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Photograph by Joe C. Moreno

Thanksgiving recipes from Chicago food bloggers

We asked the folks behind some of Chicago's best food blogs to give us their Thanksgiving philosophy and whip up a few recipes to support it. The result? Twelve recipes, three menus-and not a single whole-roasted turkey.


RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of Thanksgiving activities in Chicago 2013

Nick Kindelsperger and Blake Royer,
We believe hard apple cider is one of America’s lost opportunities: a drink that ought to be on every family’s table, made on every Michigan farm, and available at a high quality for reasonable prices. It’s also what ought to be the Thanksgiving drink, so we designed our entire Turkey Day menu around it.

We immediately discarded the idea that the turkey should be roasted whole. It’s nearly impossible to treat each cut appropriately unless you cook them separately. For the breast, our main course, we brined it in cider to keep the meat juicier during cooking. We also rolled it with cranberry sage sausage, a technique that leads to an impressive presentation, the traditional Thanksgiving flavors and almost guaranteed succulence.

For the perfect mashed potatoes, we avoided lumps by whipping up a batch of pommes purées, an old French standby that uses waxy potatoes instead of floury ones (an important distinction when it comes to texture), then beats the hell out of them with a stand mixer. The results are a vehicle for butter, coming out looking as delicate and delightful as whipped cream. Finally, we confited the legs in duck fat and used the rest of the bird to make a stock. The shredded confit meat is the anchor of a root vegetable salad, brightened with apple cider vinegar. Which, incidentally, pairs beautifully with cider. Just like the rest of the menu.

Rolled turkey breasts with cranberry sage sausage

8 cups apple cider
¾ cup kosher salt
2 quarts cold water
2 boneless turkey breasts (about 6 lbs total), skin on
¼ cup cranberries
2 tbsp white wine
1¼ lbs ground pork shoulder
¾ tbsp salt
½ tbsp sugar
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tbsp fresh sage, minced
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp canola oil

1. Brine the turkey: Combine cider, salt and water in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve salt.
2. Butterfly the breasts: Place each skin-side down on a cutting board. Slice breast in half parallel to the board, stopping an inch from the edge. You should be able to open the breast up like a book.
3. Place breasts in brine 3–4 hours.
4. Remove breasts from brine, rinse under cold water. Dry with paper towels.
5. Using a meat mallet, pound each breast into uniform thickness. Place in the refrigerator.
6. Place cranberries in a bowl. Pour the wine on top and let soak for 30 minutes. Remove cranberries, and reserve the wine.
7. Place pork, salt, sugar, black pepper, sage, cloves, cinnamon and cranberries in a bowl; beat and stir vigorously with an electric mixer until meat is almost uniform in texture.
8. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place breasts skin-side down on a cutting board. Season with salt and pepper, then add the sausage stuffing in a thin layer all over.
9. Roll breasts into compact, cylindrical shape. Tie together with kitchen string. Season outside with salt and pepper.
10. Heat a large oven-proof skillet or roasting pan over medium heat with a tablespoon of canola oil. Place the rolled breast in and brown on all sides until golden, turning gently with tongs.
11. Transfer the pan to the oven, and cook for about an hour and ten minutes or until the inside is 150 degrees.
12. Remove the turkey and set on a clean cutting board to rest. Keep the pan for deglazing for gravy (recipe online).

More recipes from Paupered Chef

Turkey Confit

2 turkey legs
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sage, minced
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 lbs duck fat

1. Rinse the turkey legs and pat very dry with paper towels. Rub them with the salt and minced sage and place in a roasting dish with sides higher than the legs. Scatter the garlic cloves amongst the legs and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
2. The next day, uncover the legs and drain any liquid collected in the dish. Dry well with paper towels. Return to the roasting dish. In the meantime, melt the duck fat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
3. Pour the duck fat over the turkey legs to cover and submerge them. Transfer carefully to the oven and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone and the garlic cloves are a rich, deep brown (but not yet burned).
4. Allow everything to cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
5. When ready to serve, return the pan to a hot oven to liquefy the fat, then remove the legs. (The fat can be re-used for confiting until it gets too salty; then use it to sauté unseasoned potatoes.)

