Editor’s note: For the past five years, The Star has tapped Kansas City’s star chefs to contribute a recipe as part of a potluck-style Thanksgiving. The menu always starts with turkey but some chefs are assigned side dishes and a dessert. For this year’s all-star potluck menu, I chose one chef’s recipe from each year’s menu.
Maple and Brandy Brined Turkey With Redeye Gravy — Vaughn Good (2015)
Growing up, Hank Charcuterie chef/owner Vaughn Good recalls large family gatherings with his grandma in Oklahoma. She served ham and beans instead of turkey, and chocolate sheet cake instead of pumpkin pie.
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When asked for his take on Thanksgiving turkey, Good relied on the brine he uses for the hams sold at his restaurant. Turns out the recipe, which features brandy and pure maple syrup, works just as well on poultry. So does redeye gravy, made from bacon fat and coffee, and typically served with country ham.
Tips: Don’t skimp on brine ingredients. Choose pure maple syrup. A bargain brand of syrup is likely to lend an undesirable corn syrup flavor.
If refrigerator space is an issue, use a cooler to hold the turkey and add ice as the alternate gallon of water.
Wine notes by expert Doug Frost: With coffee’s bitterness and earthiness as a counterpoint to the sweetness and saltiness of brined turkey, the complexity of the food doesn’t need competition from the wine. What it needs is an enabler: fruitiness. A tried and true choice is Beaujolais, especially a very good one.
These wines show fruitiness but also tanginess, like cranberries. These wines most often see used barrels, if they see oak at all, but the coffee flavors will give the wine something of the aromas and textures of new barrels.
That’s why I recommend a higher-quality Beaujolais: Those are generally labeled as “Beaujolais Cru.” Look for Cru (or vineyard) names such as Brouilly, Morgon, Moulin-A-Vent, Fleurie and the like. Most of the producers you can find in our area are generally good, so don’t feel like you have to specifically ask for Jadot, Duboeuf, Lapierre, Diochon and the like.
Maple and Brandy Brined Turkey With Redeye Gravy
Makes 1 (10- to 15-pound) turkey
For the brine:
3 cups brandy
3 cups maple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
4 bunches fresh thyme
8 bay leaves
1 gallon water plus 1 gallon ice water, reserved
For the garlic-herb compound butter:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped sage
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
For the turkey:
1 (10- to 15-pound) fresh unprocessed turkey, rinsed and patted dry, giblets and neck removed
1 small bunch thyme
1 small bunch sage
1 large peeled shallot
5 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat side of a knife
For the gravy:
5 tablespoons rendered bacon fat (a pound of bacon equals about 1 cup fat)
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups duck or chicken stock
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup brewed black coffee
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
To make the brine: In a large stockpot, combine brandy, maple syrup, sugar, kosher salt, thyme and bay leaves with 1 gallon water. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and add the remaining 1 gallon of ice water. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate until completely cool.
In a large nonreactive container, add your turkey to the brine. Make sure the turkey is fully submerged in the brine using a clean plate. Refrigerate for 12 to 16 hours.
Remove your turkey from the brine and place on a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack. With a clean towel pat the surface dry. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours before cooking. This allows the skin to dry so it will brown and crisp while roasting.
To roast the turkey: Make the compound butter by mixing all the ingredients in a mixer fitted with a paddle.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is getting to temperature, allow the turkey to come to room temperature; this will make it cook more evenly and allow the skin to get crispy.
Stuff the cavity with thyme, sage, shallot and garlic. Tie the legs together with cooking twine and tuck the wings under the bird. Stuff 6 tablespoons of herb butter between the skin and the breast and massage to spread evenly. Rub the remaining 2 tablespoons butter on the outside of the bird.
Roast for 30 to 45 minutes until the skin begins to brown then lower the oven to 325 degrees. You are shooting for an internal temperature of 165 degrees, approximately 2 to 21/2 hours. Keep in mind that it will carry over 5 to 10 degrees while resting. Rest meat for 30 to 40 minutes covered with a foil tent.
To make the gravy: In a 2-quart sauce pot over medium heat, melt the rendered bacon fat. Add the minced shallot, and saute until tender and translucent. Whisk flour into bacon fat and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from scorching. Add stock a cup at a time, continuously whisking to avoid lumps. After adding all the stock, add thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil until the gravy starts to thicken. Turn to a low simmer and add the coffee. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf to serve.
