Food & Drink

Ro’s Recipes: For Your Thanksgiving Feast, Inventive Starters and Sides

When the colonists landed at Plymouth and celebrated their first Harvest Festival in their new land, they did it with what they had, some of which was very different from what they were used to growing, preparing, and eating in England. We tend to forget—they were making it up as they went along.

So, utilizing the ingredients of a now well-established feast, I’m going to look with new eyes at the ingredients I’ve found in my “larder.” I am not going to speak to the cooking of the turkey, because this is well covered in many other venues. All I will mention is that turkey can be rendered dry and unhappy through overcooking the breast. Breast meat has no interstitial fat, so it easily overcooks. For the best results, cook the breasts separately, well-larded under the skin with butter flavored with herbs, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of spices. And put it in the oven a good half hour after the rest of the bird has already started cooking.

Here I am giving you some new ideas to explore, using typical ingredients, to bring a little fillip to the timeworn feast. They will deliciously accompany and gorgeously garnish the resplendent, moist turkey.

People often overload on the nibbles before the Thanksgiving celebration. Have a selection of three or so little bites, to take the rage out of your hunger and line the tummy so you don’t get overly pixilated waiting for Aunt Augusta while the turkey’s tanning to a burnished brown in the oven. A little lightness, a touch of fish, some buttery pastry to protect the tum, are all that’s needed to start the feasting.

Make them small, well-seasoned, with a touch of “different” about them. The rest of the meal bears the tread of the familiar. The nibbles are an opportunity to introduce something with a little flair. “Go on—give it a try, Uncle Joe. I made it especially for you because I know you like cheese.”

The dinner often begins with soup. Here’s a traditional squash soup, but we’re adding some fresh corn, which thickens and lightens the soup at the same time. And, to cut the rich flavor, a dollop of pomegranate juice folded into a sabayon to top it off prettily but with an acid touch.

The main course, the turkey, is accompanied by potatoes and plenty of vegetables. But here are polpetti, potatoes mashed with cheese added, rolled into balls, coated with crumbs, and fried. A light ragout of peas, fava and Brussels sprout leaves, blanched and tossed with butter and a splash of orange juice. A galette of thinly sliced golden beets, baked and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds. Mushrooms with a smattering of cranberries, baked and topped with a hazelnut crumble. And for the vegetarians, a spinach, parsnip, and olive frittata that will go nicely with all the other veggies offered.

And after the richness of the turkey one needs a respite to revive the palate to truly appreciate dessert, so how about a refreshing salad of arugula, mint, celery, and fennel dressed with a pear dressing sorbet?

And, just because it’s Thanksgiving, I think offering two desserts is quite appropriate! A pumpkin trifle with gingersnap ice cream and a rummy date cake that is a close cousin to sticky toffee pudding. Here are some suggestions for inventive appetizers and sides—with recipes for four of them.

Then certainly we will all have plenty of thanks to give!



Sweet potato, kale, cheddar, and maple pecan lollipuff

Carrot tartlets with citrus yogurt

Oysters with roast apple and horseradish mayonnaise

Squash-corn soup with pomegranate sabayon

Juniper and thyme roast turkey with mushroom-hazelnut-cranberry crumble

Pea, fava, Brussels sprout–leaf ragout with orange butter sauce

Golden beet galette with pumpkin seed crumble

Potato-cheddar polpetti

Spinach, parsnip, olive frittata with pickled radish

Arugula, mint, celery and fennel salad with pear sorbet dressing

Pumpkin-raisin-pecan trifle with gingersnap ice cream and Bourbon caramel

Rummy-date cake with banana cream


Sweet Potato, Kale, Cheddar, and Maple Pecan Lollipuff


Yield:  Six amuse portions—about 36 puffs

Equipment: two-quart saucepan, wooden spoon, measuring cups and spoons, small saucepan, small metal mixing bowl, rolling pin, small pastry brush, small sheet tray, 6-inch wooden skewers

Ingredients for filling:

2 tablespoons butter
¼ C minced shallots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 C finely diced sweet potato
¼ teaspoon chipotle in adobo sauce or minced jalapeño
2 teaspoons toasted ground cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 C blanched, chopped kale, stems removed
1 tablespoon flour

1 C grated cheddar
1 whisked egg

1 tablespoon butter
1/3 C rough chopped shelled pecans
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

