Thanksgiving crowd-pleasers: Asheville chefs share recipes for the big day

GLOBAL TABLE: Addissae owners Neeraj Kebede and Vicki Schomer make sure their annual Thanksgiving Day meal mixes American custom with international flavors. “We combine an American turkey with all the fixings with Ethiopian food,” says Schomer. “It’s quite the spread and a real celebration and thankfulness for our diversity.” Photo by Cindy Kunst

Chefs tend to be pretty busy during the holiday season, but we managed to find a few who were willing to talk about some of their favorite Thanksgiving recipes. Mary Tantillo of Black Mountain’s Dolci di Maria Italian Desserts, Duane Fernandes of Isa’s Bistro, Vicki Schomer and Neeraj Kebede of Addissae Ethiopian restaurant, Chris Sharpe of vegan meal-delivery service Eden-Out Meals and Scott Ostrander of the Red Stag Grill at the Bohemian Hotel all offered ideas for Thanksgiving dishes that are a little out of the ordinary, but still steeped in tradition. They also told Xpress what they think makes for a great Thanksgiving meal.

Ethnic spin on a Southern classic

Vicki Schomer and Neeraj Kebede, owners of Addissae, an Ethiopian restaurant, enjoy a dish called gomen, also known as Ethiopian collard greens. It graces our table each year,” Shomer says. “Certainly collard greens are popular in the South, and these have a little twist. And they’re healthy too.”

What makes for a great Thankgiving meal?
“Each year, our Thanksgiving table is a gathering of dear friends,” says Schomer. “We combine a traditional turkey with all the fixings with Ethiopian food. It’s quite the spread and a real celebration and thankfulness for our diversity.”

Gomen From Vicki Schomer and Neeraj Kebede

A staple of the Ethiopian cuisine, our collards are made from local greens and made fresh every day. A wonderful ethnic twist on an American favorite.

8 quarts chopped collards
4 cups white onion
1¾ cups blended olive and canola oil
1/2 cup minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1-2 green chilis, seeded and quartered
Salt to taste

Sweat onion without any oil or anything; stir constantly. When the onion’s moisture has dried off, add oil. Sautée until onions are slightly browned. Add collards. After five minutes, add garlic and ginger. Cook all until the water is gone. Add salt to taste. Add coriander and chili quarters at the end.

Something different

Duane Fernandes, executive chef, Isa’s Bistro, has come up with a different way to devour those juicy turkey legs – pulled turkey leg bread pudding. “It’s fairly easy to make and definitely a crowd-pleaser,” he says. “It’s also somewhat different so it’s a good conversation starter.”

What makes a great Thanksgiving meal?
“In my family, a few of us will typically help in some form or fashion with the cooking,” Fernandes says. “Even if something doesn’t come out perfect, it’s the fact that we are all together cooking, eating, drinking and having fun. When you put all those elements together, this is what really sets the Thanksgiving meal apart from others and makes it so great. This tradition and the expected flavors are all too comforting.”

Savory pulled turkey leg bread pudding From Duane Fernandes

Yields 10 servings

1/2 stick of butter
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 tablespoons chopped sage
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound of white bread, cut into cubes and dried overnight
1/2 pound cooked turkey leg, pulled and shredded
6 whole eggs
4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Over medium heat, lightly sauté the garlic, onion and celery with the butter for about one minute. Combine your sautéed vegetables with the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add the bread pudding mixture to a casserole dish that has been lightly coated with cooking spray or coated with butter. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the bread pudding has cooked together. If you prefer a crispy top to the bread pudding, simply remove the foil before the last 5 minutes of your cooking time.

The day after

Scott Ostrander, executive chef of the Red Stag Grill at the Grand Bohemian Hotel, says he really enjoys the day after Thanksgiving. He likes this recipe because there are always tons of leftovers, and everyone gets tired of reheating them over and over. “I have used this as a lunch special on Black Friday and also at home for a late-night snack on Thanksgiving night,” he says.

What makes a great Thanksgiving meal?
“For me, the best part of Thanksgiving is getting together with family and friends who you may not see often for a great meal (and some football on TV). If someone else is cooking, it’s even better!”

After-Thanksgiving turkey pot pie From Scott Ostrander

Serves eight

Sweet-potato biscuit crust:
1/2 cup cold butter, cut in cubes
1/2 cup shortening
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 ½ cups buttermilk, more or less as needed

Combine the dry ingredients with the butter in a food processor. Pulse on and off until the butter pieces are no larger than a small pea. Transfer to a mixing bowl and work the shortening in by hand until fully incorporated. Add the sweet potato and mix until combined. Add one cup of buttermilk and mix together to form a biscuit dough; use more buttermilk if needed (it will depend on the moisture content of your sweet potatoes). Transfer to a floured work surface and roll out to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2-inch rounds using a ring cutter or clean, empty soup can. Reserve the biscuit dough.