Per serving, based on a 10-pound turkey, light and dark meat, with skin: 789 calories (46 percent from fat), 37 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 267 milligrams cholesterol, 36 grams carbohydrates, 61 grams protein, 1,760 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.
Savory Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Crisp — Jennifer Maloney (2012)
When Cafe Sebastienne chef Jennifer Maloney died unexpectedly last December, the chef community mourned — and then celebrated with a huge party in her honor.
I always enjoyed working with Maloney. And even though she didn’t particularly like media fuss or photo shoots, she loved to share recipes and kitchen tips.
In 2015, she cooked for Ferran Adria, considered by some to be the most important chef in the world, but Maloney admitted she didn’t get what all the fuss was about. “I’ve never related to that. I do not understand it. I cook from my heart. I cook the way my grandmother cooked. I cook very simply, and I think my food tastes good.”
The following is her Thanksgiving interview with The Star.
Do you take the lead on Thanksgiving, or do you prefer to let someone else run the kitchen that day? “For the last 13 years we’ve been getting together with a friend and her family. Once I get there, I start taking over the gravy and making sure everything is ready to go on time. That’s always a big issue because everybody likes to hang out and drink and have appetizers.”
Do you make this recipe every year? “I’ve never made a savory crisp, but I was thinking about doing a casserole, then we just starting getting a lot of squash (at the restaurant) from our farmers. I do a crisp on my menu, and I just thought of putting blue cheese and brandy with it.”
Any tips for how home cooks can get their meal to the table while it’s still hot? Put the plates in the oven for 5 minutes at 300 degrees just before serving. Or put them in the dishwasher and they will come out hot.
Savory Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Crisp
Makes 12 servings
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped into small dice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium to large whole butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into medium dice
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped into medium dice
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1/4 pound Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs (look for in supermarkets and Asian specialty stores)
1/2 cup whole pecans
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
For the squash: Rub a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with unsalted butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Saute onion in unsalted butter until translucent. On a baking sheet, toss onion with squash and apples and roast for 15 minutes, or until tender. Pour squash and apple mixture into prepared baking dish and with a wooden spoon combine roasted vegetables with brandy, sage and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
For the crisp: Crumble all the ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl by hand until lumpy. Sprinkle over roasted squash and apple mixture and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, and crisp topping is golden-brown and bubbly.
Per serving: 218 calories (72 percent from fat), 17 grams total fat (9 grams saturated), 37 milligrams cholesterol, 12 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 141 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Pickled Cranberries and Plum Vinaigrette — Ryan Brazeal (2013)
Brussels sprouts courtesy of farmer Thane Palmberg are a staple of the Novel menu, even though the preparation varies from week to week depending on other ingredients’ arrival. For The Star’s Thanksgiving menu, chef/owner Ryan Brazeal layered several easy techniques to create layers of complex flavor.
He started by mixing up a pickling vinegar for the dried cranberry garnish. Next, he charred the sprouts. “I like to burn things,” Brazeal says. “It adds a bitterness, a carbon flavor and a smokiness.” Finally, he added a soy and plum sauce vinaigrette.
The result: an almost indescribable melding of flavors that chefs refer to as “umami.”
“It sounds pretentious, but having sweet, sour, salty, bitter and some fat creates something. There’s not a receptor on your tongue, but it is something the body recognizes,” he says.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Pickled Cranberries and Plum Vinaigrette
Makes 16 servings
2 cups sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup plum sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts
Canola oil, as needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup torn fresh mint, for garnish
1/4 cup torn fresh basil, for garnish
At least the day before Thanksgiving: Soak cranberries in hot water for about 30 minutes to soften, then drain. In a nonreactive container, dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup hot water and add rice wine vinegar to create a pickling liquid. Add cranberries to pickling liquid and refrigerate. (The cranberries can keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.)
In a bowl, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients and refrigerate.
Thanksgiving day: Remove vinaigrette from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the Brussels sprouts and cut them from top to bottom into halves (medium-size) or fourths (large-size), so pieces are a uniform size for even roasting. Toss sprouts in just enough canola oil to coat them and liberally season with salt and pepper. Spread the Brussels sprouts in a roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer with breathing room in between or on 2 baking sheets. Roast Brussels sprouts for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are lightly charred and easily pierced with a paring knife.