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

2 confited turkey legs
1 pound each turnips, carrots, and parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 pounds sweet potato, cut into chunks
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 cups Mesclun salad greens
1/4 pound aged blue cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the turnips, carrots, and parsnips with the olive oil and arrange in a large roasting pan large enough to accommodate the sweet potatoes later on. Pour in the cider. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.
2. Add the sweet potatoes to the pan and toss lightly to combine. Continue roasting until the vegetables are tender and glazed with the cider, another 30-40 minutes.
3. When the vegetables are nearing done, place the dish of confited turkey legs in the oven to liquefy the fat. Remove the legs, then remove their skin and twist out the bones. Gently shred.
4. Whisk the apple cider vinegar and the Dijon mustard well in a large bowl, along with a pinch of salt. In a slow stream, add the olive oil slowly, whisking vigorously, to create an emulsion. Taste for salt and acidity and adjust as needed. Add the greens to the bowl and toss lightly to dress.
5. Arrange the greens on plates and top with the roasted vegetables and shredded confit meat. Sprinkle blue cheese over the top. Garnish with parsley.

Apple and Fennel Stuffing

10 cups white bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 stick butter
1 bulb fennel, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 sweet-tart apples like Granny Smith or Pink Lady, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 tbsp sage leaves, minced
1 tbsp parsely leaves, minced
3 eggs, lightly beaten.
2 cups turkey stock (or chicken stock)
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss the cubed bread in a baking sheet and place in the oven. Stir occasionally and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, the edges have dried out. Remove bread and turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, and apples. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent, and the fennel and apple are tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Toss the onion mixture with the bread crumbs, sage, parsley, and a pinch of both salt and pepper. Add the beaten eggs and stock and mix well.
4. Pour mixture into a 13x9 baking pan. Cover the pan with foil and set in the preheated 400 degree oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for about another 30 minutes, or until the top is browned and beautiful.

Turkey Stock

raw back, neck, and wings from 1 turkey
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a cleaver, chop the back, neck, and wings into 2-inch segments. Place in a roasting pan and set in the oven to cook for about 45 minutes or until they are well browned. Remove the turkey pieces and place them in a large pot.
2. Set the roasting pan over a burner set to medium heat. Pour 2 cups of water in and dislodge any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour everything into a large stock pot.
3. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf to the pot and pour enough cold water on top to cover everything by an inch.
4. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat. Skim off any foam that floats to the surface. When simmering, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 4 hours. Skim the surface occasionally for any more foam that floats up.
5. When done, strain the stock into a large bowl. Discard the bones and vegetables. Chill stock in the fridge until needed.

Photograph by Joe C. Moreno

Natalie Slater,
Two things are banned from my house on Thanksgiving: turkey and Tofurkey. One defies my ethics as a vegetarian; the other offends my palate. If I had my way, I’d celebrate this holiday that means absolutely nothing to me with deep dish from Lou Malnati’s, but my husband loves Thanksgiving flavors, and he does what I say the rest of the year, so thyme, sage and pumpkin it is.

But though we’re vegetarians, we’re still Midwesterners, and that means we want a Thanksgiving dinner so hearty and rich we spend the rest of the evening in sweatpants. So we’re starting out with an herby seitan roast that’s juicy enough to hold its own against any dead bird. A citrusy, tart cranberry-and- lentil salad replaces can-shaped cranberry sauce. And an onion- and sage-infused “stuffin’ muffin” replaces the traditional stuffing and dinner roll. Finish it off with a dark chocolate–laced pumpkin-ice-cream pie and I swear, even Grandma will be singing your vegetarian weirdo praises.

Frozen Pumpkin Pie
This recipe calls for an ice-cream maker of some sort, but if you don’t have one, you can just mix one quart of vanilla ice cream with a half cup of pumpkin-pie mix and call it a day.

