarse (kosher) salt
1/2cup bourbon (optional)
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 bunch parsley
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
Remove any neck and giblets packages from turkey cavity.
For brine, add 2 cups hot water, maple syrup and salt to a food-safe container large enough to hold the turkey. Stir until syrup and salt dissolve. Add 2 cups cold water, 1/2 cup bourbon and red pepper. Carefully place turkey in brine. Add enough cool water to cover turkey completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove turkey from brine. Discard brine. Refrigerate turkey up to 2 days.
For broth, put giblets and neck into a deep saucepan. Add about 3 cups cold water. Simmer, about 2 hours. Strain into a bowl. Remove solids for snacking. Refrigerate broth for up to 3 days.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place turkey in large roasting pan, breast side up. Add some onion to turkey neck cavity, close loose skin over and tuck wings under back. Add remaining onion and parsley to body cavity; close loose skin over.
Rub oil all over, then season well with pepper and salt. Carefully pour 2 cups of broth into pan. Roast, 30 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting turkey, turning pan as needed for even browning. After about 2 hours, insert thermometer into thickest part of thigh but not touching bone. When turkey temperature reads 160 degrees, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees; roast until skin browns, about 10 minutes.
Carefully remove turkey to a cutting board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand about 15 minutes; temperature will rise about 10 more degrees, getting it above the recommended safe temperature of 165 degrees.
Meanwhile set roasting pan with pan juices directly on burners. Heat to a boil while scraping up browned bits at bottom of pan. Remove onion and parsley from turkey. Carefully blend into pan sauce with immersion blender, or chop well then add. Add remaining broth only as needed. Reduce until thickened as desired. Off heat, add bourbon; season with salt, pepper and vinegar to taste.
Serve turkey with pan sauce, finished with freshly ground black pepper and smoked salt to taste.
Nutrition information per serving (for 14 servings): 507 calories, 17 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 276 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 74 g protein, 579 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
Crispy Indian-spiced Brussels Sprouts
Notes: Developed in the Tribune test kitchen by Mark Graham. You can blanch the Brussels sprouts a day or two in advance and refrigerate. Remove them from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before crisping them up.
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
11/2 teaspoons salt
24 medium to large Brussels sprouts, trimmed, cut in half through the core
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon each, ground: cinnamon, coriander
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced, fresh ginger
10 large mint leaves, finely chopped
Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the Brussels sprouts; cook at a boil, stirring occasionally, until they are bright green and the core is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain; lay out on a sheet pan in a single layer to cool. You can refrigerate the sprouts at this point, and you can do this step one or two days in advance.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Stir in Brussels sprouts; cook, stirring occasionally, until Brussels sprouts begin to deeply caramelize and crisp up on all sides, about 12 minutes.
Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, garlic is lightly browned and Brussels sprouts are coated evenly with spices, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish; garnish with mint and cilantro leaves.
Nutrition information per serving: 155 calories, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 3 g protein, 601 mg sodium, 3 g fiber
Notes: This recipe from “Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook” is by Iliana Regan, chef and owner of Elizabeth and Kitsune restaurants in Chicago.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 7 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1 pound chanterelles (or a mix of other mushrooms)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
11/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Brush any dirt off the chanterelles, or quickly swish them under water to clean if necessary. If rinsed, let the chanterelles dry for 10 minutes on a dish towel. Any large chanterelles should be cut lengthwise into smaller pieces. Trim away any dry or unsightly pieces.
Heat canola oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold the mushrooms without crowding them. Stir in the chanterelles and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook until the liquid released by the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are slightly browned around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes.
Sprinkle in the sugar and the vinegar, and stir. Add the butter, another 1/8 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Stir to prevent the butter from becoming too hot and separating. When the butter has coated the mushrooms and cooked away a bit, remove the pan from the heat. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with the thyme, and serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving: 99 calories, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 4 g protein, 126 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
Roasted Root Vegetables With Lazy Vinaigrette
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Makes: 12 servings
2 pounds carrots, multicolored if available (with greens reserved if possible) peeled, sliced lengthwise
2 pounds parsnips, kohlrabi, or both, peeled, sliced lengthwise
2 pounds small potatoes, skin on
Whole grain Dijon mustard
Flat leaf parsley, stems chopped, leaves torn for serving
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Add vegetables but not carrot greens to rimmed baking sheet. Coat with oil, season well with salt and pepper, and toss to mix well.
Roast, about 30 minutes. Add carrot greens; toss. Add oil as needed. Roast until vegetables are tender and greens are crisped, about 15 minutes more.
Remove from oven, and cool slightly. Season with salt, pepper, vinegar and mustard to taste. Toss with parsley, then serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 174 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrates, 8 g sugar, 3 g protein, 571 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
Notes: Developed in the Tribune test kitchen by Mark Graham.
Prep: 2 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: about 3 cups
1 package (12 ounces) whole cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 spring fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until most cranberries have burst, about 15 minutes. Remove rosemary sprig and cinnamon stick.
Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature, or chill overnight.
Nutrition information per 1/4 cup serving: 55 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 14 g carbohydrates, 11 g sugar, 0 g protein, 81 mg sodium, 1 g fiber