Thanksgiving menu planning, plus a few recipes for naturally flourless and vegetarian recipes for your holiday meal.
Confession: my head has not truly been in the Thanksgiving game this year. Part of it’s the weather – sun for days, temps in the 70s -, part of it’s the whole living not in America, and part of it’s just my hard-won philosophy of taking days as they come and one at a time. So I don’t think too terribly far ahead, and as any cook worth her/his salt knows this is pretty near impossible to do when it comes to the biggest U.S.-cooking holiday of the year. Still, it’s time. Today it’s gloomy and rainy – hurrah! – and we went to the coolest little market/marche yesterday morning to stock up on beautiful produce and turkey (photos to come on Wednesday). We’ve invited a few friends coming to sup with us on Thursday and a couple more for drinks during the afternoon. I think I’m finally getting into it a little bit.
Thus far my menu is as follows. I debated including a few more complicated dishes but decided to go with simple and vegetable-heavy, mostly because when you cook here it really depends on what you can find at the market, and as this often fluctuates it’s impossible to get every ingredient you might want exactly when you want it. I.e.: be flexible. And anyway when the produce is this fresh and delicious you don’t need to fancy it up too much.
2. Sweet potato-coconut soup, buttermilk biscuits
3. Roast turkey breast with lemon, sage, and white wine
Mashed potatoes with roasted mushrooms
Roast cauliflower + green beans
(Dried) cranberry sauce
Leek risotto (vegetarian main course; not made by me)
4. Pumpkin pie
Persimmon pound cake
Caramelized apple + caramel ice cream
I’m planning to make this a gluten-free/naturally flourless meal and actually most of the components of it are naturally flourless. Today I’ll post a few more of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes that I’ve adapted to be gluten-free with just a small substitution here and there of naturally flourless whole grain flour for all-purpose. I’ve come to really, really enjoy the subtle flavor difference brought by naturally whole grain flours and try to choose those that complement the other flavors in the dish (for example oat flour in the pumpkin pie crust brings a lovely, slightly nutty, wholesome note to bolster the creamy pumpkin).
As these things go, that menu seems fairly simple and manageable to me. It’s far less ambitious than some years – and I think that’s a positive. I’ll still be logging a fair amount of time in the kitchen but the table (hopefully) won’t be groaning under an over-abundance of food. For once I think there will be just enough, maybe with a few leftovers, but nothing crazy. This makes me feel good.
I’m including my favorite recipe for vegetarian gravy here, as well as one for (naturally flourless) cornbread and the dark horse, a cranberry sauce made from dried cranberries (I didn’t think it would work either but …). Tomorrow I will bake my pie and my cake and feel thankful I have the ingredients and the time to do so. Thanksgiving for me is a bit about quiet reflection and how better to engage in that than through cooking?
Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving holiday and a peaceful weekend to follow.
I used polenta in the cornbread I just baked because I’m using it specifically for cornbread dressing and wanted it a bit coarser and more rustic. For a classic-tasting cornbread use finely ground cornmeal instead.
Makes 12 muffins, one loaf, or one skillet bread
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal or polenta
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 12 regular (1/3-cup) muffin cups, a regular sized loaf pan, or a cast-iron skillet. Sift cornmeal, flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and egg in another medium bowl; whisk in melted butter. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients; stir just until incorporated (do not overmix). Pour batter into prepared pan and place in oven. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
Amazingly, it IS possible to make near-traditional cranberry sauce from dried cranberries. My first version was a bit too sweet for my taste, so I’ve adjusted proportions here accordingly. Add as much or as little cornstarch to reach your desired consistency. Hashtag this expatholidaycooking.
Makes 2 cups cranberry sauce, easily doubled
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup water
Juice of one orange (I used a clementine)
1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
Raw sugar or maple syrup to taste
Mix the cranberries, water, and citrus juice in a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and simmer until cranberries are plumper. Add a bit of cornstarch if you like to make it thicker, stirring well to combine. Add sugar or maple syrup to taste. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before serving.
No matter where I am in the world on Thanksgiving, this is a staple on my table. Use all-purpose or whole-wheat pastry flour in an equal substitution for the brown rice flour if that’s your thing, or one-half as much cornstarch.
Makes about 2-3 cups gravy, but it streeeetches.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion or shallots
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup brown rice flour or 1/4 cup cornstarch
4 tablespoons light (g-f/tamari) soy sauce
1-2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth.
Season with sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened. Serve warm
Note: The gravy thickens up quite a bit, so keep some warm water or vegetable broth on hand to thin it out before serving, and for the next day’s leftovers.