1 9" pie crust (store bought or homemade)
½ cup chopped dark chocolate
1½ cups plus 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
½ cup granulated white sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove

1. If working with homemade crust, allow it to cool completely before starting. Set up a double boiler (or place a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water) and slowly melt chocolate, adding up to two tablespoons of the cream gradually until it’s pourable. Once it’s smooth, pour the chocolate into the pie crust, swirling the crust a bit to coat the edges. Place in the fridge to cool and harden.
2. Place pumpkin puree into a strainer lined with cheesecloth for 15 minutes to drain excess water.
3. Heat remaining whipping cream, white sugar and brown sugar in a saucepan over a low flame, stirring often, until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan (do not let boil). Remove from heat and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
4. Beat drained pumpkin puree, cream mixture, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for three minutes. Pour mixture into ice-cream machine. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for freezing.
5. Scoop soft ice cream into pie shell, using a rubber spatula to level the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least four hours.

More recipes from Natalie Slater

Thanksgiving “Praise Be to Seitan” Roast
This recipe was given to me by a friend who made me promise not to give it to anyone else. Oh well.

1 cup shallots, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for pan
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fresh sage, crushed
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
3/4 cup unbleached flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté the shallots in the olive oil, over low heat, for 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 2 more minutes. Remove pan from heat.
2. Transfer the shallot mixture to a blender or food processor. Add the vegetable stock, nutritional yeast flakes, soy sauce, sesame oil, thyme, sage, salt, and pepper, and process for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.
3. Transfer half of the wet ingredients to a small bowl and set aside. Stir the wheat gluten and flour together in a large bowl. Add some of the remaining wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring well, and continue to add the remaining liquid, as needed, to form a firm dough. Using your hands, knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes.
4. Using a little olive oil, lightly grease a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Stretch the dough slightly and then press it into the loaf pan. Pour the half of the reserved wet ingredients over the top of the roast. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the loaf pan from the oven and pour the remaining reserved wet ingredients over the top of the roast. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and return the roast to the oven. Bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the roast is very firm to the touch. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into slices.

Cranberry Lentil Salad
This recipe is best made one day ahead.

2 1/2 cups water
1 cup French green lentils
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup Israeli couscous
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
dash salt & pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 orange
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Place lentils and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not falling apart. Drain lentils and place in a large mixing bowl.
2. While the lentils are cooking, start the couscous: Bring veggie broth to a boil in a heavy saucepan and stir in couscous. Simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes.
3. Spread couscous on a baking sheet to cool then transfer to the lentils. Stir in olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a small bowl, stir together the green onions, vinegar, and lemon juice. Remove peel and pith of orange and cut into supremes (cut flesh of orange out from between membranes.) Cut each supreme in half. Squeeze any extra orange juice into the dressing.
5. Toss couscous with lentils, dressing mixture, oranges, walnuts, cranberries and parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Stuffin Muffins

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp dried sage
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
dash black pepper
1 cup stone-ground yellow corn meal
1/3 cup vegetable shortening, plus more for pan
1 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350 and coat muffin pan with shortening. Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat; add corn, celery and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the corn and onion are softened, about 5 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, sage, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the cornmeal. Using a pastry blender (or a fork) cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles course meal. Add milk, egg and sautéed vegetables, stirring just until combined.
3. Scoop batter into prepared pan and bake about 18-20 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Photograph by Joe C. Moreno

Dana Joy Altman,
For the last 18 years, I’ve been spending Thanksgiving in the company of friends who are as obsessed with beautiful food as I am. We know that, for most people, Thanksgiving is all about the big turkey dinner. But for us, it’s all about the appetizers and sparkling wine leading up to the meal.

Typically, my friends and I gather by noon and crack open our first bottle of prosecco. Then, one by one comes the triple crème Brie, the bacon breadsticks, the chicken-liver crostini, the cheese puffs, and the platter of prosciutto, Champagne grapes and Gorgonzola (just to name a few). We leisurely cook, graze and drink all day long.

