Sunday, December 12, 2010


Thanksgiving went off without a hitch here.  We host each year, it being the holiday we feel best suits our cooking style.  Our goal was A Local Thanksgiving.  And we did pretty good - almost everything we prepared was sourced locally.

We invested in an American Bronze Heritage turkey from JenEhr farms.  Far different from your supermarket turkey, which have been bred for giant breasts and little flavor, heritage turkeys offer a variety of benefits.  For one, like many traditional foods, they are healthier:

They have reduced fat and cholesterol because they are adhering to a regimen that physicians usually recommend to their patients, i.e., to eat more greens and fiber, exercise daily and reduce stress levels. Meats, eggs and poultry from grass fed animals have a better balance of health-promoting essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, and have more vitamin E and beta carotene. Recent studies indicate that “grass-grown” meats are the richest source of good fats called CLA (conjugated linoleic acids), which may be linked to reducing the growth of tumors.  (JenEhr  Farms, Pasture Raised is Healthier).

Of course, raising meat on pasture has huge environmental benefits, as well. From requiring less fossil fuel to produce, to reducing greenhouse gasses, to less erosion, to healthier soil - there is an unending list of reasons why raising meat on pasture is better for the environment.

And they taste darn good, too.  They taste like turkey.

Our preference is to brine the bird.  After some research, Bryan used Alton Brown's highly recommended brine recipe.  Bryan used the caul fat from our pig (from Otter Creek Organic Farm) to cover the bird.

To go with the fantastic turkey, Bryan made gravy and I made Cranberries with Port, our version of cranberry sauce.

We planned a good number of side dishes because, well, that's what you do on Thanksgiving.

For the dressing, Bryan made a Pecan and Apricot Stuffing.  A fairly standard base of bread, onions, and celery, seasoned with sage, with toasted pecans and dried apricots added in.  Definitely a favorite around the table.  I had an entire second helping after the kids were in bed.

Bryan traditionally makes Diana Kennedy's corn budin (Budin de Elote), which is one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.  However, he decided to shake things up this year and make Alton Brown's Sweet Corn Bread Pudding.  I was skeptical, but I may actually like that recipe better.

Bryan also creamed some kale from JenEhr, and Shannon brought some polish sausage from a Polish deli in Chicago.  (My paternal grandmother being 100% Polish, every holiday comes with a side of polish sausage!)

We had some of the standards as well: brussel sprouts with bacon, Mom's homemade wheat rolls, Aunt Debbie's cheesy potatoes, and a potato gratin from my cousin (a Pioneer Woman recipe), as well as a green bean casserole.  We had just enough food, me thinks.

For dessert, Shannon made a Gluten Free Pecan Pie, and I made my Apple and Fennel Pie.  Instead of your standard pie crust, this year I made a biscuit topping based off Martha Stewart's Quince Biscuit Pie.  Definitely easier to make, and easier to make a large one, as well.  Also, I found the pie to be a lot less wet, which was a good thing.  My cousin brought Candied Bacon Ice Cream as well.  There were no complaints at dessert.

Good food and good company.  That's what the holidays are about!

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