The Island Garden
Thanksgiving is almost upon us and for the gardener it is an opportunity to show off our growing expertise and culinary skills. Most of the vegetables can easily be grown, and with a little cooperation from the weather, we can go out and pick everything just before cooking it.
I usually start with a little vichyssoise using leeks and potatoes from the garden. To make it, cut equal portions of leeks and potatoes, maybe two cups of each. Use the white part of the leek, cut into half-inch slices, and carefully wash. Dice the potatoes into halfinch cubes and set aside. Put about two tablespoons of butter in a pan and sweat the leeks over a low heat until they give off their moisture – about 10 minutes. Do not let them brown.
Add the potatoes and sauté them with the leeks for about 10 minutes. Season to taste. Add enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover the vegetables and bring the pot to a boil. Cook the mixture until the potatoes are soft – about 15 minutes. Let the mixture cool, then put it into a food processor and puree it. I like to put the mixture through a screen to get a smooth texture, but this can be a pain to do so you can skip this step.
Return your mixture to the pot and warm gently. Correct the seasoning. Remember that the soup will be served cold, so you can go a little over on the salt if you desire. Estimate the amount of mixture you have and add about one-third of a cup of heavy cream. If you like a thin soup, add less cream – add more cream for a thicker soup.
For the main course, of course (no pun intended) we’ll have a turkey and all the fixings. For many, cooking the turkey is the biggest problem of the week. I usually allow 15 to 20 minutes per pound in the oven for a stuffed bird, but a more reliable indicator is to use a meat thermometer and remove the bird when the internal temperature is 160 degrees.
But first it needs to be stuffed, or dressed as some people say. The stuffing can come from your garden. Well, some of it can. I often make a sage, sausage, apple and onion stuffing using garden onions, sage and parsley. Do not put the stuffing in the bird until you are ready to put it in the oven.
For the main-course vegetables – the potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, turnip, parsnip and squash – they have been freshly dug from the garden. There are also some chard and other greens in the ground, so they will probably be used as well. This year the weather has cooperated and the ground is not frozen. The only things that come from the store are the cranberries and sweet potatoes. We don’t have a long enough season around here to grow sweet potatoes, but I did manage to get two in the greenhouse bed this summer, but I already ate them!
I like to roast the potatoes in oil and then I peel and slice them into quarters, then parboil them, which means heat the potatoes until the water boils and then boil them for maybe two minutes.
The water is drained off and the potatoes are allowed to dry. They are then slid gently into a dish of olive oil and placed in an oven at 350 to 375 degrees. The potatoes are cooked for about 40 to 50 minutes and turned over about halfway through the cooking. When the potatoes are soft when pierced by a knife, they are ready. The skin should be nice and brown and the interior meltingly soft. Sprinkle them with some chopped rosemary and parsley and you are good to go.
Parsnip, turnip and carrots can also be roasted on a baking sheet. Just sprinkle with olive oil and put them in an oven over the potatoes. As soon as the vegetables are soft, take them out and either chop them into rough cubes about one-quarter inch in size or roughly chop in a food processor. Drizzle with butter or olive oil, sprinkle with cracked fresh pepper and serve.
Brussels sprouts can be boiled until tender, then slid into a buttered pan. Rock the pan to roll the brussels sprouts around and get them coated with butter. Season to taste and sprinkle with chopped almonds that you have browned in the oven. Serve them hot.
Broccoli gets a similar treatment, only cherry tomatoes are slipped into the pan when they are buttered. Season to taste. Serve when the broccoli is bright green and the tomatoes are bright red.
The squash, butternut is best, can be boiled or roasted, seasoned and then pureed. Top it with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
With most of the vegetables from your garden, Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t need to be a huge splurge, nor need it be less than wholesome. All you need to do is have grown the veggies.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.