Turkey Sides

This month Tyler Florence has come out with his latest book, Tyler Florence Family Meal, just in time for Thanksgiving. “I love cooking for my family and teaching my kids how to cook in the kitchen,” says Florence. “Family Meal was a perfect fit for where I am in my life right now. I have my restaurant families, my wine-making family, my kitchen shop family—all of these families are intertwined with our kids and our day-to-day life in such a special way. I wanted to write about all of my experiences and favorite recipes.” This month, we have selected two that might enliven your Thanksgiving meal; for more ideas, check out the hundreds of recipes on tylerflorence.com as well over 500 recipes on his namesake iPhone application.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving taste?  I love the taste of sage during the fall and winter months. There is something about fresh sage in stuffing and in the brine and spices for the turkey that just screams Thanksgiving.

Have you brought recipes from your childhood to your Thanksgiving table?  In my new book, I have an entire chapter on my Southern heritage with a bunch of recipes from my grandmother Florence Mama. I make her sweet potatoes every year at Thanksgiving.

Turkey preparation tips?  There are so many ways to prepare a turkey. I like to treat a turkey like a large chicken—roast the parts separately but together in a roasting pan without the bones. You cut the breasts and legs off, season with salt and pepper, sear them in a roasting pan over high heat skin side down until the skin is golden and caramelized, and then flip them over and roast them in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 160 degrees.

What have you added to mashed potatoes?  I like to mix sweet potatoes with mashed potatoes. I call them “potatoes savory and sweet.” I also like to add turnips to the potatoes when boiling them and then mixing them all together.

Cranberries?  I always keep a bag of cranberries in the freezer. It’s so easy to throw them in a pot with some orange juice and a little honey or brown sugar and they’re done.

When do you like to serve Thanksgiving dinner?  We go back and forth on when to serve dinner. My in-laws like to eat early and we like to eat later. Regardless, we get together as a family in the afternoon and watch football, play with the kids or watch a movie. Typically, we have light appetizers before dinner—spiced nuts and some sort of olives—and eat by 5 p.m.

Kids’ table or mixed?  We never have a kids’ table. We work really hard to make our kids’ feel like they’re part of the table with the entire family. It’s important with our kids being so young that they understand mealtime—conversation, patience, manners and delicious food—the whole thing.

Speaking of pie, if one wasn’t going to make one’s own…any suggestions on local sources?  We love everything by Rustic Bakery and Sweet Things. Sometimes when we’re swamped during the holidays, we order things from them. But by far, the pie lady at Marin Joe’s makes my favorite holiday pie. She does a walnut and raisin pie every now and then, and it’s worth the trip.

Do you have a favorite thing to do with leftover turkey? We do a big turkey and barley soup the next day that cooks on the stove all day.

Where do you plan to have Thanksgiving this year? And how many people will be at the table? We do Thanksgiving at my in-laws’ home in Mill Valley. My mother-in-law, Marjorie Clark, loves Thanksgiving and she goes all out. She has her grandmother’s original china, glassware, and napkins. She and my wife polish the silver, and make the flower arrangements. We have a big group, so she actually moves the furniture out of the living room and sets up big tables by the fireplace. The group fluctuates from 20 to 30 people each year. She takes in all of our friends and extended family and everyone brings special dishes. Chuck and Janet do their famous brussells sprouts every year, Nick bakes a tart, B.G. bakes the pies, Marjorie does the turkeys, and I do the sides and gravy.


Creamed Spinach with Roasted Cipollini Onions and Toasted Bread Crumbs

This dish was a happy accident. I wanted to serve creamed spinach for our family Christmas dinner but make it a bit more special. Roasted onions and the crunch of bread crumbs really take this old warhorse to the next level. Pair it with a simple grilled steak or beef tenderloin. Serves 4 to 6.
2 pounds cipollini onions
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 ( 12-ounce ) bags fresh spinach,
stemmed and washed
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups panko bread crumbs

Place the unpeeled onions in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Set aside for 15 minutes to soften the skins. Drain the onions, then peel and pat dry. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add a 2-count of oil. Add the onions and sauté until they are golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and honey, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture has reduced to a syrup and the onions are soft, about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Drizzle with a 2-count of oil, add the butter, and stir it around until it melts. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach in batches, pushing it down into the pan with a wooden spoon to help it wilt and adding more spinach as soon as there is room in the pot.

Cook the spinach until it is dry, then reduce the heat and add the cream and nutmeg. Stir and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the creamed spinach into a baking dish and top it with the onions and the panko. Bake until the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Apple Brown Betty with Ice Cream

A betty is a classic American dessert made up of a baked pudding layered with spiced fruit and sweetened crumbs. I make this dessert with pears when they are in season and in the summer, I add fresh berries. Add currants or golden raisins to mix it up. Serves 4.

Unsalted butter, for the ramekins
Granulated sugar, for the ramekins
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled,
cored, and cut into thin wedges
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons Calvados
4 slices brioche loaf, cut into
small cubes
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 pint vanilla-bean ice cream

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Grease four 6-ounce ramekins with butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine the apple wedges, lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Calvados and toss to combine.

Place the bread cubes in a separate mixing bowl and pour the melted butter over them. Toss to coat the bread with the butter. Place some of the bread cubes in the bottom of each ramekin followed by some of the apple mixture. Repeat to make a second layer, pressing down gently on the fillings to compact slightly. Pour any remaining liquid from the apple bowl over the ramekins. Arrange the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden and crusty, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with a scoop of ice cream.