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A Very Chicagoist Thanksgiving 2007

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Nov 19, 2007 7:00PM


In what's become an annual feature here at Chicagoist and a personal favorite, we canvassed the staff for some of their best recipes and put together a potluck of amazing proportions to fascinate your taste buds, amaze your family (even the ones entranced by the football games), and bring about peace on earth - or at least in your family - for a few hours through the miracle of tryptophan, simple starches, and sugar overload.

Not to be outdone, this year we've also included instructions on how to tastefully decorate your table in the colors of the season for mere pennies on the dollar. This year, we're also including links to each individual recipe in the recipe title so that you can download the ones that strike your fancy to try out yourselves. So sit back, get ready to loosen the belt and let Chicagoist do the heavy lifting. It's time for "A Very Chicagoist Thanksgiving."

Centerpieces by Margaret "Chicagoist Prodigal" Lyons

2007_11_centerpieces_107.jpgI'm not much for cooking, but when it comes to dining decor, I like to give Martha Stewart a run for her money. Well, if Martha were really cheap and decided she wanted to use stuff she found at the Jewel. Anyway, that's what I did! Don't underestimate the effect of a pretty centerpiece: It's festive and adds an air of sophistication to even the grimiest of meals.

I used pinto beans, cheap-ass candles and a handful of leaves to create these three pieces for the low, low cost of about $5. (I already had the glass and plate.) Whatever you do, don't buy scented candles--has Top Chef taught us nothing?--but there's no need to go expensive. Any dollar store will have decent looking votives, and if you have other okay-looking beans in your pantry, you could use those instead.

Spiced Red Lentil Soup by Thales Exoo

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound red lentils (washed and sorted)
2 quarts water
2 cups cooked quick barley
2 large (28oz) cans of diced tomatoes
1 bunch cilantro

Heat olive oil and onions in large stockpot. Sauté for 5-10 minutes , add garlic, and cook a little bit longer. Add 1/2 the salt, pepper, the turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and bay leaf and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, potatoes, lentils and water and cook, covered, 45 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the rest of the salt, barley and tomatoes and heat through. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro on top.

Brussels Sprouts With Mustard-Caper Butter by Rob Christopher

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives or minced parsley
2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, well rinsed and finely minced
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, preferably small

Combine the butter, chives, capers and mustard in a small bowl and mix until smooth.
Mince the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt and stir it into the butter. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, or leave whole if small. Boil until just tender, about 5 minutes, test by piercing with a knife. Drain well and return to the warm pot. Add the flavored butter and stir well. Serves 8.

Cheesy Potatoes by Lizz Kannenberg

4 medium potatoes
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups sour cream, room temperature
½ cup chopped green onions
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

Boil, peel and coarsely grate potatoes. In a sauce pan over low heat, combine cheese and butter until melted. Blend in sour cream, green onions, salt and pepper. Fold in potatoes and put into a greased casserole dish. Bake approximately 30 minutes, until bubbly, at 350 degrees. Lizz says, "These are the highlight of the Kannenberg Family Thanksgiving."

Turkey Dressing by Shannon Saar

3 sticks of butter
4 eggs
2 lbs. thoroughly dry white bread (bakery bread is best)
2 c. chopped onion
2 c. chopped celery
1 Tbs. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 c. fresh chopped parsley
2 Tbs. fresh chopped sage

Melt butter. Add onion and celery; sauté for about 15 minutes or until tender and translucent. Place bread in a bowl of fresh water and crumble with hands. Squeeze out any excess water and place bread into second bowl. Pour onion and celery mixture over bread. Add salt, pepper, chopped sage and parsley. Add eggs and mix well with hands, shredding the bread as you go. If dressing appears dry, more melted butter may be added.

Divide the mixture between two pans. Just make sure that the dressing does not fill more than half the height of the pan or else it will take a very long time to cook. Place in a 325°F oven for 35-45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes when finished.

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Breast with Hazelnut Mole by Chuck Sudo

1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from canned chipotles
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 2-pound skinless boneless turkey breast halves

2 pounds applewood-smoked bacon slices

Hazelnut Mole

6 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
8 ounces hazelnuts with skin (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 large ripe plantains, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 1/2 pounds Red Delicious apples, peeled, quartered, cored
1 medium-size white onion, thickly sliced
13 dried guajillo chiles (about 2.5 ounces), stemmed, cut open, seeds and veins removed
3 dried ancho chiles (about 1.5 ounces), stemmed, cut open, seeds and veins removed
3/4 cup prunes (about 4 ounces)
7 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon aniseed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 5- to 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas
9 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


2007_11_turkey.jpgMole: Heat oil in large deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to skillet; sauté 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to large bowl. Add hazelnuts to skillet; sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl with garlic. Add plantains and sauté until light golden, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to same bowl. Add apples; sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to same bowl. Sauté onion until golden, about 3 minutes; transfer to same bowl (no oil will remain in skillet). Working in batches, sauté a few chiles at a time in same dry skillet, 10 seconds per side; transfer to same bowl. Sauté prunes 2 minutes; transfer to same bowl. Add all spices to skillet and stir 30 seconds. Transfer to same bowl.

Using tongs, turn tortillas over gas flame or in dry skillet over medium-high heat until black spots appear on both sides, about 1 minute. Crumble tortillas into same bowl. Add 9 cups broth to bowl; press down on all ingredients to submerge. Let soak 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree contents of bowl in blender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if needed, until almost smooth. Transfer to heavy large pot and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer mole 1 hour 45 minutes, stirring often and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed to prevent scorching. (Mole will be very thick and will measure about 8 cups.) Stir in vinegar. Season mole generously with salt. (Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

Turkey: Combine first 9 ingredients in processor; blend until marinade is almost smooth. Rub marinade all over turkey breast halves. Place turkey in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish; pour remaining marinade over. Cover and chill overnight.