3 pounds cooked turkey, white and dark meat
4 cups turkey gravy
2 cups cooked, diced carrots
1 cup cooked peas
1 cup cooked green beans
1 cup diced, sautéed onions

Heat the gravy. If your gravy is exceptionally thick, thin it a little with water or chicken stock. Mix the turkey and vegetables together in a large casserole dish. Pour in the hot gravy and mix well. Top the mixture with the reserved biscuit dough, making sure it is completely covered. Brush the biscuits with buttermilk or melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and the gravy begins to bubble up the sides. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Without the meat

Chris Sharpe is head chef at Eden-Out Meals, an Asheville-based vegan prepared-meals delivery service that is also mostly gluten-free. He will be making a stuffed pumpkin this year. He says this recipe is not only delicious, but festive too. “It’s very appealing to a crowd and can fulfill the function of a turkey without being an actual turkey or seitan, and it’s 100 percent plant-based and gluten-free,” he says.

What makes for a great Thanksgiving meal?
“I appreciate holidays whose primary intention is to bring communities and families together,” says Sharpe. “This is the truly special thing about Thanksgiving. Communal meals allow us to look past our differences. A great Thanksgiving offers a break from our hardships, our remorse, and allows us to appreciate the world around us and the work we have done to get to this point. From this perspective good company is the centerpiece of a good meal.”

Thanksgiving pakora-stuffed pumpkin From Chris Sharpe

This is a kind of East-meets-West fusion. Pakora is an Indian fried food, typically made out of chickpea flour. In this particular dish, I added some cornmeal/corn flour, in order to add a cornbread flair.

Serves four to six.

For the pakoras:

Vegetables and fruits:
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chestnuts (or other kind of nut)
1/4 cup sweet corn
3 ribs celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 leek, diced
A few cloves of garlic, minced

A few sprigs of sage
A few sprigs of thyme
A sprig of rosemary
Touch of parsley
Touch of sea salt
Touch of black pepper

Flours, spices and seeds:
2 cups chickpea flour
1/4 cup corn flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons ground chia seeds

Sauté all of the vegetables and fruits in olive oil for several minutes. After a few minutes, sauté the herbs with the vegetables then add to a mixing bowl. Add the spices, the flours and the chia seeds to the mixture. Add enough water or stock to form a thick liquid batter starting with a 1/2 cup and increasing until desired thickness, like a runny paste. Heat up some high-heat oil in a large pan. Use enough oil to fill a small pot deep enough to fry the pakoras. Test the oil to see if it is hot enough by dropping a piece of batter in — if bubbles form, it’s ready. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the oil and fry until the pakoras change from yellow to golden and, finally, to a darker golden color. Pull them out with a slotted spoon and let the oil drip back into the pot for a few seconds. Once they have drained sufficiently, put them into a colander lined with a paper towel to dry for a day, just like you would dry bread for stuffing.

For the pumpkin:

1 large pumpkin (use a really nice heirloom pumpkin for taste as well as appearance)
1 stick vegan margarine, melted
Several cups vegetable broth

Cut a circle out of the top of the pumpkin and scoop the insides out, reserving the top. Add the melted vegan margarine and just enough stock to moisten the dried pakoras. Put the pakoras into the pumpkin and put the top back onto the pumpkin. Bake the pumpkin in a dish at 350 degrees until the outside skin begins to caramelize. It is then ready to serve.

Something from mom

Mary Tantillo, owner of Dolci di Maria, a gluten- and dairy-free bakery, says that no Thanksgiving would be complete without her mother’s stuffed mushrooms. “I’ve had to substitute gluten-free bread crumbs to fit my family’s dietary needs, which is an easy replacement,” she says. “This recipe was passed down to me verbally, actually by practice, so the measurements are not exact.” It’s the kind of recipe that is pretty forgiving, says Tantillo, so experiment and make it your own.

What makes a great Thanksgiving meal?
“Thanksgiving is all about traditions,” says Tantillo. “It’s the launch of the holiday season, and I think it’s important to make it a special day. I find comfort in re-creating some of my family favorites that I grew up with.”

Stuffed mushrooms From Mary Tantillo

Italian-style dried bread crumbs (I make my own out of gluten-free bread — see recipe below)
Grated pecorino Romano cheese (the imported variety is made from sheep’s milk, so it’s free of cow dairy)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
Two containers of large white mushrooms, stems removed

Clean and dry the mushrooms and remove the stems. Finely chop the stems and put them in a bowl large enough to hold the entire mixture. Add the breadcrumbs, Romano cheese, chopped garlic and parsley to the bowl and combine. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Stuff each mushroom cap with the breadcrumb mixture. (It’s OK if it heaps up a little; it will reduce during baking.) Drizzle olive oil over the center of each cap. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Serve.

Homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs:
(I use my week-old Dolci di Maria sandwich bread plus the heels of gluten-free bread I have saved in the freezer to make breadcrumbs.)

Old bread
Italian seasoning blend; or dried oregano, parsley, and garlic powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the bread until coarse crumbs form. Add seasonings and salt and continue to pulse until crumbs are the desired size. Line a baking pan with foil. Place the crumbs on top of the sheet and toast in oven for about 10 minutes. Stir the crumbs and bake an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer.


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