An Asheville Thanksgiving

As one of the lucky few who can claim every meal eaten out as a tax deduction, I don’t have much incentive to spend time in the kitchen. Even the prospect of guests to impress doesn’t tempt me to start cooking, since I’m acutely aware of how many more talented epicureans are practicing their art right here in Asheville.

Sweet Thanksgiving: This flourless chocolate torte, with a recipe courtesy the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, is a rich way to end the holiday meal. Courtesy French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

So when it was my turn to host Thanksgiving last year, I stuck to my usual strategy and leaned on the experts. Rather than waste time boiling cranberries and poking a meat thermometer into a turkey, I went shopping. But my goal was not to merely collect serviceable renditions of the traditional holiday staples: I wanted to curate a feast that was unmistakably local.

There are a zillion good reasons to go locavore—most of them expounded upon in the too many stories chronicling the edible trend—but chief among them is the sense of place it creates. Eating puny tomatoes? You must be in Orlando.

After accompanying me to pick up the various elements of my “Best of Asheville” Thanksgiving, I believe my parents emerged with a better sense of our area than any single dish could have conveyed. We went to Greenlife to stock up on Spinning Spider goat cheese to serve as an hors d’oeuvre, fought the crowds at 12 Bones Smokehouse to claim our smoked turkey and corn pudding, chatted with the folks at Ultimate Ice Cream about the best match for our pies (my mother’s contribution, smuggled south from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor: The willingness to order out must be hereditary) and had a pint at French Broad Brewing Company, which provided the beer for our holiday meal. The resulting feast was delicious.

In the spirit of that memorable Thanksgiving, Mountain Xpress collected Thanksgiving recipes this year from some of the region’s most iconic chefs, food producers and purveyors. The goal was to capture the Asheville area’s unique flavor by soliciting the folks who have been instrumental in its creation. These preparations don’t necessarily make use of locally grown produce, but they reflect an authentically local aesthetic—available even to those who insist upon cooking. Happy Thanksgiving.

Salad, Sunburst Trout Farms

Chef Charles Hudson, who oversees research and development at Sunburst Trout Farms—the region’s premier purveyor of mountain trout – likes the autumnal greens in this savory first course.

Seared Sunburst Trout Fillet served on a Wilted Greens Salad with Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette

Ingredients
4 6-8 oz. sunburst rainbow trout fillets
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 lb. baby spinach, young mustard or turnip greens, or baby arugula
1 each small red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Hudson’s Smoked Tomato Jam
1/4 cup cider vinegar
To taste kosher salt
To taste fresh ground pepper

For the Trout

Season trout fillets with salt and pepper
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat
Add 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil and heat until it dances
Add seasoned fillet flesh side down to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes
Flip fish over and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes
Remove from pan, drain on paper towels, and keep warm

For the Wilted Greens

Thoroughly wash and dry your Greens, tear or cut, if preferred, into 1/2” pieces; reserve in a large heat proof bowl
Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat
Add olive oil and heat until it dances
Add thinly sliced onion and sauté until translucent
Add vinegar and Smoked Tomato Jam, stir until well combined
Bring this mixture to a boil and pour over greens
Toss greens and dressing with tongs
Place wilted greens on plate and top with seared trout

Soup, The Market Place

Mark Rosenstein, owner of The Market Place, suggests ramping up this soup’s Appalachian flavor by garnishing it with thin slices of Benton’s Country Ham, cured in Tennessee.

Candy Roaster Pumpkin & Thyme Soup
Yield: 10 servings

2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 bunch celery, diced
1/4 medium-size candy roaster pumpkin
1 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp Olive oil
small bunch of fresh thyme—leaves picked from the stems, reserve the stems
1 1/2 tsp Salt
3/4 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp mace
2 quarts chicken stock
1/4 quart heavy cream

Method

Split the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds. In a moderate oven—350 F—roast the pumpkin on a baking pan, cut side down, until the flesh is soft. Allow to cool slightly and then scoop out of the shell.
In a non-aluminum stock pot over medium heat, sauté the leeks, onion and celery in the olive oil until the vegetables are soft and the onion is clear. Do not brown. Add the cooked pumpkin and the stock, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, adding the spices & the stems from the thyme. Simmer 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the stems of thyme and discard.
Puree the soup. (You may cool it first). Return to the heat, add the heavy cream and garnish with fresh thyme.

Modern Version
Substitute water for the chicken stock, omit the heavy cream. Puree the soup in a “Vita Prep” style blender for very creamy texture.

Carnivorous entrée, Imaldris Farm

Walter Harrill of Imladris Farm balked when asked to submit a dessert recipe. “We’ve got a great rabbit recipe that would make a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, and would feature our hormone- and antibiotic-free rabbit meat,” he wrote. Here it is.

Hassenpfeffer

1 rabbit, cut up
4 cups wine vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pickling spice
1 tbsp peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour
1 cup cold water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice

Place rabbit in a bowl or plastic bag and cover with vinegar. Add the salt, spices, peppercorns and half cup of the onions. Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Drain, cover with boiling water and simmer about one an a half hours or until the rabbit is tender. Remove the meat from the bones and strain broth. Heat oil in a frying pan, blend in flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. Add the cup of water and whisk until smooth. Cook until thickened. Add the rabbit, 2 cups of the strained broth, cinnamon, allspice and remaining onion, and simmer for another hour. Serve over noodles.

