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Thanks Be to Restaurants (for Giving Us Their Recipes)
By Alison Pence
Guess who's been appointed to host a Thanksgiving feast for the family this year? You too?
My first reaction was: Rather than sweat it out in the kitchen, wouldn't we all like to go out to eat? That way, we could do more sitting and talking and less chopping and washing. My clothes might actually survive. The dog wouldn't get sick from too many treats, and I could leave the silver bowls in their cozy flannel bags for one more year.
So I scouted out a couple of restaurants in Noe Valley. I discovered that Valentine's Café on Church Street will be open on Thanksgiving, serving a prix fixe menu. Savor on 24th Street will also be open, but it'll be closing at 3 p.m.
Either restaurant sounded great to me. However, I had trouble getting consensus from the family on a dinner reservation. Soon I found myself back in the kitchen, searching for the silver polish.
Luckily, I was wearing my Voice bonnet while doing my survey. And I coaxed our star chefs into providing me and the Voice with some recipe ideas. A new recipe is like exploring uncharted territory -- an exciting adventure, a departure from cooking the Same Old Thing. Some say it is unwise to try a recipe for the first time for company, but I say throw caution to the wind, have a glass of wine, and put the dog in the crate downstairs.
Please Pass the Pumpkin
Firefly Chef Brad Levy suggested we try his pan-roasted pumpkin. "This is a great vegetarian entree that lends itself to a variety of possibilities," he says.
PAN-ROASTED JACK-O-LANTERN PUMPKIN STEAKS
Firefly Restaurant, 4288 24th St., 821-7652
One large organic jack-o-lantern pumpkin (try to find one that has straight sides)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Remove the seeds and stringy pulp with a spoon, and cut the pumpkin into square chunks with 4- to 5-inch sides. From a large pumpkin, one could get up to 20 portions.
Place the pumpkin chunks skin side down on a baking sheet. Brush oil on liberally, then sprinkle with one teaspoon brown sugar per chunk. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1-1/2 hours, depending on the thickness of the pumpkin. To test for doneness, stick a knife into the pumpkin. When the knife goes all the way through easily, remove from oven and allow to cool.
Once cool, cut off the skin and season again with salt and pepper. Then dredge in flour, coating well but without excess.
When you're ready to serve, heat some olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Place the floured pumpkin steaks skin side up in the hot oil and cook until brown and crunchy, a couple of minutes. Turn the steaks and brown on the other side. Since this side doesn't have sugar on it, it will take a little longer, about 3 to 4 minutes. Note that for thicker pieces, it might be necessary to finish the cooking process in the oven to make sure the pumpkin steaks are thoroughly done in the center.
Abed Amas, chef-owner of Fattoush Restaurant, recommends his stuffed roast turkey recipe. He says this is a traditional dish for game hen or chicken in the Middle East. It has been adapted by those who travel back and forth between the Middle East and the United States. Amas added, "We will be closed on Thanksgiving, but come visit us another time. Patrons especially enjoy brunch on our patio."
MIDDLE-EASTERN STUFFED TURKEY
Fattoush, 1361 Church St., 641-0678
Wash thawed or fresh turkey with cold water, pat dry, rub with flour, and squeeze lots of fresh lemon juice all over the bird. Rinse with cold water and let drain dry for a couple of hours.
1/2 pound coarsely chopped chicken livers or lean ground sirloin
Pine nuts or chopped almonds
White raisins (optional)
Allspice (not more than one teaspoon)
Ground nutmeg (not more than one teaspoon)
Cinnamon (optional, about 1/2 teaspoon)
About 3 cups dry long-grain white rice
While rice is cooking according to package directions, sauté the livers or ground beef with the spices and nuts. Toss the sauté and the cooked rice together, and let cool.
Stuff the turkey firmly (this stuffing will not expand as a bread-based stuffing would), and squeeze lemon juice over the entire bird. Cook the turkey at 350 degrees, wrapped in foil (start oven at a higher temperature and lower it to 350 when bird goes into oven). Cook as you would any stuffed turkey, about 3-1/2 to 4 hours, basting occasionally with lemon juice. Amas suggests adding boiled red potatoes to the roasting pan about an hour before the turkey will be done.
Miles Standish's Pudding
This next recipe, from Miss Millie's Restaurant on 24th Street, reminds me of the pilgrims for some reason. It is light and velvety on the tongue. Paired with the time-honored standards of sweet potatoes and dinner rolls, it completes the meal. Add a hot vegetable and salad and then bring on the dessert!
Miss Millie's, 4123 24th St., 285-5598
4 cups corn (cut from about 8 ears of corn)
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup half&half
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 roasted poblano chiles, peeled and diced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a two-quart Pyrex or metal baking dish. Toss corn kernels with salt, flour, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Warm the milk and half & half slightly in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk warm-milk mixture and eggs, and add to bowl with corn. Add melted butter and poblanos. Pour into prepared baking dish and place into a larger baking dish and pour hot water into the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the smaller dish. Bake until the pudding is a pale golden color on top and the custard is almost firm, about 1 hour.
The Cran Francisco Treat
Chef Marc Swan of Valentine's Café on Church Street uses dried cranberries in this simple recipe. When combined with the pears, the berries add color and tartness.
Valentine's Café, 1793 Church St., 285-2257
4 cups diced pears
2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sweetener (honey, maple syrup, sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons flour
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and place in baking dish.
3/4 cup margarine
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal or granola
Pulse the margarine and flour in a cuisinart, or crumble together with your fingers, until it has a breadcrumb-like texture. Add sugar and oatmeal. Sprinkle loosely over fruit and bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
A Dessert to Be Thankful For
I thought long and hard about adding a family recipe to this article. My grandmother was a great hostess and cook. Her pie has all of the qualities one could want in a dessert; it is classic, easy, and has chocolate. It is too good not to share.
NUNNY'S CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups dark Karo (corn syrup)
2/3 cup pecan halves
1 cup chocolate chips (I use only 1/2 cup of chips)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat eggs slightly with a fork. Stir in salt, sugar, vanilla, and syrup. Mix well. Add nuts and chocolate. Pour into pie shell and bake 45 minutes. Serve with whipped cream. This pie also freezes well.
Happy Thanksgiving, from the cook.M