We had the honor and pleasure of cooking Thanksgiving again this year for a really great family.
I bought a local turkey as I did last year from Long Shadow Farm in Berthoud, CO. Unlike last year when I arrived at the farm to find a woman seated at a desk in the garage near a large refrigerator distributing chilled birds to anyone who had pre-ordered, this year I walked into a slaughtering/de-feathering/cleaning of turkeys small-scale processing line that I was not expecting at all. Our bird hadn’t even been chilled as she had been slaughtered just a few hours prior to pickup. Talk about having a real understanding of where our food comes from! I have that image seared into my memory… and will spare you the few photos I took.
We’re very fortunate to purchase such a quality turkey, so it’s extra important to me to serve it with all made from scratch accompaniments and sides.
I made the caramelized onion gravy base on Tuesday night. I’ve been making this gravy for more than ten years now, and each year I think it tastes better than the last. The butter and onions cooked low and slow for six hours. Six. Hours.
I started with a full pot and snapped a photo every couple of hours…
…until I couldn’t resist spooning it into my mouth.
Wednesday I made my pumpkin pie, but failed to snap a photo. I also made a cranberry sauce with roasted shallots and mandarin zest.
Thursday, Chef and I cooked the rest of the meal on site in their Boulder home. The beautiful bird went into the 325 degree oven after being rubbed with butter and herbs. She amazingly and somewhat surprisingly appeared done after just under two hours. That was a fast cooker!
I put together a wild rice stuffing while Sean made a sweet potato and chevre gratin, which has now become a Thanksgiving tradition for this family.
The ingredients in this dish are simply sinful- The health benefits of sweet potatoes are far outnumbered by the cheese and heavy cream combo. But, that’s what makes it so GOOD too!
While the gratin baked, Sean worked on maple glazed carrots in a cast iron skillet.
Next, he assembled green beans in shallot butter topped with fried shallots.
We added the pan juices to the gravy base, carved the bird,
And set up a small buffet for them.
We can’t wait until next year!
As I mentioned in my blog post about my Piedra Azul cocktail- La Última Palabra– A Bolder Table was invited to participate in a Dip and Sip Challenge featuring Piedra Azul Tequila and Avocados in honor of National Guacamole Day, which is September 16. Sean and I had plans to invite friends and have a little soirée in our loft, but then Boulder suffered through a 100 year flood, making roads impassable. In fact, we were asked to stay put so only emergency vehicles were on the road, and at the time of this posting, we’re still under a flash flood warning. So, needless to say, there was no fiesta with the $25 gift card we received to Whole Foods nor with the bottle of Piedra Azul Tequila. It was just the two of us, tequila, and avocados.
Before the flood of the century, I had plans to go to the Boulder Farmers’ Market for all of the ingredients I couldn’t purchase at Whole Foods. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen because the market was canceled due to flooding. Most of the farms, in fact, were totally wiped out, so I’m not even sure we’ll have a market for the rest of the season. But, disaster aside- plans changed. When life gives you lemons, make lemon-aide. When Piedra Azul gives you avocados and tequila, make guacamole and libations. It’s simple, sometimes.
When there was a break in the rain we rode our Linus bikes (couldn’t resist the plug) to Whole Foods to grab some Hass avocados, Haystack Mountain Boulder Chévre, and a few other ingredients to make an avocado dip to pair with my tequila tail and some veggie fajitas that the chef planned for dinner after working a ten hour shift at OAK.
The Dip and Sip Challenge is straightforward: Create a unique avocado dip and tequila libation. We received a $25 gift card to Whole Foods, a bottle of Piedra Azul Blanco Tequila, and Gaby Dalkin’s cookbook Absolutely Avocados.
When I lived in Santiago de Chile, I ate avocados every single day. After moving to Boulder and seeing a $2-$3 price tag per avocado, I pretty much made them a food specialty item in my kitchen. So, I was eager to accept the challenge, the gift card, and the cook book since I absolutely LOVE avocados. Disastrous flooding canceled our party, but the bright side is Sean and I had two days of serious avocado indulgence, which is not custom in our home.
Sean made a caramelized onion chipotle chévre guacamole for dipping with chips and spreading on fajitas. The recipe is straightforward:
Caramelize a yellow onion in olive oil. If you’ve never caramelized an onion before, it’s easy. Slice them thinly and add them to a hot pan with olive oil. Turn down the heat and let them slowly turn brown over 30-40 minutes, agitating them occasionally.
The caramelized goodness went into a food processor with a log of locally made Boulder Chévre and a couple chipotle peppers from a can of San Marcos Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce purchased at Whole Foods.
While Sean sliced the avocados, I had a giddy-as-a-school-girl-look on my face. But, we have no photo of that. Just the aguacates.
The final steps are simple- add the caramelized onion chipotle chévre mixture to mashed avocado, add Meyer lemon, French sea salt, Aleppo Pepper to taste (recall those ingredients from my cocktail?), and mix well.
This was a fun challenge for both of us. We learned some interesting facts about avocados from Gabby’s book, were both challenged to create something new, and had a great dinner for two as a result.
Three pounds of yellow onions really break down to be not too much after 1.5 hours of caramelization. But, all that time spent stirring and checking on them is worth it. Trust me.
Every year for my Thanksgiving gravy base, I hang by the stove, diligently stirring a pot of gold. The onions will turn into a beautiful pot of gold if done correctly, and it takes so much time, this pot is as valuable, time-wise, as a pot of gold. I suggest you give it a try. You can also scale this down for smaller meals and use it as your secret weapon gravy base.
This year I started with 3 pounds of thinly sliced locally grown Colorado sweet yellow onions. I put them in a 4 quart stock pot, knowing they’d end up as a splash in the pan once caramelization took over. Start with the heat up at medium-high and add two sticks of butter. Let this start to sizzle. You want to hear it doing something.
Give it a stir every few minutes and let the butter melt. Then, turn down the heat to medium and keep coming back and stirring… and stirring… and stirring.
This is going to take some time, so plan to spend over an hour in the kitchen. Multi-task if you can because it really is a long time to spend looking over one single pot.
There eventually comes a time I call a “crucial moment” in the caramelization process because if you get bored and leave, your onions are going to burn. Trust me. As they turn into golden brown deliciousness, start stirring them more frequently. They’ll eventually be a gorgeous pot of gold. So get them off the heat.
Next, stir in 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, a couple teaspoons of fresh thyme and a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary. Mix everything really well and taste it to be sure the vinegar cuts through the fat from the butter. You might find that it needs a little more vinegar and a dash of salt. But, remember that this is just the base for your gravy, so all of those flavorful pan drippings are going to add a rich complexity to this somewhat straightforward caramelized onion base. This can be made in advance, refrigerated, and put on the stove with pan drippings when you’re getting ready to serve the bird.
Enjoy in moderation!