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By Doc Lawrence
"If you want to turn your life
around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily."
- Gerald Good
Photo courtesy of The Breakers Palm Beach.
This annual gathering is our Thursday feast. Enjoying life, friendship, and love is very American. Thanksgiving is the All-American homecoming, centered on food, wines, family, and friends. And, there’s always room at the dinner table for those who are alone. We open doors and welcome others on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving represents continuity. There’s no need to replace tradition, whether in recipes or how the table is set. While constants like roast turkey, dressing, gravy, and sweet potatoes are common dishes, the wines served can add welcome diversity. Here’s where the fun begins.
These days, wines are often available at bargain prices. You can afford to have several different bottles on the table for the dinner as well as serve a sparkling wine as an aperitif. This won’t break the bank and is almost guaranteed to generate some praise from surprised guests. Think about it - the traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes as much variety as anything we serve at home during the year. It’s not uncommon to have other main courses than turkey such as ham, roast beef, or lamb. The side dishes showcase spectacular casseroles along with a mélange of different vegetables and salads. Being limited by a single wine for these diverse flavors can be maddening.
And it is unnecessary.
This year, assume some novel variations are on the table like sweet potato, grits, or a country ham with red eye gravy. Roast turkey and all that goes with it remains prominent, but nothing says we can’t begin with raw oysters (where they hail from doesn’t matter), grilled shrimp wrapped in smoked bacon, and all sorts of appetizers. Cremant de Bourgogne Rose, a truly wonderful sparkling wine from France is available for less than $15.00 dollars and is usually easy to find.
On the dinner table, these off the beaten path wines offer an elevated experience: a dry Rose from Provence, Riesling and Gewürztraminer from Washington State, or New York’s Finger Lakes, a Viognier from Texas, an Oregon Pinot Noir, plus a California red Zinfandel that isn’t too high in alcohol (the overloaded ones taste peculiar with delicate food).
Spending big bucks per bottle is unnecessary unless you have money to burn. There are many affordably priced exciting wines. Friends in the wine business tell me that the maximum piece paid by the average American consumer for a bottle of wine today is $20.00 dollars. Quality isn’t a function of high prices.
Mix the domestic wines with an elegant French red like Hautes-Cotes de Beaune or a Valpolicella from Italy. These not only blend with the flavors and aromas of the food but also symbolically connect us with the past. Wines of the world comport with American cuisine anyway.
Wines inspire good conversation and opening a bottle of Fleurie, also from France, contributes more magic to the celebration of food and friendship. The name is inspired by the floral fragrance that subtly fills the room when poured.
A glass of Fleurie might inspire a second helping of those divinely delicious sweet potatoes.
Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Figs, Morels, and Foie Gras
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Anthony Sicignano, The Breakers Palm Beach
1 cup chicken broth or stock
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely-diced Spanish onion
1/2 cup finely-diced celery stalk
1 small carrot, diced
1 cup fresh morels (mushrooms), cleaned and cut lengthwise
4 cups cornbread croutons (either store bought or homemade - see recipe below)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup cleaned, fresh figs cut into eighths
1/2 pound pan-seared Foie Gras, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a casserole dish.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the chicken broth. Reduce heat to low to keep hot.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, celery, carrot, and morels; sauté until tender. Pour the hot chicken broth into the vegetable mixture in the frying pan and combine.
In a large bowl, combine croutons, sage, parsley, figs, and sliced foie gras. Gently mix in the vegetable mixture to the crouton mixture. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Place this cornbread mixture in the prepared casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees, approximately 20 to 25 minutes, until stuffing is golden brown.
Prepare 1 recipe (enough for 6 servings) cornbread mix according to package directions. Cut baked cornbread into 1-inch squares, brush with melted butter, and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool before using.
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