For dinner, I like to counterbalance all the heavy starch with a raw, chopped salad, something with crunch and acid that brightens up the whole meal. This year, it’s going to be my apple, pear and beet salad.

Still, salad or no, this is a meal that necessitates another one of our standing rituals—taking a walk en masse, between dinner and dessert.

Smoky bacon breadsticks
Buy local bacon! I get great bacon from Jake’s Country Meats at the Logan Square Indoor Farmers’ Market at the Congress Theater.

30 thin slices bacon (at room temperature)
30 whole Grissini breadsticks
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1½ tbsp chile powder
1½ tbsp pimentón (hot smoked Spanish paprika)

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Take your broiler pan and cover the bottom pan (not the rack) in aluminum foil. Place the rack on top.
3. Combine brown sugar, chile powder and pimentón thoroughly and place on a tray or sheet pan.
4. Gently wrap each breadstick with one slice of bacon. (Breadsticks can be wrapped up to four hours in advance; keep them chilled until ready to use.)
5. Roll each breadstick in mixture, coating the bacon well.
6. Bake on boiler rack, in oven, for 20–25 minutes until bacon is deep golden and caramelized. (You may need to finish these under the broiler briefly to get them to a desired crispness.) Let cool before eating.

Dana Joy Altman’s recipes

Olive Stuffed Cheese Puffs
My friend’s mother shared this with me; she’s Swiss and it’s her family recipe. I’ve been making these for 20 years and they’re always a crowd pleaser. Use great local cheddar like Brunkow, sold at Provenance Food & Wine and Green City Market.

5 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup all purpose flour, plus 2 tsp if needed
½ tsp salt
¼ cup butter, chilled and cut into 1/4” pieces
ice water
2 8-oz jars of small green Manzanilla olives stuffed with pimentos (the Goya brand at your local Mexican market are great and inexpensive)

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Combine cheese, flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse, adding teaspoons of ice water until it forms a firm dough. Remove, form into a disc and chill until ready to use.
3. Flour a work surface and, with floured hands, roll olives in enough dough to cover. Pinch dough around the olive, then roll in between your hands until each ball is uniform. Place on a buttered sheet pan, spaced ½” apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Chicken Liver Crostini
To me, this is the ultimate comfort food. It’s quick and easy to make and very impressive to guests. Green Grocer Chicago can special order organic chicken livers from Gunthorp Farms and TJ’s Poultry on a weekly basis. I like to serve these with additional capers and fried prosciutto slices on top.

1 baguette, cut into ½ inch diagonal slices, brushed with olive oil and toasted or grilled
2 tbsp bacon fat or butter
½ yellow onion, minced
1 pound chicken livers, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
½ cup cognac or brandy
6 fresh sage leaves, minced
1½ tbsp capers, rinsed
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the bacon fat or butter, add onion and sauté until soft. Add the livers, cognac and sage to the pan until the livers are browned on all sides but still slightly pink in the center. Stir in the capers and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Allow to cool and spread on crostini.

Apple, Pear & Beet Salad
This is a crisp and bright salad that perfectly counter-balances the starch and rich flavors of the Thanksgiving meal. Look into Earth First’s Organic Apples, available at Logan Square and Green City’s Indoor Markets. You can dress the salad with the ginger-buttermilk dressing I’ve included here, or simply with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Per Person:
1 crisp apple
1 firm but not quite ripe pear
1 medium-sized raw beet
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger or more to taste
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice or more to taste
kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste

1. Using a knife, food processor or mandoline with julienne blade, cut the apples, pears and beets into matchsticks. (The apples and pears will begin to turn brown soon after being cut; squeeze a bit of lemon on them and toss to prevent oxidation.)
2. Make the ginger-buttermilk dressing: Whisk together the sour cream, buttermilk, ginger, lemon juice and salt and pepper, and toss with salad.

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