Having a birthday on or near a holiday has its good and bad points. Obviously, friends and family gather to frolic and take part in festive merriment. Unfortunately, said merriment typically has little to do with the birthday and everything to do with the holiday. Me, I share my birthday with a Turkey. November 25th is always crammed with either celebration preparation or post-feast recovery. Every 7th year my birthday is THE day and the turkey proves a formidable rival; pumpkin pie with birthday candles does not have the allure of butter cream frosting with bright neon pink birthday wishes.
My mother was sensitive to this scheduling conflict, thus, when I was very young I was appeased with a trek to the toy store and carte blanche up to $25. In my teens, it was off to the movie theater with my friends for whatever movie was making its blockbuster holiday premier and a pizza sleep-over. As I grew up and eventually, out, we took on a new tradition. I was crowned the decision maker as to what to do with the turkey left-overs. Finally, the bird’s day in the spotlight was over, literally left-over.
A few of my favorites were fairly ordinary; Shepherd’s Pie, Turkey pot pie and Turkey noodle soup were regulars. As I got older, the requests were a bit more sophisticated. Turkey and sour cream enchiladas met with approval and when I requested Turkey Taquitos--that was a keeper.
However, one of my favorites was nothing inventive, creative or inspired by culinary vision. Regardless of my left-over request, turkey salad on mini cocktail bread made an annual appearance and truth be told, I would have forgotten about the other gastronomic explorations in favor of the plate of petite pleasers. As I came of age to share a bit of vino, a glass of bubbly or a fruity rose was included in the party.
I no longer compete with the bird, instead, we are allies. I happily share my birthday with the invited guest and relish the tasty treats it provides.
I thank the bird as left-over memories fill me with happiness.
Not only a great way to use the turkey, but with this salad you can toss in fennel, celery, apples, onion, or cranberries. The La Fantasia has bright berry notes and a slight effervescence; what a way to welcome the holiday season.
My first attempt at preparing Thanksgiving dinner sans mother was 1995, a rite of passage. This particular meal was not a small intimate dinner for myself and my husband, this feast included 2 harsh scrutinizing critics; my step children.
We rented a cabin near Lake Tahoe as we thought it would be the ideal setting for a mountain holiday. The prospect of a Turkey day snowfall and a warm fire seemed perfection. Unfortunately, my mother hurt her leg 3 days before the trip which left more than travel arrangements to rearrange, she was chef de cuisine!
Finally, Thanksgiving Day arrived which meant the inevitable trip to the grocery store, but first, a phone call to Mom. Amidst tears (mine), frantic note taking (me), and some tricks (hers) I was set to create a yummy meal. With list in hand, including the deal-breakers (nothing with carrots, nuts, or mushrooms for Mikaela and for Philip; no peas, cauliflower, or squash). *sigh*… off to the market.
I bought more than was necessary but I was in no position to make last minute shopping trips, this was a one-time performance. Turkey breast; check. Wine; got it. Yams, mashed potatoes; easy. Wine; yes again. Gravy; not too difficult. Biscuits, the kids love little crescent rolls. Pie and whipped cream, double check. Wine; yes, will need a 3rd bottle. But (cue Jaws theme) what about stuffing! The very stuff of which Thanksgiving can be made or broken. I got the stuff on everything but the stuffing! And my Mother‘s stuffing was the benchmark, the Alpha, the Omega of stuffing. Turkeys were honored to be served with this stuffing. How could I have forgotten such a fundamental Thanksgiving Day dish? After all, I had watched her make stuffing for almost 30 years! That’s 30 Thanksgiving dinners! Wait…um….er…..yes. Ok, thanks Mom, I got this.
We sat cross-legged at the coffee table in the middle of a cozy living room, a fire was crackling and the snow was falling. Thanksgiving dinner 1995 garnered rave reviews, the critics were delighted and the stuffing was just right.
Some very traditional ingredients plus a few additions; cornbread stuffing mix, broth, butter, salt, pepper, sweet onion, apple, fennel , dried cranberries, salt, pepper, grape seed oil, and sausage. Lean turkey or chicken sausage is usually my preference, but for stuffing, I want the extra richness of pork sausage.
Sauté onion, fennel and apple in grape seed oil. Grape seed oil brings complex fruitiness and is great for sauté. If available, use fennel instead of celery, it has a sweetness that compliments the onion and tart apple. This sauté has incredible aromatics.
I prefer cornbread but any stuffing mix will work. Add dried cranberries for a splash of color and a hint of acidity. Mix with browned sausage and sautéed veggies. Add melted butter and broth per instructions increasing broth amount by 1/5th. Bake at 350 for approximately 40 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Pinot Noir and Thanksgiving is a given at my table but with the abundance of savories it is hard to decide on a style of Pinot most suited for the big feast. Castello di Amorosa 2011 Los Carneros Pinot Noir is on the lighter side of the Pinot Noir spectrum, perfect for turkey and all the trimmings. Seductive notes of mulled spice on the nose and a mouthful of bright fruit, this will complement the entire spectrum of Turkey day dishes. To make this Pinot pop, serve at 62 to 65 degrees.
My inaugural blog is inspired by the season (harvest, Thanksgiving) as well as a pivotal election year. Lately, I have found myself churning with thoughts of presidents, Thanksgiving feasts and, of course, wine. For some inexplicable reason this combined into one seemingly implausible package when suddenly an image of Thomas Jefferson became etched in my mind. After a little cyber-searching clarity was resumed; apparently, for me, nothing says ‘Thanksgiving’ like Thomas Jefferson, Brussels sprouts, and wine!
Although the exact origins of Brussels sprouts are not known, Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing these curious plants to the United States and they were planted at Monticello, his Virginia home. Jefferson loved wine and became one of the world’s most quoted wine connoisseurs. He said ‘wine is a necessity of life’. Well, along with great wine our nation’s 3rd president also had quite an appetite for interesting food and was known for his sophisticated palate. Jefferson frequently hosted lively dinner parties and would often tantalize and intrigue his guests with new delicacies and served delicious wine and unusual foods to promote stimulating conversation. I can only imagine the questioning glance of an inquisitive guest as a platter of odd mini- cabbages were set upon the table and unexpectedly found them to be deliciously savory little vegetables.
With mouthwatering dishes, wine flowing, animated discussions and laughter filling the air……….I then pictured a pleased Thomas Jefferson, content and giving thanks.
Shucked Brussels Sprout leaves Sautéed with shallots and pine nuts
(Aka How to Convert Brussels Sprout Haters into Brussels Sprout Lovers!)
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable as are cabbage, broccoli, and kale. They contain healthy amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber and are believed to protect against certain cancers.
It takes a bit time but it is oddly therapeutic. Once shucked from the core, the green leaves of the sprout don’t have a bitter tang. 1 pound of Brussels sprouts shucked leaves serves 4.
Sea salt, pepper (white or black), butter, pine nuts, shucked leaves, shallots, chicken stock
Lightly sauté pine nuts and shallots in 1TBSP butter and sprinkle w/ salt. Remove from heat.
Sautee sprout leaves in 1 TBSP butter and season w/ salt and pepper. Add 2 to 5 ounces chicken stock as a light braising liquid. Boiling sprouts results in significant loss of nutrients but sautéing or roasting does not. Add pine nut and shallot mixture once the sprouts begin to cook down.
Although veggies are not typically wine-friendly, the butter and pine nuts make this a match for Chardonnay. Castello di Amorosa’s Reserve Chardonnay offers just the right touch of juicy pear and stone fruits balanced with a texture of creamy nutty tones that compliments the richness of this dish.
For extra goodness, sprinkle with grated parm.