Erlend flew in from New York and we had a quiet celebration with just the two of us. Since he's been incredibly busy with grad school and all, I took charge of the menu planning. Since neither of us are big fans of turkey, our tradition for the last few years has been to roast a duck instead. I kept that the same, and even used the same awesome roasted beer duck recipe from last year:
Which, by the way, if you haven't checked out Mandy's blog, drop everything and go now. It's awesome and if I had her skills in the kitchen, I'd probably be HUGE. True story.
Last year I decided on an Asian theme and accompanied the duck with butternut squash and water spinach stirfries from the Pok Pok cookbook, all of which was such a big success that I decided to stick with it. So... mostly Asian style veggies.
For vegetables, we had two options. The first was the mushroom salad from the Pok Pok cookbook:
One of the things I miss most about Portland was living a few blocks away from the original Pok Pok restaurant. Before things got too crazy and it became a hot destination with three hour waits, I used to go on an almost weekly basis. I'd almost always order the same thing — the Vietnamese fish sauce wings, the Cha Ca La Vong catfish noodles, and the forest mushroom salad.
The forest mushroom salad is based on the traditional recipe for Vietnamese flank steak salad, but made vegetarian with the use of hearty mushrooms and soy sauce. It's wonderfully umami, but incredibly refreshing because of the generous amount of freshly squeezed citrus juice, shallots, and herbs like cilantro and mint.
Our second veggie side was a little heartier and used vegetables more traditionally associated with Thanksgiving — roasted brussels sprouts!
But of course, seeing as this is Asian Thanksgiving, these weren't just any plain old brussels sprouts — they're made using the famous Momofuku recipe, which also tosses them in a garlic and herb laced vinaigrette. If you're ever need to convince a brussels sprouts hater otherwise, I suggest trying this recipe. First, you roast sweet brussels sprouts until they're wonderfully crisp and hearty. Then you drench the entire thing in the most perfect vinaigrette that's the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and sour. It's awesome. I promise.
And finally, no Thanksgiving meal is complete without carbs. This year's carb, also from the Momofuku cookbook, was a Korean recipe for roasted rice cakes:
If you're scratching your head right now and wondering what a rice cake is, I'm willing to make a bet that you've actually had one before. If you've had Japanese mochi, you've basically had a Korean rice cake — they're the same thing and made the same way (that is, by beating rice until it becomes crazy sticky, thick, and glutinous). They're a crazy fun and incredibly chewy texture, and this particular recipe fries them to get them crispy on the outside, as well as tossing them in a delicious "Korean Red Dragon" sauce reminiscent of that used in General Tso's or sweet and sour dishes.
And now... let's talk dessert.
So... I had two terrible, TERRIBLE dessert fails and we ended up with NO DESSERT. On Thanksgiving! And to think that I'm a freaking desserts blogger! For shame, for shame.
But long story short is that work this past week was terrible and I decided to forgo the matcha buttermilk pie I'd been testing and instead make pots de creme, which is a dessert that comes together quickly, and keeps fairly well so that you can make ahead of time. But, seeing as this was Asian-style Thanksgiving, I'd decided to use homemade black sesame sugar (which I've used in this recipe for sugar cookies and this recipe for buttermilk rolls). The black sesame separated from the sugar and sunk to the bottom of the cream, leaving a nasty grit at the bottom of each pot. I then tried to make some last minute emergency chocolate chip cookies, but in my panic to provide dessert, accidentally used a 1/3 cup measure instead of a 1/4 cup measure and ended up with way too much sugar in the dough. The cookies ended up being too sweet, crisp, and just not good at all. Sigh. If only I'd remember to read Molly's guide to fixing failed desserts beforehand.
Anyway, I'll stop blathering and leave you guys with the recipes (except for Mandy's duck, which you should get from her blog because it has awesome process shots). Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Some cook's notes:
- Looking for other non-traditonal Thanksgiving ideas? Both NPR and Food52 did a great round-up of ideas for alternative, globally-inspired Thanksgiving dishes. In the blogosphere, Alana recently did a series of Asian fusion Thanksgiving recipes (including a soy honey miso glazed turkey, I die). Steph also has some Asian inspired Thanksgiving recipes (like miso butter mashed potatoes, nom) from last year. And of course you can check out my post from last year, which has a great Asian Thanksgiving-y dessert: pumpkin and coconut milk Chinese egg tarts. Alternatively, if you just want me to shut up and give you recipes for Thanksgiving desserts, here's all things pumpkin on the blog.
- I chose these recipes because they were relatively easy to make and came together quickly from each book. Some of the original recipes use hard to find ingredients, and I substituted those with ones that are more easily available in regular and/or Asian supermarkets, or omitted them entirely. I also divided each recipe into different sections to allow you to prep some of the ingredients and make part of the recipe beforehand.
For the Mushrooms:
- 10 ounces meaty mixed mushrooms (I used a mix of oyster, mini shiitakes, and king trumpet mushrooms), tough stems trimmed and any large mushrooms halved through the stem
- a generous drizzle of vegetable oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons usukuchi soy sauce (light soy sauce, not to be confused with dark soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon red chile powder
- 1 ounce peeled small shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced with the grain
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves, lightly packed
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (stems and leaves), lightly packed
- 1 heaping teaspoon Thai toasted sticky rice powder
- Warm a small drizzle teaspoon of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. As the skillet is warming, toss the mushrooms in a bowl with the rest of the oil, seasoning generously with salt and pepper as you toss them.
