Corinne Trang, author of The Asian Grill, and local Fairfield County resident, is back with some holiday recipes that will get you eating out of the traditional Thanksgiving box.
Thanksgiving is a holiday my family adopted when we moved from France to the U.S. in 1978. And eating turkey on that day meant that the bird would never be seen again at our Christmas table as tradition dictated in the past. Our new American holiday quickly became another excuse to get together with family and friends and eat all day until our stomachs would burst. In that way, we were no different than other families joyfully eating their way through a 20-pound plus bird, side dishes, and desserts, except that…
Our first few Thanksgiving celebrations were French-style. A typical meal at the Trangs was composed of a pumpkin soup appetizer (we could never get used to spiced pumpkin pie), a generously buttered bird that was salted, peppered, and roasted, the juices kept and served at the table somewhat grease-free. The Brussels sprouts were buttered and sautéed. The potatoes were buttered and sautéed and tossed with freshly minced garlic and parsley, a delicious mixture the French call “persillade.” The salad was tossed in a classic Dijon mustard and red wine vinaigrette, and was enjoyed after the main course and before the half a dozen cheeses. For dessert an apple tarte Tatin, and flan, an egg custard, and other pastries my brothers would gift us with over the years. The two American classics served at our Thanksgiving table were bread stuffing and a sweet and tart cranberry sauce, which Mom made from scratch, refusing to serve the one that jiggled out of the can (one can only be grateful for that!).
Our Thanksgiving menu was the same year after year. My mother grew tired of it always trying to find ways to make it different. Then, one year I took over the kitchen and started messing around with the recipes. I wanted to enjoy the holiday from beginning to end, guilt-free. I wanted to walk away from the table light footed and comfortable, for I’d rolled out of the table toward the couch on too many occasions in previous years. And so the butter became sesame oil, the salt, soy sauce, and pepper, chili paste. Ginger, scallion, garlic, and cilantro became part of the mix. The cheeses were gone, the bread stuffing was soon replaced by rice, and the pumpkin soup now had a hint of coconut milk. The ginger and cardamom-spiced cranberry sauce was something to get used to, but after the first taste we knew that the ginger could only complement the richness of the turkey meat. I had been looking for balance in a holiday meal, one that would conjure memories of foods from my childhood spent with both my French and Chinese sides of the family. My new menu did and still does just that and goes something like this…(the only difference this year is that I’m firing up the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker to smoke rather than roast the bird. And, I’ve decided to break down the bird, carving it at the table is overrated in my opinion. Well, at least this year it is. I like extra thighs and the last time I checked, the bird only comes with 2 not 6! Another added benefit is that the bird has more flavor per square inch when smoked in pieces than whole Are you convinced yet?
ASIAN-STYLE CHICKEN STOCK
1/2 chicken or 1-1/2 pounds meaty chicken bones such as wings, necks, carcasses
6 scallions, trimmed
6 whole garlic cloves
2-inch piece ginger, sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
8 quarts filtered water
In a large stockpot, add the chicken, scallions, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, until the stock is reduced by half, about 3 hours. Strain, discard bones, and degrease stock. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
TURKEY SOY MARINADE
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 scallions, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sriracha
1-1/2-inch piece ginger, finely grated
In a bowl, whisk together the soy, hoisin, agave, sesame oil, scallions, garlic, sriracha, and ginger. Rub over and under skin of turkey. let stand for 2 hours prior to loading up the cooker.
PUMPKIN COCONUT SOUP (appetizer)
1 kabocha pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 quart unsweetened coconut milk
1 quart filtered water
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or agave nectar)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons coconut butter or ghee
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned thoroughly and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
1 Bosc pear, peeled, cored, and minced
Pinch of cayenne or chipotle pepper powder (optional)
1) In a medium pot, add the pumpkin pieces, coconut milk, water, and sugar, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until the pumpkin pieces are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Process pumpkin and cooking liquid in a blender until smooth, and pour back into the pot. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until ready to serve.
2) In a skillet over high heat, melt the coconut butter or ghee and stir-fry the leek, pepper, and pear until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and if desired, add a light sprinkle of cayenne or chipotle pepper. Set the garnish aside for now.
2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 large whole garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
3 cups jasmine long grain brown rice
6 cups ASIAN-STYLE CHICKEN STOCK
1 large bunch cilantro, stems trimmed, but sprigs left intact
In a large pot, heat the oil over high heat and stir-fry the garlic and ginger until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and continue to stir to toast it a bit. Add the stock and stir again to level the rice. Place the lid on top and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, scatter the cilantro sprigs on top of the rice, placing the lid on top, and cooking the rice until all the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. With a fork, fluff the rice and mix in the cilantro thoroughly.
ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH SWEET AND TART MISO SAUCE
(any number of roasted vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, your favorites!)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon shiro-miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dash honey or agave nectar
Preheat oven to 400°F for 20 minutes. Scatter the bok choy on baking sheet, and the eggplant on another. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, and season with curry powder, salt, and pepper. Roast until the eggplant is golden, about 20 minutes, and the bok choy is just golden on the edges, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bok choy to a serving platter, scattering the vegetables across the bottom evenly. Top with eggplant pieces and garnish with PICKLED RED ONION.
PICKLED RED ONION
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt until sugar and salt have dissolved completely. Add the onions and toss to coat evenly. Let stand for at least 2 hours, more is best.
DIJON-SAKE SALAD DRESSING
(Great for the Brussels Sprouts and Red Bean Salad)
(Create a salad with multiple textures and flavors. For example toss together two or more leafy greens such as oak leaf, romaine, endive, baby arugula, Swiss chard; then scatter two or more of the following including sprouts, avocado, apple or pear, cucumber, seeds, nuts, and dried fruit such as cranberries, cherries, or blueberries for example)
3 tablespoons rice, coconut, or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet sake
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, mustard, soy, sweet sake, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over salad. Let stand and serve (NOTE: serve the salad in a large shallow platter, so there is no need to toss. The dressing will trickle down to the bottom. There is no need to toss for the leaves would wilt.
So there you have Thanksgiving, My Way, Asian-inspired to spice things up. Happy Thanksgiving!