Thanksgiving Menu

23 11 2009

OK Food Nation, Thanksgiving is upon us. Over the next 96 hours let’s put together an awesome feast. Here’s the menu and schedule.


Potato and Leek Soup

Main Course

Hickory Smoked Heritage Turkey

Cornbread Pumpkin Stuffing with Giblet Gravy

Pickled Beets

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate

Wilted Red Chard with Juniper Vinegar


Fried Sweet Potato Pie



  • Ingredient list and shop
  • Make Pickled Beets and Pumpkin Cornbread (see recipes in sidebar). I also like to add some seedless cucumbers to the beets and pickle those as well.


  • Clean bird (or defrost if frozen) and brine
  • Make Turkey stock (if you haven’t already)


  • Make soup
  • Roast squash
  • Make fried sweet potato pie filling
  • Remove bird from brine and dry

Turkey Day:

  • Smoke bird
  • Assemble stuffing
  • Prepare chard and squash
  • Serve soup and main course
  • Fry pies when ready for dessert

Ingredient List

  • see recipe lists on sidebar for wild game brine (we’ll use this for turkey), light chicken stock (You can use turkey parts instead of chicken to make turkey stock), potato and leek soup and pickled beets. In addition you will need:
    •  For Pumpkin Cornbread
      • 1 ear roasted corn (kernels removed)
      • vegetable oil
      • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
      • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
      • 1/2 cup AP flour
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
      • 1 egg yolk
      • 3 egg whites
      • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
    • For gravy
      • Turkey giblets (except liver)
      • 1 carrot, 1/2 onion, 1 stalk celery; all chopped
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 3 cups turkey stock
      • 1 cup white wine
      • 1 cup water
      • 4 tbsp butter
      • 1/4 cup AP flour
    • For squash
      • 1.5-2 lb butternut squash (roasted)
      • 1/4 cup shallot
      • 2 tbsp butter
      • 2 tbsp cream
      • 1 pomegranate, seeds reserved
    • For wilted chard
      • 1 bunch red chard (you may substitute spinach or other green) (about 1.5-2.0 lbs)
      • 1 tbsp juniper berries
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1 small onion, chopped
      • 1/4-1/2 pound country ham (or bacon)
    • For fried sweet potato pie
      • ice cream (your preference)
      • 1 cup granulated sugar
      • 1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
      • 1.5 packets gelatin (unflavored)
      • pinch (1/8 tsp ) salt
      • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
      • 1 egg white
      • candy thermometer
      • confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 1/4 cup water
      • 1 cup cream
      • egg roll wrappers (1 package)
      • 4 sweet potatoes
      • 2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

Tea Smoked Salmon

22 11 2009

A unique but absolutely delicious taste and a great last light meal before we forge into Thanksgiving preparations tomorrow.  I use a Brinkman smoker (Home depot, ~$70) but you can smoke it as you would anything else on whatever rig you usually use. The exact time depends on the smoker, thickness of the fish and fire; but the fish is done when the flesh flakes away from the skin and bone. I like to use the tea mixture with cherry wood, but if you can’t find that use another mild wood. Avoid intense strong flavored smoking woods like hickory and mesquite. This is a delicately flavored dish.


  • 1 tbsp Szechuan peppers
  • 2 tbsp green tea
  • 1 anise star spice (whole)
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tbsp Ponzu sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salmon filet
  • Ceylon tea (about 3-6 oz)
  • Cherry Wood chips (I like Cameron Smoking chips), about 6-12 oz

Combine the pepper, green tea and star anise in a small saucepan and lightly toast. Combine in a bowl with the liquid ingredients. Marinate the salmon overnight. Prepare the smoker and mix the chips and tea in a 1 (tea): 2 (cherry chips) ratio. Smoke until done.

Grilled Shrimp stuffed Calamri with Poblano sauce

21 11 2009

Prior to the upcoming Thanksgiving feast, I like to cook lightly. Here’s a simple quick grilled dish that can be made hours or a day ahead and then cooked quickly on the grill. Lightly oil the grill to help prevent sticking as well.