Remove the cranberries from the pickling liquid. In a bowl, toss cranberries and Brussels sprouts with vinaigrette. Garnish with basil and mint.
Per serving: 84 calories (52 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 287 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.
Kartoffelplatzchen (German Potato Cookies) — Martin Heuser (2014)
Martin Heuser has never been “turkey focused,” so when he and his wife, Katrin, opened Affare, they stayed open on a day a majority of restaurants close.
Heuser, who has led the kitchen at top hotels in Germany and Canada, is used to working on holidays. He landed in Kansas City in 2007 to run the Westin Hotel kitchens, where he churned out as many as 2,000 to-go turkeys during a single holiday season.
For The Star’s Thanksgiving feast, Heuser fell back on a favorite dish from his homeland, kartoffelplatzchen (car-toffel-play-chen), Potato Cookies. It’s a dish he still makes at Affare, and one that home cooks are sure to adopt because it can be made well in advance of the big day. “These are great when you have a million things to do,” he says. “Just flash it!”
Although they are not much more difficult to make than mashed potatoes, Heuser says kartoffelplatzchen is considered an especially “festive” potato dish in Germany, and one that is good at soaking up lots of gravy.
Kartoffelplatzchen (German Potato Cookies)
Makes about 24 (2-inch) cookies
Special equipment: Potato ricer
2 tablespoons salt
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in half then quartered
4 slices bacon, diced
1 small yellow onion, 1/8-inch dice
2 tablespoons chopped curly parsley
Salt, white pepper and ground nutmeg, to taste
All-purpose flour, for dusting and rolling
Potato starch, for thickening
1/2 cup clarified butter, for frying (see note)
Gravy, to serve
Fill a large stockpot three-quarters full with water and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add potatoes and bring to a boil, cooking until they are knife-tender, like butter, about 20 to 30 minutes. Strain liquid and allow potatoes to dry and cool. If excess water remains, place pot on a warm stove burner and allow potatoes to dry. Load potatoes into a ricer and press, allowing potato fluff to fall into a large mixing bowl.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute bacon until partially cooked; add onions. Continue sauteing mixture until onions are soft; strain the mixture through a sieve or colander to remove excess bacon fat.
Add cooled bacon-onion mixture and parsley to riced potatoes and mix well to distribute ingredients evenly; season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. If mixture feels wet, add potato starch a few teaspoons at a time.
Place potato mixture on a smooth surface that has been dusted with all-purpose flour and roll mixture into a log measuring 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Cut “cookies” every 1/2 inch across the log, or shape with your hands if you prefer. (Make-ahead tip: The potato log can be made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.)
To fry, heat clarified butter over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet. Dust cookies with a little flour and fry on both sides until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve potatoes with gravy. (Make-ahead tip: You can also fry the potatoes, store in the refrigerator and warm in a skillet or the oven.)
Notes: Durable stainless-steel ricers are available at most kitchenware stores. They range in price from about $20 to $50, depending on the brand. Alternatively, you can use a food mill.
In clarified butter, known in Indian cuisine as ghee, milk fats are rendered from butter. If you don't want to make your own, look for it in the natural foods and ethnic food aisles of the supermarket.
Per cookie: 65 calories (73 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 13 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 571 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.
Browned Butter Caramel Sweet Potato Pie With Spiced Praline Crumble — Meg Heriford (2016)
Thanksgiving may be a pie-centric holiday, but Meg Heriford is turning pie into an everyday celebration.
Heriford doesn’t recall where or how she learned to make a pie, but she discovered her gift for dessert while working at 715 Restaurant: One night she made a buttermilk pie, and it sold out within an hour.
As a long-time “diner girl,” her sweet success encouraged her to imagine “a place to go and sit down and get a piece of pie.” Homemade and from scratch — not something from a “fast-food faux diner.”
Located on historic Massachusetts Street, Ladybird Diner opened in the fall of 2014. But the diner was just getting going when a fire put Heriford was out of business. She reopened the next fall financially “upside down,” but her second time around has been a success.
