This year was the first Thanksgiving in many years that I wasn’t cooking for clients and I happened to be at home with my family to boot! I pulled out my trusty menu, played around a little bit and enjoyed being able to find all of the ingredients with ease (no special trips to the shop that carries American ingredients). Why would I share a few of the recipes with you now that the big day has come and gone? Well, because there are at least two of the recipes I use for Thanksgiving that I always think should be used throughout the year, not just on the fourth Thursday of November. Perhaps you’ll try them for Christmas, but really they’re so special and easy to make, that dinner some random Monday in February might be worthy too.
One ingredient used in these recipes that can be difficult to find is verjus. It’s the juice of unripened green grapes and is non-alcoholic. It adds a wonderful flavor to the dishes and unlike some who say you can substitute a dry white wine in its place, I would advise against it (much too strong an alcohol taste remains). If you can’t track any down at your local specialty market amazon offers a bunch and I urge you to give it a try. With any leftover verjus, try your hand at salad dressings or use it instead of vinegar in your sauces for a little zing.
The first recipe I’m sharing with you is for a celeriac and green apple puree. I love celeriac puree and think it’s one of those dishes that is sadly underrated, especially in the US. It’s a delicious alternative to mashed potatoes and the green apples and star anise in this version enhance the celery-ness of the dish and give it a little pep. Really, this couldn’t be easier and would be lovely served with fish or as a bed to your short ribs or alongside a roast chicken.
Celeriac & Green Apple Puree
1 stick or 1/4 pound of unsalted butter
2 pounds of celeriac, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped into chunks
1/2 cup verjus
1 star anise pod
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 cup spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan and add the celeriac chunks. Sautee until they start to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Now add the apples, verjus, star anise, sugar and some salt and pepper. Stir well before covering and cooking over low heat until the apples and celeriac are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the star anise and place the celeriac and apples into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the spinach and blend more. Season until it suits you.
This second recipe has been a favorite of everyone I’ve ever served it to. What says autumn more than wild mushrooms (anyone know a good foraging course in the UK, because I’d love to learn?) and combined with the sweet cipollini onions you’ve got a delightful and special accompaniment to steaks or game. I’ve had to ask my green grocer to get the cipollini onions especially for me when I’m in London, but here in the US they’re abundant and readily available. Should all else fail, pearl onions (or pickling onions as they’re called in the UK) are a fine substitute.
Wild Mushrooms & Cipollini Onions
3/4 pound cipollini onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 pounds variety of wild mushrooms, like shiitake, oyster, girolle, chantarelle, porcini
3/4 cup vegetable stock
3/4 cup double (heavy) cream
salt and pepper to taste
First, the fiddly bit. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and cook the onions in it for about 8 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and allow them to cool enough to handle them. Using a paring knife, cut off the top and bottom and the skin should come of easily. Now, sautee the onions in a large skillet where you’ve melted the butter. Season with salt and pepper and allow them to brown. In another large skillet heat some olive oil and add about half of the mushrooms. Sautee until they’ve released their moisture and are well-cooked (about 8 minutes total). Season towards the end of their cooking time. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining mushrooms. Now add all of the mushrooms in with the onions and mix well. Add your stock and the heavy cream, stirring until everything is well-combined and heated through. Season again and serve.