Vegetarian entrée, Nine Mile

Aaron Thomas, who helms the kitchen at the uber-Asheville Jamaican pasta joint Nine Mile, makes this recipe for holidays at his house.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

3 med. sized acorn squash (halved and seeded)
1 roll of soysage or 6 patties cumbled
3 tbsp soy sauce or 2 tbls sea salt
3 tbsp white wine (I like Chardonnay)
4 cups small bread cubes (I use spelt bread, wheat allergy)

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups chopped red onions
3 celery stalks
4 cups sliced cremini mushrooms (I add a few shitakes )
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup veggie stock
1 cup pistachios, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice

Place squash halves cut side down in q lightly oiled baking pan. Add a 1/2 inch of water and bake at 350 for approx. 40 minutes. Toast the bread cubes on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes.

Sautee onions and celery in 2 tbsp olive oil. Make sure pot is big enough for the rest of the ingredients. When onions are translucent add mushrooms, marjoram, thyme and veggie stock. Cook covered for 5 minutes.

While cooking, brown soysage in 3 tbsp olive oil in a separate sauté pan for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Be careful not to burn. When finished, add soysage and bread crumbs to the onion and mushroom mixture, along with the pistachios and lemon juice. Place the filling into the baked squash and bake covered for 20 mins. at 350 degrees. I like to serve these with a light sprinkle of brown sugar on top when they are fresh out of the oven.

Side dish, Lusty Monk Mustard

Kelly Davis, creator of the satisfyingly sinus-clearing Lusty Monk mustard, uses her signature condiment in this festive dish.

Potatoes with Lusty Peanut Sauce

2 lbs. diced potatoes, cooked
1 tbsp. olive oil

For the sauce:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup Lusty Monk Mustard
1/4 cup tamari
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. lime juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

Mix all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan on low heat until everything melts together, stirring occasionally. Continue warming on low heat for about 10 minutes. In another pan, warm up the (already cooked) diced potatoes in the olive oil, and stir the sauce into the potatoes. Mix well. Serve immediately.

Dessert, French Broad Chocolate Lounge

This flourless chocolate cake is so rich, says Dan Rattigan, that an 8-inch cake will serve 16 people. Rattigan, owner and chef of French Broad Chocolate Lounge along with his wife, Jael, adds: “This flourless chocolate cake will showcase the flavor of the chocolate you choose to use; so save the Hershey bars for the camping trip and get the highest quality chocolate you can find.”

The Torte

16 oz. chocolate, 50-65% cacao mass
8 oz. (two sticks) unsalted butter
6 large eggs from your local hen
seriously, that’s it.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Wrap the outside of an 8” springform pan in a double layer of foil to prevent water seepage.
Line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides conservatively.

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter, cut into pieces.
Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and stir until almost completely melted. (This can also be done in the microwave at 50 percent power.)
Remove from heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Set aside.

Put the eggs in the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer, and place in a wide skillet with 1” simmering water.
Heat over medium-low, whisking constantly until hot to the touch (don’t exceed 135 degrees). Keep those eggs moving or they’ll scramble!
Immediately beat eggs 4-6 minutes on high in stand mixer, using whisk attachment, until they reach the consistency of softly whipped cream. (Note: You can use a hand mixer, but it is less efficient at whipping those eggs. Go ahead and give it a try if that’s all you’ve got.)

Fold 1/4 of the eggs into the chocolate mixture, using a balloon whisk or large rubber spatula. Fold in remaining eggs until no streaks remain.
Scrape batter into the pan and level top.
Place the foiled springform in a 10” or larger pan and place in the oven.
Carefully pour 1” boiling water in the larger pan, creating a water bath.

Bake 6 minutes uncovered, then lightly drape a foil hat over your creation and bake 10 more minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for about an hour. Refrigerate until 1/2 hour before serving.

To unmold:
Run a paring knife around the side to release the cake, then remove the sides of the pan. Wrap a large plate with plastic wrap and carefully place on top of the cake. In a smooth, deliberate motion, invert the cake onto the plate. Gently and quickly rub a hot towel over the pan bottom until it can be lifted off the cake. Peel parchment away. Place serving plate upside down on upside down cake, and make her right side up. Remove plastic-covered plate and assess damage. Or save yourself the heart attack and serve it on the pan bottom!

Berry puree

Get in your time machine, set it for three months ago, and pick up some berries at your local tailgate market.

10 oz. fresh or frozen berries of your choice. We use chester blackberries from Zimmerman’s Farm in Madison County.
1/4 – 1/2 c. sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Simmer the berries on low for 5-10 minutes to break them down.
Press through a fine mesh sieve or food mill to remove seeds.
Return strained puree to sauce pan and stir in sugar and lemon juice.
Cook until puree is heated through and sugar is dissolved.
Adjust sweetness if necessary.

Beer Pairings, Bruisin’ Ales

Julie Atallah, owner of Asheville’s award-winning brew shop Bruisin’ Ales, refused to name any local beers—“I don’t want to play favorites!” she pleaded—but suggested the following imports to enhance an all-Asheville Thanksgiving feast.

Before the meal
Malheur Biere Brut Reserve—Start the celebration with a bier de champagne, or biere brut, a sparkling version of beer made with champagne yeast. Light in color with a big aroma of pear, apples, cinnamon and a fruity, dry finish. Serve in a champagne flute. [11.0% abv]

With the meal
Dupont Avec les Bon Voeux (“with best wishes”) – -a holiday Belgian saison, through slightly stronger than a regular saison, with earthy flavors like honey, dried apples and pears. Slightly tart up front, finishing smoothly on the palate. Pairs well with mostly anything and a perfect all-around beer to savor at the table. [9.5% abv]

After the meal
JW Lees Vintage Barleywine/Port Cask or Laguvulin Cask—a dark, rich, strong sipper ruby in color. More reminiscent of a fine cognac than beer and very warming. Serve in a snifter at a warmer temperature. [11.5% abv] or Thomas Hardy’s Ale—a English old ale that pours dark, with notable flavors of plum and fig with hints of caramel and molasses. Serve in a snifter at a warmer temperature. [11.7% abv]

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