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Thanksgiving for the Hard-to-Please

Sara Deseran and Carolyn Alburger | November 28, 2013 | Story Ingredient

With all the gluten-, dairy-, and meat-free types infiltrating Thanksgiving tables across the Bay Area, crafting a holiday feast is getting harder. Add the social pressure of scoring a humanely raised, locally farmed bird, and the stress could spur you to drink. But hold on to your baster. Here, local chefs share recipes engineered for the finicky crowd. They’re so delicious that allergy-free omnivores won’t even notice what’s missing: butter, cream, wheat, and—barring the turkey—meat.

San Francisco Wintergin Punch

“To get the effect of a professionally made cocktail, I use a food processor instead of a muddler to bash sugar into lemon peel. A little effort up front leads to a great conversation starter.” —Alex Smith, Bar Manager, Novela

For this cranberry red, spiced punch, Novela bar manager Alex Smith likes using St. George Spirits dry rye because it lends a complex earthiness. For the tea used in the recipe, any chai blend will do. Serves 6 to 8

12 lemons
1 cup sugar
6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup maple syrup
1 740-ml bottle St. George Spirits dry rye
1⁄2 liter masala chai tea
1⁄2 liter water
1 large hunk of ice
Garnish: Freshly grated nutmeg

Zest lemons and place zest in a food processor with sugar. Blend until mixture is wet-looking and zest is chopped into confetti-size pieces. Remove sugar blend and set aside. In the food processor, blend cranberries until all of them are broken up. Then squeeze lemons, collecting the juice in a medium-size pot. Add sugared zest and maple syrup to the pot. Heat gently, stirring until sugar solids are dissolved. Combine liquor, sweetened lemon juice, broken cranberries, tea, and water. Stir and strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove solids. Chill. When ready to serve, fill a punch bowl with one large chunk of ice and pour the liquid over it. Serve with a ladle. Garnish each serving with freshly grated nutmeg, or grate garnish directly over the bowl.

Rice Stuffing with Chanterelles, Pistachios, and Pickled Currants

"To be honest, my partner [Foreign Cinema co-owner John Clark] and I are not big on Thanksgiving, but we love stuffing." —Gayle Pirie, Chef and Co-Owner, Foreign Cinema

Should you be trying to please a table of both carnivores and vegetarians, you can divide this delicious, Persian-esque stuffing from chef Gayle Pirie of Foreign Cinema, heating half inside the turkey and half as the recipe instructs. If you can’t find chanterelles, any meaty wild mushroom will work. Roughly chopped, whole roasted almonds may be substituted for the pistachios. Serves 6 to 8

2 cups basmati rice
1 2-inch knob fresh ginger, unpeeled
4 Tbsp. olive oil (or more to taste)
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups golden chanterelles, cleaned, rough-chopped
1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄2 cup dried Zante currants
1 cup fresh unsalted, shelled pistachios
1 Tbsp. whole cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest
1⁄2 cup chopped Italian parsley
Sea salt to taste

Add rice and 3 cups of water to a pot. Drop in ginger. Bring rice to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until done. Discard ginger, fluff rice with a fork, and set aside. In a sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add carrot, celery, and onion. Add mushrooms and sauté for another couple of minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Season everything with salt and set aside. In a small pot over low heat, bring vinegar to a simmer. Add currants and let them cook for 10 minutes, until plumped. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°. Place pistachios on a sheet pan and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, until slightly golden. In a large bowl, toss rice with everything, including remaining ingredients. Add a little olive oil and salt to taste. Place stuffing in a casserole dish in a 350° oven, covered with foil, for 15 minutes or until completely warmed through, and serve.

