Thanksgiving Flavors from Chicago and the Rhône Valley

Four holiday recipes from "Masterchef" Graham Elliot, plus 18 Rhône reds and aromatic whites to pour for the big meal
Nov 19, 2010

Thanksgiving menus are all more or less the same (turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, squash, beans), and yet no two menus are truly alike, thanks to family quirks, traditions, preferences and regional variations. With the holiday less than a week away, you probably have at least a general idea of what you'll be cooking, but the recipes below, provided by Chicago-based chef Graham Elliot, will help you bring some delicious new flourishes to your traditional Thanksgiving table. (For those of you not quite ready to cook your turkey sous-vide—safely preparing food using the sous-vide method leaves little room for error—we've also got a classic roast turkey breast recipe from the Wine Spectator archive.)

Elliot, 33, is the executive chef at Graham Elliot, which received a star in the new Michelin guide for Chicago. He describes his restaurant as "'bistronomic,' juxtaposing four-star cuisine with humor, accessibility and a mindset that food is art, but dining should be fun." Elliot is a veteran of the kitchens at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Texas, and Chicago's Wine Spectator Grand Award winners Charlie Trotter's and Tru, along with Avenues, which holds a Best of Award of Excellence. Television fans may recognize Elliot from the recent cooking competition show Masterchef, where he worked alongside restaurateur Joseph Bastianich and chef Gordon Ramsay to guide a crop of ambitious home cooks to televised culinary glory (and a large cash prize). In addition to running the kitchen at his eponymous restaurant, Elliot is currently preparing to open Grahamwich, a Chicago sandwich shop.

His philosophy is reflected in his restaurant's wine program, led by Michael Simon, who has divided the 75-bottle list into popular music-themed categories like "one-hit wonders" (wines by the glass) and "power ballads" (lush whites and reds).

To go along with the menu below, Elliot recommends pouring a wine like the Peay Syrah Sonoma Coast Les Titans 2007 (about $42), with its "sultry blend of white pepper, black- and blueberry compote, incense, bacon fat and grilled meats that is sophisticated enough to handle the food and wine-pairing curveball that is a traditional Thanksgiving dinner." Elliot adds, "In this case, using a wild turkey, the gaminess is slightly augmented, [making it] more in-sync with the captivating depth of a cool-climate Syrah like Peay." And we've provided some suggestions for recently rated aromatic whites, Rhône reds and other California Rhône reds whose flavor profiles will provide pleasant pairings for the bird and its trimmings.

Sous-Vide Wild Turkey

All recipes, with the exception of Roasted Turkey Breast, are courtesy of chef Graham Elliot.

• 3 wild turkey breasts, each about 1 1/2 pounds
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 3 sprigs thyme
• 3 fresh bay leaves
• 1 tablespoon pomace oil (oil extracted from pressed olives or grapes and often blended with virgin oil; valued for its neutral flavor and high smoke point. Available in grocery and specialty stores.)
• 2 tablespoons butter

• Plastic wrap
• 1 large cryovac bag
• Food-grade thermal immersion circulator (an electric device that heats and circulates water for purposes of sous-vide cooking. In the past few years, several manufacturers, including Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table, have begun offering home models, which begin at about $800.)

1. Trim the fat and remove the skin from each turkey breast. Rub with olive oil and season all over with salt and pepper.

2. Place each breast on a large piece of plastic wrap, along with one sprig of thyme and one bay leaf per breast. Roll the breast tightly with the plastic wrap so that it resembles a cylinder.

3. Place all three breasts in the cryovac bag and seal with medium-high vacuum.

4. Place in a 140° F immersion circulator for 2 hours and 30 minutes.

5. Remove the bag from the water bath and plunge it into ice water. Remove the breasts from the bag and plastic wrap, remove and discard the herbs and wipe off the excess oil.

6. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, sauté the breast with the pomace oil and butter until the surface of the breast is golden brown. Serves 6.

Roasted Turkey Breast

• One whole turkey breast (both sides), about 8 pounds
• 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
• 1 green onion, finely chopped
• 1 sprig fresh sage, leaves only, finely chopped
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Have your butcher trim away the backbone from the turkey breast so it will sit flat on the rib bones, skin side up. Gently loosen the skin from the turkey breast, removing and discarding any protruding fat.

2. In a stainless-steel bowl or mortar and pestle, combine the butter, green onion, sage and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mash into a coarse paste. You may also use a food processor or immersion blender for this process. Spread the mixture under the turkey skin as evenly as possible. Season the turkey all over with salt and pepper.

