Much as we love it, Thanksgiving may be the most labor-intensive day in the kitchen all year. And with the flavors varying so much from dish to dish (not to mention from table to table), we know how difficult it can be to pick wines that stand up to and complement everything there is to eat. So, to help you make your Thanksgiving all the more delightful, we present a menu designed by chef Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington, while some of Wine Spectator's senior editors tell you what wines they've chosen for their Turkey Day tables.
This year, the centerpiece will be a heritage turkey, which has a denser texture and slightly gamier flavor than conventional birds. I put it somewhere between quail and squab on the poultry flavor scale. I find that both red and white Burgundies match well with the meat, so that's what we'll be drinking. We'll open a number of bottles, so we'll probably range from straight Chablis to premier cru-level reds. In order to protect the wines, though, we'll probably avoid the sweet potato and marshmallow casserole.
I'll serve some '85s and '95s, since we're 20 and 10 years after. The 1985 Dervieux-Thieze Côte-Rotie Côte Brune and 1995 R. Rostaing Côte-Rotie La Viaillere are first up. After that, I start pulling bottles based on where my mood takes me.
I like to serve Riesling, and I'll uncork J.J. Prum Auslese 2001 along with a W.H. Smith Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Maritime Vineyard 2003. I love the Smith '03, just incredible wine. Both of these wines work well with the mix of flavors that come with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
I like to start any gathering with Champagne. In this case either a non-vintage or vintage blanc de blancs serves as an ideal aperitif. The whites will range from Riesling spätlese from Germany, preferably with some age, to Alsace Riesling, Austrian Grüner Veltliner (great with herbs and earthy, root vegetables) and Chablis (not too much oak). For reds, I prefer Burgundy with some age. There's an appealing earthiness to mature Burgundy, along with sweet fruit. A friend once said, "Volnay is the perfect turkey wine." Though I wouldn't say "no" to a Volnay with my Thanksgiving bird, I wouldn't necessarily limit it to that, either.
As a native Californian, that means I'll be going for the traditional match for turkey: Zinfandel. I love many of the Rosenblum selections. But I'd also like to hunt down a bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs as well, or perhaps I'll go with a Seghesio. I also want to track down a Mount Eden Chardonnay, since my mother prefers whites to reds. For a starter salad, I'll try to get a Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio or rich Campania white.
Using a vegetable peeler or cheese slicer, shave the Parmesan into "ribbons." Intertwine a few ribbons of cheese and ham on each of six plates to form a small, fluffy mound. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the apple as thinly as possible. Add a few apple slices to each mound of cheese and ham. Over each plate, toss a few leaves of baby arugula, sprinkle pine nuts and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with cracked black pepper. Serves 6.
Place the potato in a pot of cold, salted water. Bring to a boil, add the cauliflower and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain well. Using a food processor, puree the potato and cauliflower, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the cream, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg and process. Serves 6.
Soak the scallops in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry the scallops on paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and roll the scallops in the sesame seeds or truffle to coat on all sides.
In a nonstick pan, heat the clarified butter over medium-high heat. Carefully add the coated scallops to the hot pan and cook until they are golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Do not overcook.
In a medium-size heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the vinegar, wine and shallot over medium heat and reduce to a syrupy consistency.
Reduce the heat to low and, piece by piece, stir in the unsalted and salted butter with a wooden spoon, incorporating one piece of butter before adding the next. When all of the butter is incorporated, remove the shallot pieces and discard.
Add the salt and pepper. Keep the sauce warm (not hot) until ready to serve. Makes 1/4 cup.
To serve: Spoon a few tablespoons of cauliflower puree onto the center of each of six plates. Place a seared scallop on top of the puree. Slice each scallop in half, exposing the pearly white center. Drizzle the red wine butter sauce around the puree.
Note: You'll have to identify and cut your own spruce branches.
Combine all ingredients except the boiling water in a 5-gallon, heat-proof container that is large enough to hold the turkey. Pour the boiling water over the brine ingredients and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it off under cold water. Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Carefully dip the cheesecloth into the melted butter and then lay it on top of the turkey. Place the turkey in the oven and roast for 3 to 4 hours, basting the cheesecloth with melted butter about every 30 minutes. The turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 160° F. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the cheesecloth and place the turkey on a serving platter. Surround the turkey with spruce branches. Serves 12 to 14.
In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until it is almost crisp. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
Add the cabbage and cook until it is wilted. Add the Champagne, chicken stock, thyme and cream, and reduce until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.
Note: You will need 8 tall parfait glasses or Champagne flutes.
In the top of a double boiler or in a large stainless-steel bowl, combine the cranberries, star anise, orange zest, sugar and water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set the mixture over a pot of simmering water and cook for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the cranberry juice in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. When the gelatin has softened, place the bowl over a small pot of simmering water until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
Stir the dissolved gelatin into the warm cranberry mixture. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and add the lemon juice. You should have 2 1/2 cups of strained juice. If you have less, add more cranberry juice until you have 2 1/2 cups of liquid. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the cream, 1/2 cup of the milk, the sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Place the remaining 1/2 cup of milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. When the gelatin has softened, place the bowl over a small pot of simmering water until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
Stir the dissolved gelatin into the hot cream mixture, cool to room temperature and remove the vanilla bean.
To assemble the parfaits: Carefully fill each of 8 parfait glasses one-quarter full with the liquid panna cotta mixture and refrigerate until set. Pour an equal layer of the cooled fruit liquid on top of the panna cotta mixture and refrigerate until set. Pour another layer of the panna cotta mixture into each glass and refrigerate. Finally, fill each glass with a final layer of the fruit liquid and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 8.
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