2 sheets store-bought Dufour puff pastry
Flour for dusting board
1 egg

36 six-inch wooden skewers


For the filling, heat a two-quart saucepan. Add butter. When melted and bubbling, add shallots and sauté till light golden. Add garlic and cook for two minutes.
Add diced sweet potato and stir to coat.
Add chipotle, cumin, cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper.
Cook till all are combined and potatoes almost tender.
Fold in blanched kale and flour, stirring. Cook another two minutes.
Melt butter in small saucepan. Add pecans and toast lightly. Add maple syrup and vinegar. Cook till syrupy.
While mixture is cooling, butter the insides of mini muffin tin tray.
Roll and trim puff pastry into 2¼-inch squares.
Add kale, cheddar and pecans to filling. When all combined, fold in whisked egg.
Lightly brush the pastry square edges with egg wash.
Place a teaspoon of filling in center of pastry. Take opposite corners of pastry and pinch together. Take the other two corners and pinch together, pull the four corners together, and seal into a nub. Place nub side down in muffin tin. Repeat until all are complete.
Brush the pastry packages with egg wash.
Place muffin pan on small sheet tray and bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes, till golden brown.
Skewer when cool.
Reheat for service.



Oysters with Roast Apple and Horseradish Mayonnaise


Yield:  Six amuse portions—about 36 amuse
Equipment: small sauté pan, measuring cups and spoons, small metal mixing bowl, small rubber spatula, small fine-wire whisk, 12 Chinese soup spoons

36 small oysters shucked by fishmonger and packed with oyster jus

1 teaspoon butter
1 Granny Smith apple
2 tablespoons sugar

¼ C drained bottled horseradish
¼ C Hellman’s mayonnaise
3 tablespoons heavy cream, whipped

1 tablespoon finely minced chives


For the apple: peel, core and dice the apple into ¼-inch squares. Toss them in sugar. Heat a small sauté pan and add the butter. When the butter is bubbling, toss in half the diced apple. Sauté over high heat till golden brown. Transfer to cold plate to cool. Repeat with the second batch. Chill till very cold.

For the horseradish mayonnaise, combine the drained horseradish in a bowl with the mayonnaise. Fold in the whipped cream. Chill.

To serve, put an oyster on a Chinese soupspoon. Top with a few pieces of roasted apple, dollop with a teaspoon of horseradish mayonnaise, and sprinkle with some minced chives.



Pea, Fava, Brussels Sprout–Leaf Ragout with Orange Butter Sauce

Yield:  Six side dish portions

Equipment: four-quart saucepan, measuring cups and spoons, wooden spoon

2 tablespoons sweet butter
¼ C minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced thyme
1 bay leaf, torn in half

¼ C white wine
½ C orange juice
½ C vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ C green peas –frozen are OK
1 ½ C shucked, peeled, blanched fava beans
2 C Brussels sprouts, trimmed into leaves
½ C sweet butter, cut in tablespoon-sized blocks
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat a large sauté pan. Over moderately high heat, add shallots and sauté to golden. Add thyme and bay leaf.
Add wine, orange juice, stock, and sugar. Bring to the boil and cook over moderately low heat to develop flavor.

Add blanched fava beans and cook on high heat for three minutes. Add peas and cook for one minute.
Add Brussels sprout leaves.

Season with salt and pepper

Lower heat and add butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring to make a “coating” emulsion.

Check again for seasoning. The vegetables should all remain bright green in color and be tender-crisp with a gentle wash of orange butter emulsion.



Potato-Cheddar Polpetti

Yield:  Six side dish portions

Equipment: half-sheet tray or roasting pan, potato ricer, small saucepan, measuring cups and spoons, micro-plane grater, three-quart saucepan or fryer, three medium bowls, heavy-gauge wire whisk, kitchen paper, slotted spoon, spider


6 washed Idaho potatoes

1 C heavy cream
¼ C sweet butter
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 C grated Parmesan

Vegetable oil—for deep-frying
1 C flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 C toasted bread crumbs–sifted

Prick the potatoes a few times. Place on sheet tray and bake till very soft, about one hour.
While the potatoes are baking, prepare the other ingredients. Heat the cream, butter, and seasonings in a small saucepan.
Holding each potato with a clean kitchen towel, scoop the flesh into a ricer fitted with a fine-holed die. Rice into a medium bowl.
Whip in the warmed cream mixture till well combined. Add cheese.
Heat vegetable oil up to one-third depth in medium saucepan to 350 degrees.
Measure into quarter-cup scoops. Dust the palms of your hands with flour and gently roll potatoes into balls. Toss each potato ball into flour, covering with thin coating of flour. Transfer to bowl with egg. Coat well with egg. Transfer with slotted spoon to breadcrumbs, ensuring that crumb covering is complete. Fry in oil till golden brown. Remove to sheet tray lined with paper towel. Repeat till all potato balls are fried.
To serve, reheat on sheet tray.

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