Monday, November 30, 2015

Jamie's Thoughts: A Paleo-ish Thanksgiving





Having lived far from my family for over a decade, navigating the holidays in unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable circumstances can be hard.  Showing up at a friend's family Thanksgiving dinner.  Or going to a current boyfriend's family gathering, where the uncertainty of the direction of your relationship may be compounded by the discomfort of finding your place in the potential new family in-law.  


Though I am so thankful to have been welcomed into the fold on these days when no one should be alone, for me, it's just not the Holiday season without your family.  And celebrating with strangers, no matter how kind or inviting they may be, still just feels off. 

Exacerbating the problem is that I am the type of person who does not accept hospitality readily.  I don't tout this as a virtue.  It's something I'm working on.  But that's a story for another blogpost.  

One thing for sure I've had to learn from living so far away from my family is that we can make family wherever we may be.  And I have been blessed to have certain persons enter my life who are family to me.  Even though we may not share blood, we share a connection that isn't fleeting or driven by convenience--a kindred spirit, as Anne of Green Gables just might call it.

This Thanksgiving I had the great fortune to celebrate with one of those kindred spirits, my chosen family.  This particular friend (who I shall not name to respect her privacy) just had a baby recently.  She's sleep deprived, food deprived, and just generally self care deprived.  Ever since, I've been overtaken by the need to feed and take care of her.  My drive to feed compelled me to bring Thanksgiving to her and her family this year--Pennsylvania Dutch style, well sorta--with a Paleo flair.  

So, without further ado, here's what I prepared for this Paleo-ish Thanksgiving:

I shopped at Trader Joe's the weekend before Thanksgiving to be as prepared as possible.  This also allowed me to keep the cost under control. I'm a notorious over-buyer--so I wanted to be conscious to buy only what I would need, so nothing would go to waste.  


Onions, organic yukon gold potatoes, pumpkin puree, sweet potatoes, cashews, sea salt, avocado, cranberry sauce, greens, brined turkey (not pictured)


And I also bought some gluten free bread to make a Paleo-ish dressing to go with the turkey.  This is a great deal at TJ's and tastes like regular sandwich bread.  It's not something I'd eat with any type of regularity, but was a special treat for an occasion just like this.  


I also bought some turkey broth just in case there wasn't sufficient turkey drippings to make gravy.  You always should have a back up!





My big splurge for this meal were these rosemary rolls from an amazing gluten-free bakery in the SF Ferry Building, Mariposa Bakery.  The rolls are very dense, but oh-so-delicious.  



We had our Thanksgiving on Friday instead of Thursday because my friend got a little sick, and I had to contend with a work deadline.  I did my prepping on Thursday, so that I could spend time with my friends on Friday while the turkey was cooking.  

On Thursday, I prepped a spinach gratin dish. It's so delicious.  I use Ina Garten's recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/spinach-gratin-recipe.html.   I was introduced to this recipe by a friend of mine years ago, and ever since, it's been a holiday tradition.  Quick tip though--the recipe calls for regular flour and dairy.  I use grassfed dairy, and instead of the flour, I use arrowroot flour and almond flour.  To substitute the regular flour, add the same amount of almond flour as regular flour called for.  Then when all the cream has been added and is heated, create an arrowroot flour slurry:  mix three teaspoons of arrowroot with six teaspoons of cool water.  Then add to the heated milk/cream mixture to thicken.  I grated the gruyere and parmesan cheese for topping and set aside to do the final baking the following day.


Mashed Potatoes--My favorite!
Anyone who knows me well knows how seriously I take my mashed potatoes.  Pre-Paleo, these were my most favorite food.  I now only eat these on special occasions, but I upped my mashed potato game after having the most life-changing mashed potato experience at Bouchon in Las Vegas.  First, boil yukon gold potatoes, starting in cold, salted water until soft, with the skin on.  Then, peel and put in a large bowl.  Mash with a fork.  Heat lots of butter and heavy cream over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Then slowly add to the mashed potatoes and beat until smooth, adding plenty of salt and pepper to taste.  If you need to thin out a bit or want to add another dimension of flavor, I recommend adding chicken stock to the mashed potatoes.  And voila--you have creamy, buttery mashed potato deliciousness.  These are a perfect make-ahead dish.  


The Paleo Mom's pumpkin pie!  Great recipe, Paleo Mom!

Next, I prepared the Paleo Mom's Pumpkin Pie recipe: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/10/the-best-paleo-pumpkin-pie.html.  I have to say, this is an excellent recipe.  I highly recommend if you are in search of a Paleo pumpkin pie recipe.  I made a couple changes.  I added a little maple syrup to the pie crust to sweeten it.  The recipe called for a cup of water to be added to the filling, which I found to be unnecessary.  Instead of the recommended spices in the recipe, I added a combination of pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. This was a huge hit.  Top it with some homemade whipped cream, and enjoy a little bit of Thanksgiving heaven.  



Now onto the star of the show--the turkey.   I hadn't made a turkey in five years, so I decided to use Ina Garten's turkey recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/perfect-roast-turkey-recipe4.html.  And it turned out great, I highly recommend.  Though my turkey was a little larger than called for in the recipe, 16 pounds, this all worked out just great.

Next up, I made dressing from the gluten-free bread I bought at TJs.  Growing up we always stuffed our turkeys, but because I wanted the turkey to cook quicker and didn't want to risk drying out the turkey, I made dressing in a baking dish.  I used this recipe, which is very much like the recipe we used growing up:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/76976/classic-thanksgiving-dressing-with-parsley-sage-and-thyme/.  This recipe delivered the classic stuffing flavor I know and love.  I wish I had made more. Next year, I so plan to double this recipe.  



No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without gravy.  But thickening gravy can be tricky without flour or cornstarch.  I poured the drippings into a saucepan with some chicken broth I had made a few days earlier.  I brought it to a boil, then reduced to a simmer, and added some salt.  Then I added in some arrowroot flour slurry to thicken. 

I also prepared an arugula salad with a very simple dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. This reminds me of the way my senora used to do it when I studied in Spain.  

Sweet potatoes or yams are often a Thanksgiving necessity.  But I feel very strongly about how sweet potatoes should be prepared.  Why people add marshmallows and sugar has always confused me.  They are already sweet and don't need to be sweetened.  I prefer to make savory sweet potatoes by roasting them with onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil.  

And for that yummy acidic touch--cranberry sauce.  I must confess that I did not make homemade cranberry sauce.  Something had to give.  I bought it from Trader Joe's in a jar, and it was quite delicious.  

And tada--this is a photo of the finished meal!  



This meal was certainly a labor of love, but worth every minute because I got to spend it with great company, my chosen family.  Happy Holidays everyone!