  • 1/4 cup fiely minced onion
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 8 oz shrimp,chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely minced parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped thyme
  • 1/4 cup finely ground parmasean cheese
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 -3/4 pound calamari tubes

Poblano sauce

  • 4 poblano chiles (Roast your own if possible)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the stuffing. Stuff each tube full and lightly oil each tube with olive oil and season. Place on the hot grill about 30 seconds to 1 minute each side, just enough to insure the stuffing is cooked (the shrimp bits should turn pinkish). Combine all sauce ingredients and mix thouroughly. Remove the calamari from the grill and place on a bed of sauce and serve.

Fried Chocolate Truffle Apple Pies

19 11 2009

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, it can be difficult to keep up with the daily food needs. This is a super easy recipe to keep around to prepare a great dessert or snack during holiday season. I don’t usually recommend a lot of pre-made items, but you can do as much or as little from scratch as you like. Here’s how to do it.


  • 3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (~ juice from 1 lemon)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Apple Pie Spice (see Apple Pie Granita recipe in sidebar for spice mix)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1 Package Egg Roll Wrappers, Chocolate truffles of choice (I use Godiva), Oil for frying, Ice cream and confectioner’s sugar for topping

As you chop apples, add to the bowl with lemon juice. Mix apples and juice. Add all the other ingredients to a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Continue for another 1-2 minutes and the mixture will start to thicken. Add the apples and simmer for about 6-10 minutes until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and cool.

Place the egg roll wrapper in front of you as a diamond shape. Place the  filling in the  middle, slightly towards you leaving room to the right and left. Slice the truffle in half (I like Godiva chocolate mango truffles) and place on top. Fold the bottom diamond over the  filling. Fold the left and right corners into the middle. Fold the top over the middle. Make sure you seal all ends (with water or egg wash/whites). Heat the oil to 375 degrees F. Place the pies in the oil and cook until golden brown, between 1-2 minutes. Upon removal dust with sugar and serve on top of a scoop of your favorite ice cream. For the ice cream, I make a homemade frozen creme anglaise but you can use any good brand-a vanilla works well. Keep this recipe handy to make a quick easy treat (the filling keeps in the refrigerator) while you’re busy with holiday menus.


Fuse-On Cuisine

18 11 2009

I was getting all ready to ease into our Thanksgiving Day preparations. Yet I came upon an experience so decidedly wrong I had to rant. First, let me declare my love for all food things fusion. I am so cool with fusion cuisine I could make Kelly McGillis look like Tom Cruise’s Long Island Lolita.  So cool it is kewl. Yet anything lovely can be twisted into a nightmare; elves into orcs or Joan Rivers into Joan Rivers. But let’s not take my word for it, what does the dictionary say; “Fusion: combining usually widely differing ethnic or regional ingredients, styles, or techniques”. Let’s also look at sushi; “Sushi: cold boiled rice moistened with rice vinegar, usually shaped into bite-size pieces and topped with raw seafood (nigiri-zushi) or formed into a long seaweed-wrapped roll, often around strips of vegetable or raw fish, and sliced into bite-size pieces (maki-zushi). Now I realize sushi in reality refers to the rice used, but in the American vernacular has come to mean sushi rice topped with raw fish and…. Now in the name of fusion cuisine I can abide smoked salmon with a shmear of cream cheese and onion (the jewshi role), the so-called cowboy role with some cooked steak inside-although I avoid the broke back mountain role even if it claims “You won’t be able to quit this role”, the “crabby role” that contains no real crab (which would make it the somewhat pleasant role), etc. What I cannot abide is subjecting the sushi to a technique that so fundamentally alters its core it is no way shape or form sushi. Fusion demands skillful combining and melding. Destroying the essence leads to travesty cuisine, not fusion. When sushi is combined with bacon (which generally makes everything taste better and you could do this here-just don’t call it “Sushi Fusion”) and deep fried it is no longer sushi. It is a Southern Fish Fry; plain and simple. Elves are elves and orcs are orcs, sushi is sushi and deep fried fish is deep fried fish-no one wants a Joan Rivers twisted beyond all recognition and served up because that means dinner with Kathy Lee Gifford.

Real World

16 11 2009

Hey Food Nation! Real world travails a bit overwhelming. Be back Wed with fresh posts!


