I admit it. I’m not a huge fan of turkey. I think it needs help — lots of help.
An heirloom bird will give you a turkey-er flavor. Brining will make the turkey more moist. Smoking will give it depth. Deep-frying turkey edges it toward sinful.
But in the end, it’s still turkey.
That’s why turkey needs helpers, like cranberry relish, gravy and stuffing.
Recently, I found another wonderful dish that gives turkey the flavor contrast it needs — mostarda.
Lovers of spiced chutney won’t be able to leave this Italian conserve alone. There are all kinds of fruity/spicy mostardas and they’re very pricey, if Dean Deluca is any indication. But it’s easy to make your own.
When I was working on a kitchen garden story about Cody Hogan, chef de cuisine at Lidia’s, he made Green Tomato and Pear Mostarda for us. He grows heirloom herb and vegetable varieties that sometimes end up on Lidia’s menu.
Hogan picked the last of the summer tomatoes from his backyard “test garden.” He served the aromatic mostarda in a sage green and burnt umber hand-thrown baking dish, and it almost looked too pretty to eat. But we did. And asked for more.
“Mostarda can personalize and dress up so many foods — from dessert to Thanksgiving turkey — I can hardly imagine living without it,” Hogan said.Green Tomato and Pear Mostarda
Leave the peel on the pears and apples for more color. If you like, chop everything up when the mostarda has cooled.Makes about 3 cups 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds 1 1/2 cups water 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 3 firm pears 2 firm green (unripe) tomatoes, diced, or 1 Granny Smith apple, stemmed, cored, and diced
Combine the mustard seeds, water, vinegar, honey, sugar, red pepper flakes and salt in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mustard seeds are plump and tender, about 45 minutes. If they look like they’re beginning to dry out, add water as needed to keep them barely submerged. You can make the mustard seed syrup up to 3 days ahead of time.
Preheat the oven to 400. Slice the pears into 1-inch thick slices and remove the stems and cores. In a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish, place the slices in a single layer. Sprinkle the tomatoes or apples on and around the pear slices. Pour the mustard syrup over all. Place the dish in the oven and bake, stirring halfway through, until the pears are tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. If the fruit looks like it will dry out or scorch, add a little water. Remove from the oven. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.
Award-winning cookbook author Judith Fertig lives, cooks, bakes, grills and writes in Overland Park, Kan. She is the author of “Heartland: The Cookbook” and “I Love Cinnamon Rolls,” and the co-author of “The Gardener and the Grill” and the IACP award winning “The Back in the Swing Cookbook.”