“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” – Gerald Good
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. There is 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 will not 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 is 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 mange 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 Gewztraminer from Washington State, or New York’s Finger Lakes, a Viognier from Texas, an Oregon Pinot Noir, plus a California red Zinfandel that is not 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 is not a function of high prices.
Mix the domestic wines with an elegant French red like Hautes-Cotes de Beaune or a Valpolicella from Ita y. 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.
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Anthony Sicignano, The Breakers Palm Beach. Learn how to make this delicious Cornbread Stuffing with Fresh Figs, Morels, and Foie Gras for your next turkey dinner.
- 1 cup chicken stock or broth*
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup Spanish onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup celery stalk, finely diced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 cup morels (mushrooms), fresh, cleaned and cut lengthwise
- 4 cups cornbread croutons (either store bought or homemade)
- 2 tablespoons sage, freshly chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsely, chopped
- 1 cup figs, fresh, cleaned, cut into eighths
- 1/2 pound Foie Gras, pan seared and cut into 1/4-inch sliced
- Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
- 1 package cornbread mix
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; saute 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 F., 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.
* Check out Chicken Stock - Basic Chicken Stock to learn how easy it is to make your own homemade chicken stock.
Article by Doc Lawrence: Doc Lawrence is a veteran food and wine journalist based in Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. Doc Lawrence writes and lectures regularly about subjects in which he is a recognized and acknowledged expert – wine and food, theater, travel and cultural tourism, visual art and music. His works have earned praise from many editors and publishers.