20 November 2010
A Middle Eastern Thankgiving
A few years ago at Thanksgiving dinner, a friend who knows about this blog, asked me if I thought it would be possible to do a Middle Eastern Thanksgiving. Despite some people's scepticism, I said I actually thought it was a great idea. Middle Eastern cooking makes great use of spices like cinnamon and allspice, and they have numerous recipes for things like pumpkin and kale and nuts.
My goal here was to do things that hemmed closely to the traditional Thanksgiving, as opposed to just throwing some tabbouleh and hummus next to the turkey. The only real challenge was the stuffing (aka dressing), especially given my great love of cornbread dressing. But a rice pilaf was a good substitute.
On other things it was much easier to find a good substitute, like pearl onions with a touch of tamarind and swiss chard with a tahini sauce. For the potato kibbeh, imagine mashed potatoes mixed with caramelized onions and then baked until the top is crackly and crispy. I've been told that people actually prefer the mashed carrots to overly-sweet mashed sweet potatoes.
As for the turkey, it's a completely traditional roasting recipe that we tested out last week. A good rubbing of butter, salt, and pepper, and that's pretty much it. But it came out perfectly, moist breast meat and falling-off the bone thighs. But the gravy, infused with some reduced pomegranate gravy, is what makes it special.
As for dessert, what could be more similar to pecan pie than baklava, or a sweet date tart. I know everyone has their die-hard Thanksgiving traditions, but hopefully this can serve as some food for thought for future meals. After all, roast turkey should be served more than once a year. Happy Thankgiving to you and yours!
Turkey with Pomegranate Gravy (recipe follows)
Pearl Onions in Tamarind
Swiss Chard with Tahini
Potato Kibbeh in a Tray
Anbari Rice Pilaf
Mashed Carrot Salad
Flaky Sesame Rolls
Custard Baklava or Regular Baklava
Marya's Date Tart
(another good addition: Bulgur Salad with Walnuts and Pomegranate)
Turkey with Pomegranate Gravy
Adapted from Gourmet.
* 1 (12 to 14 lb) turkey, any quills removed
* turkey neck and giblets reserved for making stock
* 6 tablespoons butter, softened, plus 4 tbl melted butter for basting
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
* 1 onion, quartered
* 4 fresh thyme sprigs
* 16 oz bottled pomegranate juice
* pan juices (and roasting pan) from turkey
* about 3 cups hot turkey giblet stock
* 1 cup water
* 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1. For stock: place neck and giblets (not liver) in a saucepan with one small chopped onion, one clove onion, one chopped carrot, and some salt, pepper and any herbs you have on hand. Cover with water and set to very low simmer for 2-3 hours, or until you're ready to make the gravy.
2. For pomegranate: Place pomegranate juice in a saucepan and simmer until reduced to 2/3 to 1/2 a cup. Set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Rinse and pat dry turkey. From the neck, gently run fingers under skin of turkey to loosen the skin all over breast and thighs. Grabbing bits of softened butter with your fingers, work the butter under the skin all over breast and thighs to cover them with butter. Rub turkey outside all over with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with onion and thyme and place on roasting rack in roasting pan.
4. Place in oven and bake, basting with melted butter every 20-30 minutes, until turkey is golden brown and thermometer inserted into fleshy part of a thigh (do not touch bone) registers 170°F, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (If turkey is browning too quickly, tent with foil. If bottom of pan looks like it's burning, add some water to pan juices.)
5. Remove turkey from oven, tilting turkey so any juice in cavity run into pan. Move turkey to carving board and tent with foil. Let rest 30 minutes (this temp will rise to 180 F).
6. Meanwhile, pour off any pan juices into a container and place in the fridge. Straddle roasting pan over two burners, add water and cook to deglaze pan, scraping up any brown bits, about 1 minute. Pour liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add enough turkey stock to pan juices to total 3 cups liquid.
7. Skim 4 tbl of fat off the top of the container you placed in the fridge. Whisk together fat and flour in a heavy saucepan and cook roux over moderately low heat, whisking, until pale golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add hot stock mixture in a stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil, whisking, and add pomegranate syrup, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
8. Carve turkey and serve with gravy.