Few places evoke the spirit of Thanksgiving as well as Boston. Steeped in history, the city conjures pure Americana—pilgrims and patriots. And during autumn, the quintessential New England city dons the colors of the season, bathing itself in a palette of crimson, auburn and gold. Spirits are high, and the region's bounty is plentiful.
"Boston is a large city, but it still retains this family structure. On Thanksgiving, it just kind of shuts down, and it's really great to see everybody relax," Harvest chef Tyler Kinnett says. "Plus you're in New England, with the beautiful mountains, the ocean, the foliage. Add that to your Thanksgiving backdrop, and I think you've got a good day."
In the past decade, Kinnett has spent most of his Thanksgivings in the kitchen of the Cambridge restaurant, which holds Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence for its wine list. But he certainly knows a few tricks for cooking turkey at home. "Breaking it down will cook it faster, which means you're losing less of the moisture," he instructs. "Take the legs off and then cook those separately because those cook differently than the breasts will." He also suggests purchasing a proper meat thermometer, rather than using the one that comes with the turkey. "That thermometer is prone to glitches, and the home cook is left with a really dry turkey, which is sort of notorious now."
For the rest of the meal, Kinnett takes full advantage of the season's harvest, in keeping with the restaurant’s moniker. At the 40-year-old Harvard Square institution, he concocts dishes inspired by the produce he gleans from local farmers, this year enthusing over heirloom varieties of gourds and squash. "Fall is the best time of year. There's something that happens when you start roasting squashes," he muses. "You get those nice roasted flavors and natural sweetness that comes with the food right now."
He shares a recipe featuring this quintessential fall ingredient, roasted autumn squashes with arugula pesto, goat cheese and toasted pepitas. In addition, to round out the table, he recommends two other Thanksgiving sides: spice-roasted pears with bacon, frisée, blue cheese and maple syrup, and mashed potatoes with scallions, cheddar and garlic.
When choosing gourds to roast, Kinnett recommends a soft-skinned variety. Both delicata squash and sugar pumpkins can be eaten skin-on, eliminating the need to spend hours peeling in the kitchen. Don't forget to save the seeds; when cleaned, roasted and salted, they bring flavor and an added layer of texture to the dish. "Not only do they have a crunch, but I love that you're serving squash seeds with the squash," Kinnett says. Arugula pesto brings an herbaceous freshness to balance the caramelized flavors in the squash, while goat cheese adds creaminess and tang.
As for the slightly untraditional bacon and pear dish, “I always try to go for something interesting,” Kinnett says of his own holiday meals. “But it's also not that far out there." This deviation from standard fare is sure to appeal to a variety of tastes, as the sweetness of the pears juxtaposes with the smokiness and saltiness of the bacon. He recommends purchasing high-quality, artisanal bacon because "when you're eating it, you're going to notice that it has more of a depth to it than just 'salty.' "
Appreciation for inventive dishes aside, Kinnett knows better than to neglect the classics. "The key to making the perfect mashed potatoes? I'd start with Yukon Gold potatoes," he reveals. "They're slightly less starchy." He warns of overcooking your spuds, which can render them gummy or watery, and includes white cheddar cheese in his recipe, but purposefully excludes a precise measurement. "How much is too much cheese? For me, it's probably absurdly more than you would ever put in yours," he laughs. "It's whatever you'd like. You can't really go wrong with it."
As for wine, Kinnett suggests two approaches. "If you want dinner to be casual, you can just pick a wine you like, but if you really want to impress your family and friends and give them a memorable experience, pairing the dishes would be awesome, too." Harvest's company beverage director Brahm Callahan suggests three Thanksgiving wines to drink with Kinnett's dishes: a cru Beaujolais, Champagne and California Chardonnay, listed below with similar alternatives reviewed by Wine Spectator.
Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Recipes courtesy of Tyler Kinnett, Harvest, Cambridge, Mass.
Roasted Autumn Squashes With Arugula Pesto, Goat Cheese and Toasted Pepitas
If you're looking for a red that will complement a vast array of Thanksgiving dishes, and especially this squash dish, try a food-friendly Gamay, like these cru Beaujolais. "With bright red fruits and enough acidity to cut through the goat cheese, the earthiness of the wine plays particularly well with the toasted pepitas," says Callahan.
DOMAINE JULIEN SUNIER Fleurie 2012
Wine Spectator alternates:
LOUIS JADOT Moulin-à-Vent Château des Jacques 2012
Dried cherry and steeped raspberry fruit are well-balanced by tobacco leaf and leather accents. A fleshy, welcoming texture is supported by a strong, integrated acidity through the herb- and spice-lined finish. Drink now. 3,000 cases made.
HENRY FESSY Morgon 2013
Layers of blackberry, currant and spice box are underscored by smoky mineral and herb flavors, held together in this medium-bodied red by firm, integrated acidity. Forest floor notes and hints of cedar line the finish. Drink now through 2018. 1,000 cases imported.
CHÂTEAU DE BELLEVUE Morgon Climat Les Charmes 2011
A hint of tarry smoke underscores this creamy red, layered with baked raspberry, fresh brown bread and woodsy spice flavors. Balanced and fresh. The subtle finish shows light grip. Drink now through 2018. 4,000 cases made.
For the arugula pesto:
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 pound arugula
- Salt and pepper
1. Pour 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 smashed garlic clove into the dry container of an assembled food processor. Pulse a few times.