- Fry the mushrooms, turning them over occasionally, until they're cooked through and deep golden brown in spots, around 5 to 10 minutes depending on the mushrooms you used. Transfer them to a cutting board as they finish cooking, and cut any large mushrooms into btie sized pieces, about 1/2 inch thick. Leave any small mushrooms whole — you should have a cup of chopped, cooked mushrooms. Let them cool slightly as you make the dressing.
- Combine the citrus juice, soy sauce, water, and chile powder in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the mushrooms with the shallots, mint, cilantro and rice powder. Toss well with the dressing and transfer to a plate in a low heap so that most of the herbs end up near the top. Sprinkle on another pinch or two of rice powder, and serve immediately. If you still need to do other Thanksgiving prep, hold off on making the dressing and tossing the mushrooms in it until you're ready to serve — this will prevent the herbs from getting wilty and soggy.
- 2 pounds small Brussels sprouts
- vegetable oil
- a generous pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup fish sauce (I like Red Boat)
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 red bird's eye chile, thinly sliced with seeds intact
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced cilantro stems
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
For the Brussels Sprouts:
- If you're worried about time on Thanksgiving day, I recommend prepping the Brussels sprouts 1 to 2 days beforehand. Brussels sprouts keep really well in an airtight container (like tupperware or a Ziploc bag, both with a sheet of paper towel at the bottom/inside to suck up any excess moisture) and don't brown like lettuce. To prepare the brussels sprouts, peel away any loose or discolored outer leaves and cut the sprouts in half.
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 (F).
- Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in an oven-safe wide skillet (like this Staub double handle fry pan). When the oil slides easily from side to side of the pan, add the Brussels sprouts with the flat, cut side down. When the cut faces of the sprouts begin to brown, transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking about 15 minutes.
- Again, if you're looking to save time on Thanksgiving day, I recommend making the vinaigrette beforehand. It keeps well in the refrigerator in a small glass jar for up to one week. Before using, give it a vigorous shake. Combine the fish sauce, water, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, sugar, and garlic clove in a small bowl and whisk until combined. If making beforehand, I recommend omitting out the chile until the day before serving (unless you want something incredibly spicy — that's cool too).
- In a medium bowl, combine the roasted brussels sprouts with the cilantro stems, leaves, and mint leaves. Toss well with the dressing and transfer to a plate in a low heap so that most of the herbs end up near the top. If you still need to do other Thanksgiving prep, tossing the brussels sprouts, herbs, and vinaigrette together until you're ready to serve — this will prevent the brussels sprouts and herbs from getting soggy.
- 3 medium, yellow onions, thinly sliced
- large pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup ssamjang (Korean fermented bean and chile sauce, available at most Asian supermarkets near its more well known sibling gochujang; usually comes in a green container)
- 1 tablespoon usukuchi soy sauce (light soy sauce, not to be confused with dark soy sauce)
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup Korean Red Dragon sauce (from recipe above)
- 1/4 cup roasted onions (from recipe above)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 14 ounces rice cake sticks
- 1/2 cup sliced scallions (greens and whites)
- This is probably the most time-intensive part of the recipe, so I recommend you make the onions beforehand. They'll keep for a week or more in the fridge in a tupperware container. Start by heating the oil in a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is very, very hot but not smoking. Add the onions to the pan — they will be piled up high, probably to the rim, and let them cook undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Carefully toss the onions and, while doing so, season them with the salt. Now you've got 50 or so minutes of onion cookery ahead of you. For the first 15 minutes, you want the onions at the bottom of the pan to be slowly but steadily taking on color as they sweat out their liquid. The onions above them are helping this happen with their weight and gently pressing down the onions below. Do NOT press down on the onions with a spatula to try and speed up this process. Just turn the whole pile of onions over on itself every 3 or 4 minutes so that the same onions don't keep on cooking.
- After the mass of onions in the pan has significantly reduced in volume, turn the heat to medium-low and stir and turn the onions every 10 minutes or so to make sure that they don't start to stick or burn at any point. Slow and steady wins the race — you want the onions to soften and sweeten, but not to dry out. This should take around 50 minutes. The onions will be ready when they are sweet with a deep roasted flavor and texture that's almost mushy, but not quite. Use them straightaway, or let them cool and store to use at a later time.
- Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes, then stir in the ssamjang to dissolve it. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil and taste the sauce. No one flavor should stand out, but all should be present and accounted for. Adjust as necessary.
- First, make the sauce: combine mirin and chicken stock in a saucepan large enough to accommodate the rice cakes later and put it on the stove over high heat. Boil to reduce until lightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red dragon sauce, turn the heat down to medium, a nd reduce the sauce to a glossy consistency, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the roasted onions. Cover and keep warm over very low heat until the rice cakes are ready.
- While the sauce is reducing, heat a large (at least 12-inch) cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil to the pan, and just when it's about to smoke, add the rice cakes. They should sizzle when they hit the oil, at which you can drop the heat down to medium. Sear the rice cakes for about 3 minutes per side until they're a light golden brown. Transfer the rice cakes to a cutting board and cut them into fifths.
- Bring the sauce back up to a boil and toss the rice cakes in it just for a few seconds, until they're evenly coated. Sprinkle them with the sesame seeds and toss again, then transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the scallions and serve hot.