Last year, Heriford and her baking crew made more than 400 pies for Thanksgiving pick-up: Flavors included pumpkin, pecan, spiced peach, cherry and Douglas County Pie — a “very Lawrence-y,” gooey chocolate chip cookie and nut filling in a pie crust.
But one of her personal fall favorites is sweet potato pie, featuring locally grown sweet potatoes, swirled with caramel and topped with a pecan praline.
Asked why pie is iconic and so often wrapped in holiday emotion, Heriford says, “Anyone who ever made a pie for you loved you.”
Browned Butter Caramel Sweet Potato Pie With Spiced Praline Crumble
This pie lends itself to a two-day process, Meg Heriford says: “You could do it all in a day, but it will taste better if you’re not too weak to enjoy it. We recommend making the caramel sauce, pralines and crust a day ahead.”
Heriford finds the best pie crusts are made from half butter, half lard. Because many of her customers do not eat lard, she uses half butter and half vegetable shortening at Ladybird Diner. The compromise also keeps her pies affordable, but for home cooks making a traditional custard pie, she recommends an all-butter crust.
And, if you haven’t tried it, don’t skip the freshly grated nutmeg.
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie, or 8 servings
For the caramel sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature or slightly warmed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
For the praline crumble:
2 cups pecan pieces
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the crust:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small, uniform pieces
1/4 cup water combined with a splash of white vinegar or vodka
For the sweet potato filling:
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (2 large or 3 medium), baked, peeled and pureed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs plus 1 yolk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup caramel sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A few grinds of black pepper
Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
To make the caramel sauce: Brown the butter in lightly colored or aluminum-bottomed saucepan until it’s a lovely dark caramel color. Strain milk solids from the butter and set aside.
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until it turns dark amber in color (about 10-12 minutes). If you have a candy thermometer handy it should read 244-248 degrees. (“If you can’t find that candy thermometer, you will know when your sugar is perfectly caramelized by the smell. It is the smell of something not-quite-burned, and it will sting your eyes a bit when you stand with your face over the steam,” says Meg Heriford.)
Remove the sugar from the heat and very slowly add the cream. The caramel will bubble rapidly when you do this and might appear to seize for a moment, but it will loosen as you stir. Add the browned butter, vanilla and bourbon. Set caramel sauce aside to cool. Once cooled, store at room temperature in airtight container.
To make the pralines: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss all ingredients together until pecans are well coated. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet. (“Don’t skip the parchment, unless you have a teenager who needs a serious chore by which to punish them,” Heriford jokes.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until sugar is caramelized around the pecans. Let cool completely!
Once the pralines are cooled, break them apart in miscellaneously sized chunks for topping the pie. (“Now find a neighbor who hates pecans and ask them to please hide your pralines so you won’t eat them all before the pie is done!”)
To make the crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. With a twisting motion, cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until pea-sized lumps form. Sprinkle with water, a tablespoon at a time, and work in with the tines of a fork. Gather the ball up into a ball and wrap in waxed paper. Place dough ball in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough in two parts. Flour a pastry cloth and your rolling pin. Working from the center, roll dough evenly into a circle 1 1/2 to 2-inches larger than the circle of an inverted pie plate. Use your rolling pin to fold dough circle and transfer dough gently to the pie plate. Trim edge so that a 1/2-inch hangs over and flute edges. Place pie crust in the freezer for at least 30 minutes and preferably overnight. (Heriford says freezing will keep the pie from shrinking when baked.)
To par-bake the crust, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line the frozen crust with parchment paper and weight with dried rice or beans. Par-bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake 5 more minutes or until golden, pricking the crust with the tines of a fork if it puffs up. Remove crust from the oven.
While the oven is still preheated, prick sweet potatoes and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 425 degrees. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool completely before making filling or you risk cooking the eggs.
To make the filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine thoroughly cooled sweet potatoes that have been peeled and pureed and the remaining filling ingredients.
Pour mixture into par-baked pie crust. Tent with foil and bake for 30 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven. Remove foil tent and finish baking until custard is set, about 20 minutes longer. The custard should be set in the outer 2/3 of the pie, but the very center will still be a bit loose. It will set up as the pie cools.
To serve: Top pie with praline crumble and dollops of freshly whipped cream.
Per serving: 868 calories (60 percent from fat), 58 grams total fat (25 grams saturated), 217 milligrams cholesterol, 79 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 653 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.