3. Heat the oven to 400° F. Cook the turkey breast in a roasting pan, skin side up, for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted deep in the breast meat registers 160° F. (It will coast up to 170° F as it rests.) Let the turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, deglaze the pan drippings with 1/2 cup of water if you plan to make gravy. Serves 8 to 10.

Haricots Verts Casserole

• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/2 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 whole clove
• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 1/4 cups whole milk
• Kosher salt to taste
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• 4 cups blanched haricots verts, cut into 1/8-inch lengths
• 2 cups vegetable or canola oil
• 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
• 1/4 cup corn starch

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until it foams and subsides. Add the onions and the clove and cook gently, stirring often, just until onions are translucent. Whisk in the flour until butter and flour are evenly combined. Stir gently and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Add the milk and stir until it comes up to a gentle simmer. Cook at a simmer for 30 minutes, checking and adjusting the heat as necessary to ensure that the milk doesn't scald or boil over.

3. Remove the sauce from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Taste and season with salt and nutmeg as desired. Keep sauce hot.

4. In a tall-sided, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the vegetable or canola oil over medium heat for 10 minutes or until 350° F. Dust the sliced shallots with the cornstarch until they are evenly coated, but not clumpy. Gently lower the shallots into the oil, taking care not to let the hot oil splash, and cook until golden and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon, season with salt and allow to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

5. Fold the haricots verts into the hot sauce and season with salt as desired. Transfer mixture to a serving dish, garnish with the crisp shallots and serve. Serves 6.

Cranberry Compote

• 1 pound frozen cranberries
• 1 cup blood orange juice
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1 cup water
• 2 blood oranges
• Kosher salt to taste

1. In a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange juice, sugar, honey and water. Stir to combine and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

2. While the mixture cooks, zest the oranges and stir the zest into the cranberry mixture. Peel the oranges, remove and discard the pith from the fruit, and coarsely chop the fruit. Stir it gently into the simmering mixture and continue to cook for about 20 to 30 minutes, until it begins to thicken.

3. When the sauce is the desired consistency, season it with a touch of salt and give it a vigorous stir to break up the cranberries. Allow to cool before serving. The sauce actually develops more flavor after resting and is best served the following day. Makes about 4 cups.

Glazed Chestnuts

• 3 cups peeled and cleaned chestnuts, split in half
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1 sprig sage
• 2 tablespoons butter
• Kosher salt to taste

In a sauté pan over medium heat, combine the chestnuts, maple syrup and sage. Stir mix gently and allow the maple syrup to reduce and glaze the chestnuts. Mix in the butter and season with salt. Makes about 3 cups.



Note: The following list is a selection of wines from recently rated releases.


ST.-URBANS-HOF Riesling QbA Mosel 2008 Score: 90 | $17
Fresh Jonagold and McIntosh apple aromas and flavors, with a hint of black currant leaf, mark this juicy, vibrant white, which is balanced, leaving a mouthwatering impression. Drink now through 2014. 12,000 cases made. —B.S.

CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 Score: 89 | $9
Bright and jazzy, with a fleshiness to the texture that adds an extra dimension to the lively pear and floral aromas and flavors, picking up a wet stone note on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 647,275 cases made. —H.S.

HOGUE Gewürztraminer Columbia Valley 2009 Score: 89 | $11
Soft and spicy, offering cinnamon, clove, lychee and pear flavors that glide easily through a charming, lightly sweet finish. Drink now. 16,400 cases made. —H.S.

PONZI Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2009 Score: 89 | $17
Bright and lively, brimming with grapefruit-scented pear and floral flavors, lingering easily on the slightly sappy finish. Drink now. 14,000 cases made. —H.S.

CHARLES SMITH Riesling Columbia Valley Kung Fu Girl Evergreen Vineyard 2009 Score: 89 | $12
Light and fragrant, this is on the dry side, featuring tangy grapefruit and apple flavors that linger gently. Drink now. 34,400 cases made. —H.S.

CAVE SPRING Riesling Niagara Peninsula 2008 Score: 88 | $12
Plump, with peach, lime and grapefruit flavors backed by a vibrant structure. Develops well, staying focused and crisp right through the mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2014. 16,000 cases made. —B.S.

COLUMBIA CREST Riesling Washington Two Vines 2009 Score: 88 | $8
Sweet, but not soft, with a lively tang of acidity to balance the deftly nuanced pear, honey and floral flavors, lingering well. Drink now through 2015. 65,000 cases made. —H.S.

ACROBAT Pinot Gris Oregon 2009 Score: 87 | $12
Bright and lively, showing a steely edge to the pear and melon fruit. Drink now. 30,000 cases made. —H.S.

