KITCHEN SHRINK: Themed Thanksgiving Shindigs

Tired of preparing the same old Thanksgiving meal year after year? Become an intrepid culinary trailblazer and borrow global recipes to celebrate family, friends and football.

 

Southern Comfort Faves: Southern cuisine is a blend of gustatory influences from the Emerald Isle, Scotland, Africa, France, England and Native American tribes. Start with warm buttermilk biscuits drizzled with orange blossom honey and fresh herbs with a heap of turnip greens or poke salad on the side. For the main attraction do the bird deep-fried (no one claimed this was a healthy cuisine), or pan-fried in cut portions, barbecued or breaded and baked to a golden crunch.

Or roast a ham with a mustard-bourbon glaze. Some authentic sides include cornbread dressing with rhubarb, sweet potato pie, creamed collard greens, sautéed fiddleheads or okra, and creamy shrimp grits. 

For sweet Southern endings, a chocolate bourbon pecan pie or warm peach cobbler topped with whipped cream would surely hit the spot.

 

 An Italian Carnival: In Italy, turkey is not embraced by the cuisine, whether it’s because the fowls are hard to come by in those parts, or ovens are small and can’t accommodate the behemoth bird. Why not prepare a succulent (and manageable) turkey breast, seasoned with porcini mushroom-infused olive oil and garlic, and stuffed with fennel sausage or spinach, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. 

A rack of herb-crusted lamb would be another option. Start the digestive juices flowing with an elegant antipasti platter of marinated vegetables, cheeses, prosciutto and salami, spicy seafood bruschetta, fried sage leaves and baked olives, all washed down with a glass of chilled house vino. 

Or serve a butternut squash or mushroom stuffed tortellini or ravioli, chestnut or pumpkin risotto, roasted rosemary fingerlings or zucchini to accompany the main course. And for just desserts a traditional tiramisu, chocolate chestnut torte, or fresh berries drizzled with a warm balsamic glaze and scoop of gelato for a taste of dolce vita!

 

California Cornucopia: Local foods include olives, fennel, figs, artichokes, almonds, avocados, asparagus, oranges, lemons, stone fruits and several varieties of rice and grapes (which translates to wine), and fresh catches of Sockeye and Coho salmon, Dungeness crab and wild-caught shrimp. Dishes apropos to the region include pan-fried crab cakes with zippy remoulade sauce, roasted fennel and blood orange salad, robust seafood cioppino, (Northern Cal), assorted stuffings and dressings incorporating wild and brown rices or sourdough bread (also Northern Cal), almonds, dried apricots, figs and cranberries, along with a whole grilled fish or almond-encrusted salmon fillets. A Meyer lemon meringue pie, stone fruit trifle or platter of fresh seasonal fruits would end the meal on a blissful note.

 

 Football Feast: Serve a variety of tailgating fare with a Thanksgiving twist from assorted root chips and dips (pumpkin sour cream, goat cheese with seasonal herbs), spicy turkey wings, turkey chili and sliders with sweet potato fries, chugged down with pumpkin-flavored beer. Dark chewy brownies cut in the shape of Pilgrim’s hats give a festive touch.

Asparagus and Mushroom Strudel

 Ingredients:

2 sheets Artisan puff pastry

1-pound fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces

1/2 pound assorted mushrooms, your choice

1 1/2 tablespoons ghee butter or virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons white wine

1 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2 shallots, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 beaten egg mixed with 1-tablespoon cold water (egg wash)

 Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a skillet, heat butter or oil on low, sauté asparagus until al dente. Add shallots, garlic, mushrooms, wine, parsley and seasonings. Continue cooking on low until tender. Strain liquid and reserve. 

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and carefully place the puff pastry layer on the pan. Spread asparagus mixture evenly on the pastry, and drizzle with reserved liquid. Place the second sheet of pastry on top, pinching edges to close any gaps. Make three slits with a sharp knife. Brush with egg wash and bake 20 minutes or until golden. Slice and enjoy hot or chilled.

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