Brussels Sprouts with Mint and Chili

“We tested brussels sprouts recipes for an entire season before we landed on this one. The lemon and mint play off the slightly mustardy flavor of the sprouts.” —Brandon Wells, Executive Chef, Pizzeria Delfina

Chef Brandon Wells of Pizzeria Delfina knows the secret to brussels sprout success: Sauté until the cruciferous veggies turn a mix of green and golden. After washing, make sure the brussels are patted good and dry, then stand back. There will be spatter. Serves 6 to 8

3⁄4 cup olive oil
2 pounds small brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. chili flakes Maldon sea salt to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
Handful of wild arugula

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat half of olive oil. Add half of brussels sprouts to the pan, using tongs to place them cut side down. Sauté for about 2 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Give them a stir and allow them to cook for a couple of minutes more, or until just tender. Use a slotted spoon to move them to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining olive oil to the same pan and repeat the process with remaining brussels sprouts. Once the two batches are combined in the bowl, toss with mint, chili flakes, and salt and lemon juice to taste. Toss with wild arugula. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl.

Page two: vegetable puree, cranberry sauce, and bread.

Celeriac, Chestnut, and Delicata Squash Purée

“Although for me Thanksgiving is all about butter, this vegetable purée is topped with a beautiful herb oil that will work for everyone.” —Amaryll Schwertner, Chef And Co-Owner, Bouli Bar

The savory, delicate celery root meets sweet delicata squash in this purée from Amaryll Schwertner of Bouli Bar. The chestnuts may be omitted, but they add wonderful depth of flavor. Serves 8

3 pounds celeriac (celery root)
Organic lemon zest strip
2 Tbsp. sea salt
1 cup raw chestnuts (or purchased shelled and precooked)
3 pounds delicata squash
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

For the Fresh Herb Garnish

1 cup mixed herb leaves (celery leaf, parsley, lovage, chive, chervil, and/or tarragon)
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 hefty pinch of sea salt

Peel celeriac and dice into 2-inch cubes. Rinse. Place cubes in a wide pan and just barely cover with cold water. Add zest and 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Bring all ingredients to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, or until soft. If you are using shelled and precooked chestnuts, add these to the celeriac pan during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Drain celeriac and chestnuts. Save the liquid. If you are using fresh chestnuts, score each one with a paring knife and place directly in a separate pot of boiling salted water. Cover and cook until soft, then drain and peel. Preheat oven to 425°. Wash squashes and carefully cut in half lengthwise. Place in a roasting pan cut side down. Add 1/2 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover with foil and braise for 25 minutes, or until soft. Cool down squashes a bit and scoop the flesh from the shell. Combine celeriac, squash, and chestnuts in a food processor. While running the processor, drizzle in 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil. The purée should be about the texture of softly mounding mashed potatoes. Add small amounts of the celeriac cooking liquid as necessary. Make the herb oil by blanching the leaves in rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds. Strain and shock with cold water. Squeeze out excess liquid with your hands. Then, in a food processor or blender, combine olive oil, herbs, and sea salt until smooth. To serve, mound the whipped vegetables into a bowl and drizzle with the herb oil.

Bourbon-Maple Cranberry Sauce

“Try to have friends and family around when you light a flame to the bourbon sauce.” —Ted Fleury, executive chef, the Alembic

The scent of spices, vanilla, citrus, and booze fill the kitchen when you make this festive sauce from chef Ted Fleury of Alembic. It tastes just as good on vegetables as it does on a roast fresh from the oven. Serves 6 to 8

1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup maple syrup
1⁄2 cup bourbon
1⁄2 cup fresh-squeezed clementine juice

1 tsp. allspice, whole
1 inch fresh ginger, smashed
1⁄2 vanilla bean
1 strip clementine peel
1 cinnamon stick

To make the sachet of spices, wrap all sachet ingredients in a 5-inch square of cheesecloth or a large coffee filter. Form a pouch and tie the top shut with butcher’s twine. In a medium-size pot, place all ingredients except bourbon. Simmer with sachet of spices immersed beneath the liquids, about 5 to 7 minutes. Lightly crush cranberries with the back of a wooden spoon several times during the thickening process. Add bourbon and carefully ignite the surface of the liquid with a match to burn off the alcohol in the liquor. Allow the flame to die out on its own. Continue to simmer mixture for about 3 minutes, until thickened further. Serve warm or chilled.