PACIFIC RIM Riesling Columbia Valley Dry 2008 Score: 86 | $11
A light and fragrant white, with floral citrus flavors, finishing very tangy. Drink now. 30,000 cases made. —H.S.


MACROSTIE Syrah Sonoma Coast Wildcat Mountain Vineyard 2006 Score: 92 | $34
Offering both depth and easy-drinking allure, this serves up a complex range of flavors, built around roasted coffee, hot brick, fleshy plum, pepper, game meat, spice and cumin. A well-focused and balanced wine, firming on the finish. Drink now through 2020. 825 cases made. —J.L.

E. GUIGAL Gigondas 2006 Score: 90 | $28
Really fine, with racy, well-embedded acidity that lets the sandalwood, espresso, mulled plum and tobacco notes mingle together through the finish. Some mature hints of tobacco and game are starting to show as well, though there's grip in reserve. Drink now through 2011. 10,000 cases made. —J.M.

CAVE DE RASTEAU Côtes du Rhône-Villages Rasteau La Domelière 2009 Score: 90 | $15
Ripe and well-focused, delivering a dark beam of plum, fig sauce and graphite, laced with hints of lavender and pastis. Very solid, with nice buried acidity holding the finish together. Drink now through 2011. 6,000 cases made. —J.M.

VIGNERONS DE CARACTÈRE Vacqueyras Seigneur de Fontimple 2009 Score: 90 | $20
Fleshy and forward, with succulent plum and blackberry fruit laced with black tea and dark chocolate notes. This has a nice smoldering finish. Drink now through 2011. 47,699 cases made. —J.M.

BARREL 27 Syrah Central Coast Right Hand Man 2007 Score: 89 | $18
Complex aromas of ripe cherry and plum jam are rich and layered on the palate, without being heavy. Full-bodied and spicy, with a cedary edge, ending with an intriguing pepper jelly–like aftertaste. Drink now through 2016. 3,500 cases made. —J.L.

KUNDE ESTATE Syrah Sonoma Valley 2007 Score: 88 | $19
Trim, firm and spicy, with firm acidity and tannins. Full-bodied, with a sleek mix of dried berry, mineral, sage and cedar that tightens up on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 2,800 cases made. —J.L.

GABRIEL MEFFRE Côtes du Rhône La Châsse du Pape Prestige 2008 Score: 87 | $13
Fresh and open-knit, exhibiting red currant, cedar and roasted vanilla notes backed by a dash of tobacco. Drink now. 25,000 cases made. —J.M.

PERRIN & FILS Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2009 Score: 87 | $11
Lightly firm, with good cherry, warm stone and grilled herb notes that stay focused through the bright finish. Drink now. 75,000 cases made. —J.M.

ST. FRANCIS Syrah Sonoma County 2007 Score: 87 | $22
Offers aromas of ripe berry pie, with a mix of blueberry, blackberry and wild berry. Full-bodied, intense and raw, but complete. Finishes with good acidity and tannins, along with a dash of cedary oak. Drink now through 2016. 2,300 cases made. —J.L.

Chicago Cooking Holidays / Celebrations Thanksgiving Autumn Red Wines White Wines Syrah / Shiraz Riesling Recipes

You Might Also Like

8 & $20: Chickpea and Root Vegetable Fritters with Dill Yogurt

8 & $20: Chickpea and Root Vegetable Fritters with Dill Yogurt

Put sweet potatoes, carrots or beets to creative use in a hearty meal that pairs well with …

Nov 29, 2022
8 & $20: Crispy Tofu with Peanut Sauce and Riesling

8 & $20: Crispy Tofu with Peanut Sauce and Riesling

Even those who turn their nose up at tofu will crave this crispy, spicy, sweet combination, …

Nov 22, 2022
8 & $20: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Preserved Lemon Dressing

8 & $20: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Preserved Lemon Dressing

Give the classic holiday side dish extra flair with a flavorful topping and a festive …

Nov 15, 2022
Roasted Heirloom Beets and Burrata with Winter Citrus and Toasted Pumpernickel

Roasted Heirloom Beets and Burrata with Winter Citrus and Toasted Pumpernickel

Chef Benjamin Martinek of Studio at Montage in Laguna Beach, Calif., shares his seasonal …

Jun 15, 2019
A Star Chef’s Cheesy Soup

A Star Chef’s Cheesy Soup

Melissa King’s Potato-Toma Velouté recipe

Oct 31, 2022
Tipsy Ginger

Tipsy Ginger

Use our gift guide recommendations to mix up this festive Irish whiskey cocktail

Dec 15, 2022