Gobble, gobble

My nominee for the next new Olympic sport is Thanksgiving. You got it – the whole darn tooting day. Think about it – you wake up, race to the kitchen, get a cup of joe and start cooking. Don’t sleep in, don’t pass go and definitely don’t collect $200. You are a man/woman/child/elderly person on a mission.

PLATE 1

Because face it, Thanksgiving doesn’t cook itself. While everyone else is watching a bowl game or getting in a fight, you’re cooking. And we’re not talking about meat and 2 veg, we’re talking about a spread that would make a grown man/woman/child/elderly person cry.

It takes planning, it takes energy and it takes courage. Ask me – and this is borderline blasphemy here – it’s the sides that get me excited. Don’t get me wrong, I love a slice or 10 of turkey but it’s the side dishes that get me all hot and bothered. And numero uno on my list is stuffing. It’s not hard to figure out why. We’re basically talking about bread and fat bound with eggs (actually it doesn’t sound great when I put it that way, but you know what I mean).

Plus, stuffing is a carrier for gravy and that’s got to be a good thing. This stuffing is made with cornbread (doesn’t that make it gluten free and therefore good for you???) and laced with a healthy dose of chile and sausage. You can make the cornbread the day before – even sauté the celery and onion (pop them in the fridge overnight) – then just assemble. Stuff it in the bird if you want, although I’m a stuffing out-of-the-bird kind of guy – I find you get a nicer, crispier crust.

Best of all, if you haven’t invited over your whole extended family, you’ll have leftovers. And at the end of the day while you may not get an Olympic gold medal, l.o.’s are a pretty good consolation prize.


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Chile Cornbread Stuffing

Serves around 8

I’ve included a cornbread recipe inspired by one I love from Cast Your Bread Upon the Water by Sister Schubert but use your own, if you want. You’ll want a 9” pan of cornbread. When you’re making the cornbread, add the chile to the other dry ingredients.

Cornbread

5 oz. butter, melted
1 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
¾ buttermilk
2 Tbsp water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups cornmeal
1 Tbsp green chile caribe
1 Tbsp red chile pequin

Preheat oven to 400º. Brush your baking pan with some of the melted butter. Mix the wet ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the dry and stir to mix, being careful not to overwork. Pour into the baking pan and put in the oven. Cook for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool.

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Stuffing

1 cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
2 Tbsp butter
8 oz sausage meat
1 pan cornbread, crumbled
5 Tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro
½ cup butter, melted
2 cups turkey or chicken broth
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350º.

Melt the 2 Tbsp butter in a pan and sauté the celery and onion until soft but not brown. Remove and place in a large mixing bowl. Crumble up the sausage and cook in the pan until just cooked through. Add the sausage meat (drain if necessary), cornbread, butter, broth, parsley, and eggs to the bowl. Mix and place into a greased casserole dish.  Bake for approximately an hour until a skewer comes out clean.

PLATE 2

Gobble, gobble burgers

Turkey burgers? Hmmmm….not so sure. I know, I know. I’m the guy who extolled the virtues of lamb burgers just a couple of weeks ago – but turkey? Here’s the problem. People like to talk about turkey as the “healthy” choice and say things like “replace your hamburger with turkey and you won’t even notice the difference.” It’s like a bait and switch operation where you take one food and try to make it taste like another.

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Why can’t turkey just taste like turkey?

The answer is that ground turkey – nice and lean and lower calorie – can be pretty boring. I’ve been messing around with turkey burgers for a while and I know. You start out with this lean meat and you want to keep it moist so you add an egg but then the whole thing looks way too mushy so you add bread crumbs. You make them into patties, fry them up and suddenly you’ve got something that looks and tastes like a shot-put.

So what do you do? I figured out the key is to skip the bread crumbs. You don’t need them. They are not your friend. They make your turkey burgers heavy and dense. The other key is to add lots of seasoning – fresh herbs and chile are a must. Turkey can take it – honest. Now the burger mixture you’re going to get is soft – too soft to form into patties – but that’s okay. You’re going to scoop the mixture onto the hot pan, let it cook through (no medium rare here guys) and then serve it up with some creamy avocado.

I’ve added zucchini to the mixture too. No, this is not my way of sneaking in a vegetable on you. I’ve done it for one reason and one reason only – it tastes great.

Turkey Zuchini Burgers with Chile, Dill & Mint

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I’m going to be honest with you. This mixture – pre-cooking – isn’t going to win any beauty contest. It’s a bit goopy but persevere because they taste great. Honest.

Serves 3-4

Turkey burgers
1 lb. ground turkey meat
1 zucchini, coarsely grated
3-4 scallions, finely chopped – about 3 ½ Tbsp
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ Tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp mint, finely chopped
1 tsp cayenne
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt
Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

Creamy avocado
1 avocado
1 Tbsp dill
1 Tbsp sour cream
Lime juice
Salt

In a large bowl, mix together all the burger ingredients thoroughly but avoid over mixing as it damages the texture of the turkey. Heat a frying pan and coat with a tablespoon or two of oil. When the pan is hot, place spoonfuls of the burger mixture onto the pan (about ¼ cup per burger). When browned, flip and continue cooking until cooked through. If you have time, test a small sample burger first, taste and adjust the chile and salt as needed.

