UP IN SMOKE
Turkey, plattered up and as burnished as George Hamilton, is the undisputed star of Thanksgiving dinner in most American households. (Vegetarians, take comfort—we have you covered below.) Substitute anything else—prime rib, ham, or Cornish hens—and you will disappoint the adults at your table and make the children cry. It’s as disheartening as waiting all year to attend a Broadway show only to arrive when an understudy is playing the lead role.
The only real latitude an adventuresome cook has on Thanksgiving is with the side dishes, and even then, freedom is not without its limits. There must be stuffing. There must be mashed potatoes. And in your household, perhaps, an immutable family tradition like marshmallow-topped yams or a certain green bean casserole birthed from cans. (In the Raichlen household, it’s my mother’s cranberry and kumquat relish. See the recipe below.)
That being said, wouldn’t it be refreshing to add some new side dishes to your repertoire—dishes that will not only invigorate your Thanksgiving menu, but that also can be prepared on the grill, taking some of the pressure off your beleaguered oven? Of course it would.
Living here in America, or wherever you call home, we have a lot to be thankful for this year. Health. Happiness. Barbecue and grills. So from my family to yours, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
Note: In honor of Thanksgiving, over the next two weeks, Steven will give you his 2011 “Thanksgiving in the Tropics” menu he’ll be making in Miami, complete with recipes, on his Facebook page. Also please join us on Twitter.
Method: Direct grilling
Serves: 6 to 8 as an appetizer
You’ll also need: A shellfish rack
Scrub the oyster shells with a stiff brush to remove any grit or mud. Discard any oysters that fail to close when tapped. Shuck the oysters: Set the oyster, flat shell side up, on a damp dishcloth on your work surface. Wiggle the tip of an oyster knife into the hinge and gently push the knife handle down. The shell should pop off. Slide the knife blade under the top shell to cut the adductor muscle, then discard the top shell. (Take care not to spill the oyster juices.)
Arrange the oysters on a shellfish rack or baking sheet, being careful not to spill the juices. Put a tablespoon of cream on each, along with a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Top with a teaspoon of butter and dust lightly with paprika. Sprinkle with scallions.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
When ready to cook, place the rack with the oysters on the hot grate (or arrange the oysters directly on the grill grate) and grill until the sauce and oyster juices are bubbling and the oysters are cooked through, 3 to 6 minutes. Serve the oysters hot off the grill accompanied by oyster crackers.
Method: Indirect grilling
3 good-size acorn squash
6 tablespoons salted butter plus 2 tablespoons for finishing
1 leek or onion, trimmed and chopped
2 stalks celery, strings removed and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2- to 1 cup vegetable broth, preferably homemade
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 dried plum or apricot halves, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup yellow raisins
2 tablespoons Madeira or sherry
5 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts (optional)
You’ll also need: 1 cup maple or other hardwood chips, soaked for 30 minutes, then drained (optional)
6 Best of Barbecue Grill Rings or aluminum foil grill rings.
Slice each squash in half widthwise. Using a metal spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy, fibrous parts. Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a saute pan. Lightly brush the inside of each squash half with a little of the melted butter. Place each squash half on a grill ring.
Working over medium heat, sauté the leek, celery, garlic, and apple in the remaining melted butter until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the poultry seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Add 1/2 cup of broth as well as the plums, cranberries, raisins, and Madeira. Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the dried fruits soften. Stir in the wild rice and the nuts. If the mixture seems dry, add more broth. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the pecans, if desired.
Fill each squash half with 1/6 of the rice and fruit mixture. Top each with 1 teaspoon of the remaining butter.
Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (350°F). Toss the wood chips, if using, on the coals. Arrange the squash on their rings upright on the grill grate away from the heat. Indirectly grill the squash until tender, 40 to 60 minutes. (Use a metal skewer to test for doneness—it should pierce the squash easily.)
Serves: 8 to 10 (makes about 2 cups)
1 package (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
6 kumquats or 1 small orange (see Note below)
1/2 cup shelled walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
3 tablespoons port or dry red wine
2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
Rinse, drain, and pick through the cranberries, removing any stems and discarding any that are blemished. Cut each kumquat into quarters and remove the seeds. Place the kumquats and walnuts in a food processor and coarsely chop, running the mixture in short bursts. Add the cranberries, brown sugar, and cinnamon and coarsely chop. Add the port and honey and pulse the processor just to mix. The relish should have some chew to it. Taste for seasoning, adding more honey and/or cinnamon as necessary.
Note: If using an orange instead of kumquats, cut it into 8 pieces and remove any seeds before adding it to the food processor.
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