Remove turkey from marinade, allowing some marinade to cling to turkey. Sprinkle turkey with salt and pepper. Place 1 pound bacon slices side by side on work surface, overlapping slightly. Place 1 turkey breast half, rounded side down, atop bacon. Wrap bacon around turkey breast, stretching slices slightly to cover turkey. Secure with toothpicks to hold bacon in place, then tie with kitchen string to secure bacon. Remove toothpicks. Repeat with second turkey breast half and remaining bacon. Place turkey breasts on large rimmed baking sheet. (This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place turkey in oven and roast 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of turkey registers 155°F, about 35 minutes. Remove from oven; let turkey rest 15 minutes (internal temperature will reach 162°F).

Cut turkey breasts crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Ladle generous amount of Hazelnut Mole on large platter. Arrange turkey slices atop mole; sprinkle with parsley and serve. This Epicurious recipe is a favorite of ours to prepare, and a nice alternative to traditional Thanksgiving turkeys.

Cranberry-Apple Crisp by Olivia Leigh


6-7 Medium Apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small chunks. (You can use any suitable baking apples; semi-tart ones work quite well here.)
1 bag of cranberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups of sugar (to taste)


1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat over to 350 degree and spray or grease a 9x13 baking pan.
Mix filling ingredients in a large bowl, stirring gently to mix in sugar. Pour into pan.
Stir together dry topping ingredients in a medium bowl.
Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two dinner knives until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Cover the filling with the topping ingredients and lightly pat down.
Bake for one hour until topping is golden brown.

Ginger Cranberry-Pear Tartlets by Laura Oppenheimer

We rarely have room for dessert after eating the rest of the Thanksgiving meal. Thank god for these mini-tartlets, courtesy of Fine Cooking magazine. Made in muffin tins, each tartlet is just big enough to give you the sweetness you've been craving, without a sugar overload.


10 1/8 oz. (2 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour 1/3 cup superfine sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch cubes
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbs. cold water
¾ tsp. vanilla extract

Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse 3 to 4 times to blend. Distribute the butter in the bowl and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to I0 seconds. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, egg yolk, water, and vanilla with a fork. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture and process until the mixture just begins to form a mass, 8 to 10 seconds. Empty the dough onto a
lightly floured surface and knead 6 to 8 times until the dough is just smooth and malleable. Shape it into an evenly thick 6-inch square. Using a pastry scraper or the dull side of a long knife, score the
dough at 1-inch intervals so you get 36 1 -inch squares. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 min.

Lightly spray the muffin tins with vegetable oil (not necessary for nonstick tins). Using the score lines as a guide, cut the dough into 36 1 -inch pieces. Roll each piece into a ball in your palms (lightly
flour your hands, if necessary). Put 1 ball in the center of each muffin cup. Use a narrow, flat-bottomed glass or your fingers, lightly floured, to press the dough into the cups.Chill for at least 10 min. to firm the dough and then fill the cups with any or all of the following fillings.


3 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
6 medium, slightly under ripe pears (I like Anjou), about ¾ lb. total, peeled, cored, and cut into ½ -inch chunks
1 cup golden raisins
4 Tbs minced crystallized ginger
A few drops vanilla extract
36 muffin cups lined with Sweet Tartlet Dough (see above recipe)

In a 3-qt. saucepan, cook the cranberries, sugar, and orange juice over medium heat just until the berries begin to pop. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for 5 min. Add the pears,
raisins, and ginger. Cook over low heat with the lid askew until the pears are translucent, stirring gently if necessary, 10 to 12 min. Uncover and continue cooking until the liquid is syrupy, about 2 min.
Gently stir in the vanilla and let cool to room temperature; the mixture thickens as it stands.

Position an oven rack to the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 375°F. Spoon the filling into the dough-lined muffin cups. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, about 30
min. Cool for 10 min. Run a thin knife around the tartlets to loosen and then let them cool until they're firm enough to handle, about another 15 min. Using the tip of a small knife, gently lift the tartlets from the pan and set them on a wire rack to cool.

The Beulah by Rob Christopher

1 1/2 oz. dark rum
1 oz. apple cider
3/4 oz. falernum (a sugar cane-based liqueur with accents of clove, almond and ginger found at your local liquor stores)
1/2 oz. cranberry juice

Stir with ice until very cold, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Granny Smith apple slice perched on the rim of the glass. The Beulah is named in honor of Beulah Bondi, who played Jimmy Stewart's mother in "It's a Wonderful Life."

The Road Runner by Chuck Sudo

3 ounces spiced rum
1 ounce amaretto
1 ounce Frangelico
2 ounces heavy whipping cream

Shake all ingredients thoroughly (what this does is thicken the whipping cream) and strain into a martini glass rimmed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar.

Beer and Wine Pairings by Chuck Sudo

Some of these recipes have a lot of spice, so a wonderful red wine pair would be a petite syrah, which would accent those spices while providing a light fruit flavor from the grapes. If white wine is your preference, we recommend something slightly acidic to go with the desserts, like a sauternes, or a fruit wine for the desserts. For the turkey and lentil soup we recommend a porter or a nicely hopped bitter, a bock would go surprisingly well with the brussel sprouts. The desserts call for a lambic or other fruit beer, although you might be able to heighten the clean ginger flavor of Laura's tarts with hefe-weizen or a wheat ale.

Centerpiece photos by Olivia Leigh. Turkey shot via Epicurious. crisp shot via