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While the burgers are cooking, make the Creamy avocado. In a small bowl, mash the avocado until fairly smooth. Stir in the dill and sour cream and a good squeeze or two of lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve on top of or along side the burgers.

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The Chile Trail Thanksgiving Survival Guide: 6 Tips for a Less-Stress Thanksgiving

You’ve tried everything.

1. You’ve brined it. You’ve deep-fried it. You’ve even tried (and failed) the infamous turkducken. So this year I want you to repeat after me, “It’s just a super-sized chicken. It’s just a super-sized chicken…”. Give it a chile spice rub, slather it in butter and wack it in the oven. Set the timer, watch the parade, and chill. Okay?

If you’re still not satisfied, try Turkey Mole on for size. We’ve adapted a recipe from Chef Douglas Rodriguez and our own John Vollerston from Las Cosas Cooking School here in Santa Fe. They have reduced the time and preparation by creating a mole-inspired dry rub you can massage into ole Tom before he hits the oven. Hint: Make a double batch of the rub-it’s addictive-then use it to season Chicken and Pork.

Mole Rub
(Makes about 11/3 cups)

¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup salt
2 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
2 tbsp corn Masa (available in the flour section of most grocery stores)
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground mild New Mexican red chile powder
1 tbsp Ancho chile powder
1 tbsp Chipotle chile powder
1 tsp ground Ginger
1 tsp ground star anise
1 tsp toasted and ground cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
1½ tsp toasted and ground coriander seeds
½ tsp Mexican Oregano

Mix together all the ingredients. Use at once or store in an airtight jar at room temperature for up to 3 months. For the Turkey1 (18-20-pound) turkey; neck, heart, and gizzard removed 5 ½ cups chicken stock 2 tbsp vegetable oil.
Place thawed turkey on rack set in large roasting pan; tuck wings under. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon mole rub in main cavity of turkey and ½ cup spice mixture all over and under turkey skin; tie legs together to hold shape. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. Let turkey stand 1 hour at room temperature. Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 450º. Brush turkey with vegetable oil and sprinkle with an additional ¼ cup of the mole rub. Pour 1½ cups chicken stock into pan with turkey. Reduce heat to 350º; place pan in oven and roast turkey 2 hours. Add 2 cups broth to pan; roast 1 hour. Pour 2 cups broth over turkey; cover turkey loosely with foil. Continue roasting until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175º, about 1 hour longer. Transfer turkey to platter, tent loosely with foil and kitchen towel, and let stand 30 minutes (internal temperature of turkey will rise 5 to 10 degrees). Skim fat from the pan reserving juices. Carve and serve with mole broth that is left in the pan after skimming. Enjoy!

2. While you’re giving that bad-boy-bird a spice rub with one hand, make a bloody mary with the other. Make it easy with Los C’s mix (hide the packet and say you made it yourself. We won’t tell). If you want to get all Martha Stewart, then wet the rim of your glass and dip it in a mixture of kosher salt and chile powder. Won’t you be popular!

3. Everything at Thanksgiving tastes better with chile. That includes mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and candied yams. We’ve even tossed a pinch in the ‘ole pumpkin pie when grandma wasn’t watching. Cranberry sauce? Maybe not. But come to think of it…

Red Chile Scalloped Potatoes
Serves 6-8

3 medium potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced very thin
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon hot New Mexico red chile powder
1/4 cup mild New Mexico red chile powder
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper

Spread potatoes on paper towels and dry well. In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks, cream, milk, sour cream, cheese, red chiles, cumin, and salt. Butter a 4 qt. casserole dish. Place potatoes in a large bowl and pour milk/cream mixture over them. Stir to completely coat potatoes. Place potatoes in casserole dish and crack fresh ground pepper over potatoes. Cover and bake at 400º for 30 minutes, uncover and continue baking until potatoes are tender and casserole is bubbling and nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

4. You made it through the Thanksgiving meal. You’ve ingested 3,500 calories. Now you’re hanging out watching a bowl game and you realize – OH NO! – I haven’t eaten in at least 20 minutes. Don’t panic! Have a batch (or 2) of these on hand when you get those post-turkey munchies.

Sweet & Spicy Pecans
Makes 2 cups

2 cups pecan halves
2 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp chipotle powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp rosemary, finely chopped

Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toss them gently so they’re lightly browned but make sure they don’t burn. Remove the pecans from the pan. Add the butter and melt, then stir in the remaining ingredients. When the sugar has dissolved, add the pecans back to the pan. Stir for a few minutes until the pecans are well-coated. Remove from the pan and place them on a sheet of parchment paper. Separate the nuts with a fork (no fingers – they’re very hot!) and allow to cool until the sugar mixture has hardened onto the pecans.

5. Leftovers. You knew it was going to happen. Whip up some Turkey Enchiladas and feel the turkey glow.

6. If all else fails, forget the turkey. Order a pizza and top it with some green chile. Go on. You know you want to.