Turkey…. Mashed Potatoes…. Rolls…. Stuffing… a relatively brown plate, right? If I’m honest, as much as I love the idea of traditional foods of Thanksgiving, loading up on turkey and bread doesn’t exactly make me salivate. For all the time and work it takes to prepare a Thanksgiving meal, I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to have a meal that’s just crazy good? I know, I know. It’s messing with all things sacred to not to serve a turkey on Thanksgiving, but when your husband is saying that carryout from Las Margaritas (or insert your local Mexican restaurant) sounds better than green bean casserole- and you know he’s right- you have to do something.
The last straw was one Saturday morning in November, my husband and I were corralling our kids through Hyvee with our donuts when we walked by the meat department. If it’s possible to drool over scallops, raw filets and homemade sausages at 8 in the morning, we were… But then the heavens actually opened and shined down on that crown roast of pork accompanied by an audible high pitched song “ahhhhhhh.” From there, it was all over. Goodbye bland flavors, Hello Food Network site. We had my husband’s side coming in for Thanksgiving, which might sound initially overwhelming for a pregnant woman with three little children. But unlike my normal life, I knew I’d have help with both the food and the kids… And I figured, if I was going to be pealing potatoes and chopping vegetables regardless, I might as well draw from some of the food gods like the Barefoot Contessa, Michael Symon, Paula Dean & Tyler Florence. So, for anyone interested & wanting to mix things up a bit for Christmas, I wanted to pass these along. They did not disappoint.
We started with an appetizer: Roasted Pears wrapped in bacon & stuffed with brie cheese. The original recipe called for goat cheese, but since I was doing goat cheese mashed potatoes, we substituted brie. Make sure your pears are ripe, but not too ripe. And I recommend cooking the bacon a little before you wrap it to make it a little more crunchy.
The main entree was of course that crown roast of pork. Normally, you buy a larger crown (maybe 13-14 chops) and bake the stuffing inside, but since we only had around 8 adults, I bought a smaller one and did the stuffing as a side. I wanted to do watercress with apricots as a garnish, but they weren’t available, so I used some arugula and cherries. I also made a cranberry reduction for a sauce. I didn’t really use a recipe, but this one is pretty close to what I did. I also added some red wine, fresh rosemary & thyme (what was left and hadn’t froze in our little herb garden) and some orange rind. Don’t forget to strain the sauce if you use fresh herbs.
For sides, we started with an Apple Fennel Sausage stuffing. Stuffing can be another Thanksgiving/Christmas food that tastes super bland, so it was fun to have some different flavors. I was worried about the fennel being overpowering, but it really wasn’t. It was delicious.
Lastly, since my mother in law made an awesome pecan pie, I decided to make a pumpkin chocolate bread pudding. It was a little on the dry side (next time I won’t use as much bread) but that bourbon sabayon. If you’re like me and you hadn’t heard of a sabayon before, much less know how to pronounce it, it’s like a whipped cream mousse. Uhhhh, yeah. So, so good. I was surprised by how excited everyone was to try it!
I had a lot of help with the food & the kids, which took the pressure off and gave me the chance to remember in this life stage how much I really do love cooking. I actually couldn’t fall asleep that night until after 11pm because I was on such a high from cooking… And eating 😉
Oh, and seven words: Blue Bell Pumpkin Spiced Pecan Ice Cream. Do not underestimate its power. Enjoy!
Do you have a recipe you’d be willing to share that’s a slightly modern take on a traditional holiday food?