12 Whites for the Thanksgiving Table

Try these American Chardonnays for your holiday meal, plus great side-dish recipes and more "wine-tuning" tips
Nov 20, 2009

The turkey is the main event on Thanksgiving, but it's the side dishes that really complete the festive table. As promised earlier this week, we've shared recipes for four of our favorite sides below. And, to complement our list of recommended Pinot Noirs from the United States for the Thanksgiving feast, we've also recommended 12 American Chardonnays whose fruit flavors and acidity will perform well with the rich and varied foods on offer for the holiday. If you've got other wines in mind and want to create more harmonious matches between the plate and the glass, try some of the "wine-tuning" tips below.

For highly acidic wines: Finish hot dishes (sautéed vegetables, celery root gratin, roasted turkey) with a judicious splash of high-quality balsamic vinegar; add a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest to the onions, celery and fennel in the stuffing recipe.

For herbaceous wines: Stir 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and/or a handful of torn basil leaves into the mashed potatoes or sweet potato puree.

For sweeter wines: Replace the leeks in the mashed potatoes with red bell pepper; slowly caramelize a few onions and serve as a condiment in place of cranberry relish.

For spicy or off-dry wines: Season dishes with smoked sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

Leek-Laced Mashed Potatoes

2 pounds baking potatoes
2 large leeks
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 to 1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground pepper
Grated nutmeg (optional)

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 3/4-inch chunks. Clean and trim the leeks, retaining the tender green. Cut them in half lengthwise and rinse them well. Cut them into thin slices.

2. In a large skillet, over low to moderate heat, cook the leeks in the butter until they are very soft but not browned, about 15 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile cook the potatoes. Place them in a medium to large saucepan, in water to cover by 1 inch. Add the salt. Boil the potatoes until they are very soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain them well.

3. Puree the leeks in a food processor and mash them with the potatoes in a large bowl. (Do not puree the potatoes in the food processor, which can cause them to become pasty.) Warm the milk in a measuring cup in the microwave oven on high for 1 minute or bring to a simmer on top of the stove in a saucepan. Stir the milk into the potatoes. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste. Serves 6 to 8.

Herbed Pancetta and Chestnut Stuffing

2 pounds chestnuts
3/4 pound pancetta slices
8 cups dry bread cubes
2 medium onions
1/2 stalk celery (4 to 6 ribs)
Stalk ends and feathery leaves from 2 fennel bulbs
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup chicken or turkey broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: dried thyme, rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

1. Heat the oven to 425° F. With a small, sharp knife, cut an X on the shell of each chestnut. Place them in a pan and bake them (25 minutes for medium-size ones, 35 minutes for large ones). When they are cool enough to handle, shell and peel.

2. While the chestnuts are baking, brown the pancetta slices in their own fat, like bacon, until they are crisp. Discard the fat. Crumble the pancetta into large pieces (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch). Set them aside.

3. Put the bread cubes in a large bowl. Peel and chop the onions, the celery and the fennel. In a large skillet, sauté the vegetables in the butter. When the vegetables soften, in about 10 minutes, transfer the contents of the skillet to the bowl of bread cubes.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and spoon the dressing lightly into the turkey breast cavity. Bake any stuffing that won't fit into the turkey in a separate baking dish. Moisten with broth and baste occasionally with turkey drippings. Serves 8 to 10.

Celery Root Gratin

2 pounds celery root
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (or less if you're using a canned broth that's salted)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1. Peel the celery root and slice it about 1/8 inch thick, by hand or food processor. Place in a skillet with the broth, butter, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then set the cover askew and boil gently for about 10 to 15 minutes, until just tender when pierced; gently lift and turn the slices with a spatula every 5 minutes, taking care not to break them too much. When the slices are tender, uncover the pan and raise the heat to boil the liquid rapidly until it is almost entirely evaporated and there are just a few syrupy tablespoons remaining. Spread evenly in a small buttered baking dish or 8-inch pie pan.

2. Before serving, spread the cream evenly over the top and bake in a preheated oven at 375° F for about 20 minutes. Serves 6 as a side dish.