Thanksgiving Adventure Bread

“This ‘bread’ is different: No flour, no fermentation. It’s basically just a bunch of seeds, nuts, and berries to sustain you through the most exhausting of family reunions.” —Josey Baker, Head Baker, The Mill

Josey Baker was tired of saying no to gluten-free bread requests at the Mill, so he came up with this seed- and nut-filled loaf. Baker recommends making two loaves the day before Thanksgiving, the extra one to sustain family and friends through the day of cooking. Slice and toast the other loaf, then serve with pumpkin butter or your favorite festive spread. Makes 1 loaf

1 cup sunflower seeds
1⁄2 cup sesame seeds
3⁄4 cup walnuts
21⁄4 cups rolled oats
3⁄4 cup dried cranberries
3⁄4 cup whole flax seeds
1/3 cup psyllium seed husk
1⁄2 tsp. orange zest
2 tsp. finely ground sea salt
1⁄4 cup maple syrup
1⁄4 cup olive oil
21⁄2 cups water

Preheat oven to 300°. Oil an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Toss sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, turning halfway through. In a large mixing bowl, combine toasted nuts with rolled oats, dried cranberries, flax seeds, psyllium seed husk, orange zest, and sea salt. Add wet ingredients, then mix with your hands or a big spoon until dry ingredients soak up the liquid to create a dough. Take pride in your mush job—it may take 5 to 10 minutes. Scoop mixture into an oiled pan and smooth out the top. Refrigerate for a few hours to one day. When ready to bake, place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°. Bake loaf for about 90 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a rack for at least 2 hours.

Page three: Pecan pie and turkey.

Gluten-Free Maple Pecan Pie with Gingersnap Crust

“Coconut butter makes the pie dairy-free, but the flavor doesn’t scream coconut. You taste all the nostalgic autumn flavors: maple, pecans, and ginger.” —Anna Derivi-Castellanos, Co-Owner, Three Babes Bakeshop

The ladies of Three Babes Bakeshop recommend purchasing gluten-free gingersnaps to make the crust for this coconut-laced maple pecan pie. Both Rainbow Grocery and Whole Foods stock their three favorite brands: Mary’s Gone Crackers Organic Ginger Snaps, Annie’s Homegrown Ginger Snap Bunny Cookies, and Mi-Del Ginger Snaps. Serves 8

For the Gingersnap Crust:
11⁄2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 30 cookies)
4 Tbsp. coconut butter, melted

For the Custard Filling:
2 Tbsp. coconut butter, at room temperature
3⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
3⁄4 cup brown rice syrup
1⁄4 cup maple syrup
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. bourbon
11⁄2 cups pecan halves, toasted at 375° for 12 minutes

First make the crust. Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse gingersnaps in a food processor until they become fine crumbs. Remove crumbs, measure, and place in a large bowl. Add melted coconut butter and mix until combined. Place prepared crust mixture in a 9-inch pie tin and use your fingers to press the crust into place, creating an even layer on the bottom and sides of the pan. Place in freezer until crust is frozen solid (approximately 1 hour). Bake frozen gingersnap crust on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper for 12 minutes, until aromatic. Now make the filling. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, cream coconut butter. Add brown sugar and salt and mix until thoroughly combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Blend in brown rice and maple syrups, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and bourbon, scraping the sides of the bowl again to insure that all ingredients are well incorporated. Add pecans to pie shell and slowly pour custard over pecans, filling shell until custard just meets the edge of the crust. Bake in a 350° oven for 40 to 45 minutes, turning once midway through baking. The pie should be dark and golden brown, the filling completely set. Allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

And Now for the Easy Part: A Flying Turkey

You can proudly tell your animal rights friends that during its happy life, your heritage turkey from Bill and Nicolette Niman's BN Ranch could actually fly (unlike its modern relations, which are bred to be earthbound). It was also fed a natural, vegetarian diet. Dark-meat enthusiasts will relish its rich flavor. Cooking this bird is the easiest thing in the world. Preheat the oven to 325°. Season with salt and pepper. Soak a clean kitchen towel in 1 pound of melted butter, until it's saturated. Drape the towel over the turkey and roast for two to three hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 150°. Remove the bird and let it rest for 30 minutes. Remove the towel and serve. See for a full list of where to buy turkeys. Call ahead for available varieties and prices.

Food Stylist: Robyn Valarik Prop Stylist: Nissa Quanstrom/Aubri Baik Inc.

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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