Gastronaut 11

Well, I was going to write a column so short and full of useful recipes for Thanksgiving, in hope that it would make up for whatever piece of shit I wrote last week. Then I saw the New York Times, The Oregonian, and the fucking Mercury(?) had taken care of that. So I’ll throw y’all a curveball.

Things that I guarantee will offend someone at a Thanksgiving meal
Okay, you dirty minded people, I’m talking about food, not behavior (or behavior with food). People can be surprisingly passionate about the contents and character of their Thanksgiving meal. Think about it. You know these people. You are one of these people. There is something you’ve got to have every thanksgiving, be it sweet potatoes and cool whip or Turkey cooked in a fat netting (Pepin), wrapped in bacon (Boulud) or covered in a butter soaked cheese-cloth (Child). Taking notes yet?
Tofurkey: Okay, veg-heads, I’m not trashing you. I am, however, warning the general population that tofurkey is essentially stove-top stuffing molded by a hydraulic press. Dogs wont eat it. If you know a vegetarian who likes it, give them a hug. I also discourage Seitan and other gluten products because they are hell on your GI. Remember, you are eating nature’s rubber-bands.
Veg-heads of all kinds, be creative. We’re in root vegetable season. Roasting things is the easiest thing ever. Blow people away at the potluck by bringing mashers of a different sort: Potato and celeriac with port and thyme. Carrots and radishes with sage and white wine; Rutabaga and Turnip with kaffir lime and lemongrass. Just remember to boil things in their skins, peel them when their warm, and don’t overwork the starch lest it become a gluey mass of death.
Creative use of Pumpkin: Be careful ‘round your grandma, but there are some amazing things your can do with pumpkin. Dealing with pumpkin can be a pain in the ass, so get yourself a sharp knife and do all of the prep before you start drinking.
Try sautéing large filet-style chunks of pumpkin in oil of your choice. Add sugar towards the end and dress with mint for a Sicilian touch, or any other combination under the sun. rosemary and garlic would be fantastic. Use high heat oil, so no olive oil.
Or you could make pumpkin risotto: abrorio rice, light colored stock of your choice (you always need more than you think, use any extra as braising/basting liquid or in your mashers), 1 inch dice of pumpkin, assorted other fun things. Risotto is easier than you think. Abrorio rice carries a majority of its complex starch on the outside of the grain, so the essential technique for risotto is ‘bleeding the grain.’ Constant agitation dissolves these starch molecules into the stock as the stock absorbs into the rice, leaving you with a gluey substance that can coat the back of your spoon. A common misconception is that risotto actually requires constant agitation. Untrue, constant agitation will over develop the starch, which can be catastrophic. My method is to stir the risotto vigorously every third time I add more stock. This seems to work for me. To make it a true thanksgiving risotto, one could poach some fresh cranberries in wine and add them right at the end.
Crimes against Pie: if you cannot make a pie crust, Thanksgiving is not the time to learn. Pie crusts, and baking in general, will suffer in wet conditions, which, sadly, is the state of affairs around here. If you want to try, be my guest, but don’t come cryin’ to me. Personally, I don’t fuck with pastry. Not my expertise.
Innovative Stuffing: Depending on your audience, chipotle/hominy stuffing could be a thanksgiving revelation to be remembered for decades, or an excommunicable offense. Think twice before straying from standard recipes, but if you’re friends are game, try something new and different. I’d like to hear any stories of spectacular successes or epic failures. Blitz Gastronaut.