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree

6 sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and mace, to taste
Salt, pepper and brown sugar, if needed

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Evenly space the sweet potatoes on a layer of coarse salt on a sheet pan. (The salt helps to keep the potatoes from scorching on the bottom.) Bake for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are very soft (this long baking time concentrates flavor).

2. While the potatoes are still warm, peel and chop them roughly and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Puree with half the butter until smooth, then taste. Add the rest of the butter if desired and only a small pinch of each spice. Process and taste again. Continue to add spice a little at a time until the desired flavor is reached. Add salt, pepper or brown sugar as desired. Serves 12.

Note: This puree may be prepared up to three days in advance. Reheat it in a nonstick pan or slowly in the oven in a buttered casserole dish.


CHALONE Chardonnay Chalone 2007 Score: 92 | $25
Exhibits a complex mix of subtle pear and mineral with pleasant earthy notes and floral scents. Tight and full-bodied, ending with a long, persistent finish. Drink now through 2012. 16,801 cases made. -J.L.

AU BON CLIMAT Chardonnay Santa Barbara County 2007 Score: 91 | $20
Crisp and tightly wound, with sleek pineapple, melon and green apple notes that are firm, focused and full-bodied. This is most impressive on the finish, where the flavors are juicy. Drink now through 2013. 12,000 cases made. -J.L.

ARTESA Chardonnay Carneros 2007 Score: 90 | $20
Fragrant floral, green apple and pear flavors are delicate and spicy. Medium- to full-bodied, sleek and focused, with a long, persistent finish that keeps fruit purity at the center. Drink now through 2012. 33,000 cases made. -J.L.

BEAULIEU VINEYARD Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros 2007 Score: 90 | $17
Shows ripe, complex and well-defined nectarine, tangerine and spicy pear flavors, gaining depth and richness on the wonderfully long finish. Drink now through 2012. 15,000 cases made. -J.L.

COLUMBIA CREST Chardonnay Columbia Valley Grand Estates 2007 Score: 89 | $11
Lithe, open-textured and inviting, offering a very pretty mouthful of delicately spicy pear and fig flavors that linger on the silky finish. Drink now. 160,000 cases made. -H.S.

BENZIGER Chardonnay Carneros Sangiacomo Vineyard 2007 Score: 88 | $20
Intense and vibrant, with spicy citrus, mineral and flinty green apple flavors that are pure, focused and juicy, ending with a cleansing finish. Drink now. 14,000 cases made. -J.L.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2007 Score: 88 | $13
This is bright and lively, with a floral, toasty aspect to the juicy pear and citrus flavors. Finishes with pizzazz. Drink now through 2011. 407,950 cases made. -H.S.

STERLING Chardonnay Central Coast Vintner's Collection 2007 Score: 88 | $10
Aromas of honeysuckle, citrus and Key lime are friendly and caressing, fresh and lively. Medium-bodied, this has lots to offer in its array of ripe fruit flavors. Drink now. 345,000 cases made. -J.L.

BOGLE Chardonnay California 2008 Score: 87 | $10
Fresh and lively, full-bodied and smooth-textured, with vibrant green apple, melon, ripe pear and honeysuckle flavors, ending with a long, full finish. Drink now through 2011. 250,000 cases made. -J.L.

EDNA VALLEY Chardonnay San Luis Obispo County Paragon 2007 Score: 87 | $12
Offers ripe, clean, floral and spice notes, with a beam of green apple and citrus. Drink now. 380,000 cases made. -J.L.

FETZER Chardonnay California Valley Oaks 2008 Score: 87 | $9
Fresh, floral and fleshy, with a citrus and grapefruit edge to the green apple flavors. Drink now. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 629,000 cases made. -J.L.

SNAP DRAGON Chardonnay California 2007 Score: 87 | $8
Elegant, with spicy tangerine, nectarine, pear and honeydew melon fruit that's pure, refreshing and well-balanced, ending with a delicate aftertaste. Drink now. 45,000 cases made. -J.L.

Cooking Pairings Holidays / Celebrations Thanksgiving Autumn Recipes

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