Holiday Family Traditions
I can’t believe Thanksgiving snuck up on me, one of the greatest food holidays of the entire year! Our family’s holiday celebrations are deeply rooted in tradition. For instance, every year we celebrate Noche Buena or Spanish Christmas Eve at my mom’s house in New Orleans with a Cuban Pork Roast and a menu that has pretty much remain unchanged since my grandmother was the hostess years ago. And Thanksgiving has always been celebrated at my Aunt Anita’s home because everyone knows that she makes the absolute best turkey and homemade gravy. It’s even better than your traditional deep-fried Cajun turkey which to my dismay we actually tried one year and I swore I would never make the drive down again unless my aunt was cooking!
But it wasn’t until I had a family of my own and had the privilege of hosting Thanksgiving in Atlanta, following Hurricane Katrina when my family was displaced for the entire holiday season, that I learned how to roast a turkey. And I will never forget my first turkey. Not wanting to compete with my aunt’s traditional Thanksgiving, I invented a holiday twist that would change the way we would celebrate turkey day forever, the Italian Thanksgiving. I made all the usual Southern fixings but with an Italian flair. My first Thanksgiving menu consisted of Pumpkin and Cannellini Bean Soup, Roasted Eggplant Caprese Salad, Sausage Stuffing, Butternut Squash Risotto, Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Cannelloni, Parmesan Roasted Corn, Cranberry and Mascarpone Pie and a Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Hazelnut Ganache. And the turkey was savory roasted perfection, flavored with Sage and Pancetta and accompanied by the most decadently easy Sage and Pancetta gravy that you can even make ahead of time!
Give Thanks for Short Cuts and Make Ahead Dishes
Impossible, you say? Gone are the days when you have to wait until the last minute to scrape up your turkey drippings in order to make the perfect gravy. I promise you won’t miss the fatty drippings in this gravy that’s flavored with white wine, easy shortcut turkey stock, pancetta or bacon and sage. In fact, there’s not a single item that I don’t make ahead because all I want to focus on that day is family, and the turkey itself, of course. The flavored buttery rub will ensure that your turkey’s skin is perfectly crisp and the meat is unbelievably moist and full of flavor. And thanks to this secret cooking method which uses homemade stock to transform your ordinary oven into a super efficient flavored steam bath, your turkey will be done quicker than ever!
Suggested Wine Pairings
If your Thanksgiving celebration is anything like mine, you probably have a whole lot of different dishes, textures and flavors going on at one time. If you don’t want to serve a different wine with each course, choose a wine that is versatile, food-loving and balanced with fruit, acidity and moderate tannins. The ideal choice for the red wine lover is a Pinot Noir as the herbs would compliment and accentuate the earthy flavors of the wine. A Cru Beaujolais would also be a versatile choice that pairs with a great variety of foods. If you like bolder wines like me, try a spicy Syrah or jammy Zinfandel, both of which would accent the sage-scented turkey and stand up to the rich Pancetta in the gravy. If you prefer white wines, a Sauvignon Blanc-based white Bordeaux would be an excellent choice for the turkey and trimmings. look for a full-bodied Chardonnay or Viognier to stand up to the variety of rich fall flavors.