Before the Feast

12 11 2009

Following our Fall Feast to start the season, another holiday is upon us. Despite what the retailers would have you believe, it is not Christmas. It is Thanksgiving. A time for all of us with deep gustatory desires to allow ourselves some permitted indiscretion. Next week we will work through a sample Thanksgiving menu and prep so that when Thanksgiving week rolls around you can execute a well studied battle plan. For now, let’s look at the time before the Feast. Like the preparation before any battle, or the clean underwear before the operation (I can vouch that most people have gotten slack on that when they show up for the office visit. You know who you are and your Mother would be ashamed) the time before G-Day (Day of Gluttony) is important.

That’s because if you use this time correctly, I believe it can help you eat more responsibly the rest of the year. The only certainties, they say, is Death and Taxes. We must eat to live, and living is a prerequisite to be involved in the former certainty. If we pay taxes then we must also work, a prerequisite to the latter certainty. Having a guilt free fun Feast is like a dietary holiday. Multiple studies have shown that to be the best worker, one needs some vacation:

Taking time off work, however short, is necessary in maintaining the stress levels of work and home life. Workers who are under extreme stress experience headaches, irritability, eyestrain, digestive disorders, and panic attacks, which all directly lead to less productivity.

Employees who work 10-12 hours per day are significantly less productive and efficient than employees who work 6-6.5 hours a day, according to a long term study done by the Organizational Psychology Program at Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. The most effective executives (a high stress and high demand position) take mini breaks throughout the day to give their brains a rest. This is not to say those who work less or take multiple breaks throughout the day are lazier than their counterparts, but that the human brain and mind become tired and less efficient while focusing for an extended period of time. To be more efficient, workers should take time to stare out the window, take a walk, or even make a phone call to a friend.

Taking time away from work does not just improve productivity; it also improves a person’s health. People who take vacations are more positive and healthier, as many studies show.[1]

Treat the upcoming poultry party as you would a planned vacation. Use that time to “work” on basic dietary fundamentals. You will have then earned a guilt free opportunity to see exactly how far spandex can stretch while sitting at the dinner table. These basic dietary fundamentals, or as we label such things in the Martial Arts I practice, are the hon waza for healthy eating. It is a simple Sanshin, or three pronged approach.

  1. Time: We’re talking about some simple time related concepts. Take time to taste your food. Sounds simple enough, but watch a few people chow a Super sized double stuffed extra bacon McMortem sometime and you’ll realize that to consume that volume in that time frame they actually created a miniature black hole within the space of their pie hole literally sucking the tasteless matter, and all available light, into that maw. No way you tasted anything; if you did you wouldn’t inhale the stuff in the first place. It is interesting to note that in some forms of meditative practice they actually address this issue. They tell their practioners to chew the food slowly, savoring and acknowledging the taste by chewing at least between 18 and 36 times for each bite. Try it sometime; it’s like a spike strip to your belly. Next, consider some time between courses. It takes at least 15-25 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. Just think of your stomach as the friend who still calls you on your landline because they don’t text or have email. They don’t even have a cell phone. The time you allow from a first course to the main course helps you to develop some feeling of satiety before the main course. Which permits me flawless segue….
  2. Portions: Using time correctly as you dine, as outlined above allows you to portion control. I believe this is one of the biggest, under-rated contributors to dietary related issues out there. We Americans super size everything; we act like we’re the international Texas where everything has to be bigger and more. For Christ’s sake, I’m even using super size as a freakin’ verb now, as in super size me. And you all know what I mean. That about says it all.  We live in a world constructed of space-time; so slow down the chow time and leave some space on your plate.
  3. Menu items: Perhaps the most talked about of the three. To me, people focus greatly about what we put on the plate. To a large degree, I can see that it is justified. Slowly eating candy bars all day long is not a great long term choice. This is where the choice of fresh healthy food and learning the techniques to make it delicious apply. Large events often turn on small, almost insignificant occurrences. Knowledge to recognize these opportunities is what we cover a lot in the space of this blog.

So with that in mind, let’s look over the coming week to some delicious healthy things to try taking time in our moderation. It’s like the stuff you have to get done before vacation. Do a job well done and you enjoy a guilt free respite for a day, your “Foodie Holiday.”

[1] (Knowles, 2009)