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By Alice Lesch Kelly
| November 6, 2017
Who doesn’t love a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the roast turkey, stuffing, squash, and brussels sprouts they’ve enjoyed since childhood? This year, though, try taking a walk on the culinary wild side rather than another stroll down Memory Lane.
If your guests are all traditionalists or culinary adventurers, then you know how to design your menu. But if your guest list includes a mix of both, here’s your opportunity to introduce change to your menu.
Mixing Thanksgiving tradition with culinary innovation is easier than you think. New, sophisticated appliances, like the LG Signature Oven Range, which uses gas to fuel the cooktop and electricity for the convection oven, deliver the most even cooking results possible. With advancements like that, home cooks can more easily deliver restaurant-quality dishes — as long as they have the right recipes.
For some help, we asked four of the most celebrated chefs in Boston to share some of their favorite holiday dishes.
Chef Marie-Claude Mendy
If you’re interested in making something that’s a little more exotic (but not too different) than mashed potatoes, try Chef Marie-Claude Mendy’s Puree de Yucca. Yucca, a root vegetable also known as cassava or manioc, and is popular in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa—including Mendy’s home country of Senegal.
“Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday—no gifts, no money, just love and laughter,” Mendy says. “I celebrate it with some friends and always like to make classic dishes using ingredients from my culture and cuisine, like the Puree de Yucca instead of mashed potato. This dish has become an instant hit among my friends and customers.”
Mendy suggests adding your own favorite herbs or seasonings to her pureed yucca recipe, such as fines herbs, a classic French mix of parsley, tarragon, chives, and chervil. “This recipe is the base, but feel free to play with different flavors,” Mendy says.
Chef Shaun Velez
Pastry Chef, Deuxave
Flan may not be a traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but it can be. Add butternut squash and turn this Latin American favorite into a Turkey Day go-to. “Growing up in a big family, we all helped out with the holidays,” says Chef Shaun Velez. “Some of us would be cooking or setting the table—which was always so much fun.”
However, once he went to culinary school, Velez took over Thanksgiving dessert duty. “I would bake all sorts of things, from apple pies to fruit tarts or cheesecakes, but my family especially loved the flan. Now I find myself cooking with my sister and nephew for holidays, keeping the tradition alive.” Butternut Squash Flan is one of his favorites. “The flavors may seem different or unusual, but they work very well together,” Velez says.
Chef Daniel Bruce
Executive Chef, Meritage Restaurant + Wine Bar
Chef Daniel Bruce has been foraging wild mushrooms since he was a teenager, and he uses them in dishes of all kinds. One of his favorites is Wild Mushroom Polenta. “This is a great dish for Thanksgiving as it is the time of year in New England where mushrooms are harvested. The earthy smells mingling with the other aromas of Thanksgiving Day bring me back to my childhood and all the wonderful times spent with my family,” Bruce says. If you don’t have access to wild mushrooms, this polenta is also excellent with supermarket mushrooms—crimini, portobellos, shiitakes, even button.
Bruce shares these important mushroom tips: Mushrooms contain large amounts of water, so it’s best not to wash them. “Instead, gently brush off any dirt that may be clinging to them. Then, slice the mushrooms and sauté over very high heat to remove the water content as quickly as possible to allow for caramelization and color—which add flavor.” Be sure not to crowd mushrooms in the pan, because crowding allows the water in mushrooms to pool in the pan, which interferes with caramelization.
Chef Lydia Shire
It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without stuffing—but you don’t have to stick with the traditional white bread stuffing you grew up with. Chef Lydia Shire uses a type of bread called Anadama, which is native to New England. “What makes it distinct is that it has molasses and cornmeal in it,” Shire says. Anadama bread is available at various bakeries in the Boston area, as well as grocers such as Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, a dry corn bread can fill in nicely.
Shire’s Anadama stuffing also contains figs and salt pork. It can be made in advance and refrigerated. “Smart cooks do what they can to prepare for their Thanksgiving feast ahead of time,” Shire says—which leaves you a little extra time to spend with family and friends on Turkey day.
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