2. In 3 batches, add 1/2 pound total of clean arugula, along with a drizzle of olive oil (just enough to let the mixture spin freely).
3. Once all arugula is incorporated, the pesto should be bright green. Season with salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Be careful not to overprocess this sauce, as it will eventually turn brown.
For the squash:
- 4 squashes
- Olive oil
- Maple syrup
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh goat cheese
- Lightly toasted pepitas (squash or pumpkin seeds)
- Arugula pesto
1. Cut squashes in half, scoop out the insides. Cut the squashes into equal-size pieces.
2. Put them in a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil and a touch of maple syrup, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Scatter the pieces, without touching each other, onto a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and bake at 400˚ F until tender but not mushy.
4. Put the hot squashes into a serving bowl, drizzle with the arugula pesto, crumble the fresh goat cheese on top and garnish with lightly toasted pepitas. (Note: You can save the seeds from the squash or buy peeled pepitas. Some fresh squash seeds can be tough). Serves 4-6.
Roasted Pears With Bacon, Frisée, Blue Cheese and Maple Syrup
Don't wait until New Year's Eve to pop that Champagne, Callahan instructs. Start the holiday season with a bottle of bubbly, a versatile wine to drink with your turkey and all of its trimmings. With the pears, it will "play off the sweetness of the maple syrup, the spiciness of the pepper and will cut through the richness of the blue cheese and the bacon."
DELAMOTTE Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV
A streak of smoky mineral underscores the pretty floral, ripe apple and pastry notes of this fresh, open-knit Champagne. A hint of toasted hazelnut rides the fine bead through to the finish. Drink now through 2018. 7,200 cases imported.
Wine Spectator alternates:
J. LASSALLE Brut Champagne Cachet Or NV
There's an open-knit, almost airy feel to this vibrant Champagne, which carries a concentrated range of juicy pear and black raspberry fruit, with hints of crystallized honey. Shows gingersnap biscuit and verbena flavors on the chalky texture, gaining momentum on the racy, zesty finish. Drink now through 2022. 2,945 cases imported.
NICOLAS FEUILLATTE Brut Champagne Réserve NV
Chalky in texture, this fresh, balanced version features a hint of smoky minerality underscoring ripe pear, candied black currant and lemon meringue pie flavors. Drink now through 2018. 41,000 cases imported.
MONTAUDON Brut Champagne NV
Well-knit and minerally, with a creamy mousse that carries flavors of apricot tart, blackberry pâte de fruit, meringue and chopped hazelnut. The lasting finish is well-cut and juicy. Drink now through 2020. 80,000 cases made.
- 1/4 pound slab bacon
- 6 pears
- Maple syrup (as much as desired)
- Blue cheese (as much as desired)
- 1/2 pound frisée
- Salt and pepper
1. Cut about 1/4 pound of slab bacon into small cubes. Cook the bacon on a baking sheet at 350˚ F until it is golden brown and much of the fat has rendered out.
2. Cut 6 pears in half and remove the cores with a small pastry scoop. Place them face down on a baking sheet and roast at 350˚ F until tender.
3. Place pears in a serving bowl, drizzle with a high-quality real maple syrup, a bit of salt and fresh-cracked pepper.
4. Place the cooked bacon and crumbled blue cheese on top and garnish with cleaned and dried frisée. Serves 4-6.
Mashed Potatoes With Scallions, Cheddar and Garlic
For the mashed potatoes, Callahan takes a textural approach, matching the creaminess of the potatoes with the weight of the Chardonnay on the palate. Look for a wine with enough acidity to cut through the tanginess of the cheddar.
FAILLA Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2012
Builds intensity and depth in a medium-bodied style, with Asian pear, lychee, green apple and green citrus notes, maintaining juiciness through the finish. Drink now through 2019. 1,000 cases made.
Wine Spectator alternates:
RODNEY STRONG Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2013
Very rich and complex, with concentrated fig, melon, apricot and light lime citrus hints. Ends with a long, graceful aftertaste. Drink now. 4,743 cases made.
STUHLMULLER Chardonnay Alexander Valley 2013
Delivers a tight beam of cream-laced green apple, melon, citrus and honeydew flavors, supported by firm acidity and ending with a persistent, flavorful finish. Drink now. 9,300 cases made.
CHATEAU ST. JEAN Chardonnay Alexander Valley Belle Terre Vineyard Single Vineyard 2013
Focused on pure, vibrant pear, fig and honeydew melon flavors that are graceful and polished, this gains depth, adding touches of light cedary oak and pithy citrus. Drink now. 9,000 cases made.
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- Salt and pepper
- 1/3 pound butter, plus one tablespoon
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 clove garlic
- White cheddar cheese (as much as desired)
1. Place 2 pounds of peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes in a pot with cold water and a dash of salt, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the potatoes are just tender and still hold their shape.
2. Strain them of all of the water so they are dry as possible.
3. In the bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the potatoes with 1/3 pound of softened butter and 1/3 cup heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Cut 1 small bunch of scallions into small rings and quickly soften them by sautéing them in a tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat.
5. Add 1 minced clove of garlic to the pan with the scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the garlic is no longer raw.
6. Mix the scallions and grated white cheddar cheese into the mashed potatoes. Use as much cheese as desired. Serves 4-6.