At My Holiday Table
Betsey Gerstein Sterenfeld of Essen shares her family memories and Thanksgiving recipes
Photography by Donovan Roberts Witmer
Being Lancaster transplants, my husband, kids and I have spent many holidays without close family nearby. In spite of their absence, we feel their presence at every celebration, especially Thanksgiving. Through food and the power of repetitive story telling, our loved ones are represented by the dishes around our table, as if they’re filling the spaces between the friends in the actual chairs. Read on to find the recipes that remind us of our family.
Maple Lacquered Two Hour Turkey places my mom at the center of our feast. She would worry incessantly about drying out the turkey, which is what ultimately would happen. Two things give us juicy turkey every time and I am grateful I can share them with her today: a simple overnight brine (or a good salting) and two-temperature roasting for as short an amount of time as possible.
Maple Lacquered Two Hour Turkey
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup kosher salt
1 orange, halved
2 onions, quartered
20 whole black peppercorns
3 whole star anise
1 12–14 pound turkey, defrosted
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1. Clean out the bird. Remove giblets from neck cavity and set aside; pat turkey dry with towels.
2. Brine, baby, brine. Place maple syrup and salt in 4 cups of hot water. Stir until salt dissolves. Place maple syrup mixture into large stockpot, filled with a gallon of cold water, juice of the orange, orange halves, 1 onion, cloves, peppercorns and star anise. Stir to combine. Place turkey in brine. Chill for 12–18 hours.
3. Make your stock. Place giblets (not liver) in small saucepan with remaining onion, 3 cups water and a healthy pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat until reduced and very flavorful, about 1 hour. Make ahead note: Stock can be chilled for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months.
4. Warm up. One hour before roasting, remove turkey from brine. Rinse with cold water, discarding brine. Thoroughly dry turkey. Preheat oven to 450 F.
5. Nice rack. Place turkey skin-side up on rack inside a large roasting pan.
6. A little shmear never hurts. Rub skin and exposed flesh with oil.
7. Drip, drip. Cover the bottom of the roasting pan with water to facilitate those lovely pan juices.
8. Roast hot and fast. Allow about 10 minutes per pound. Roast breast side up for first 30 minutes, without regard to size. For a 12-pound bird: 30 minutes at 450 F. Flip over. 1½ hours at 350 F. At this point, check for doneness in white meat with juices running clear when a thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast, away from bone, registers 165 F. When cooked, place breast halves on cutting board to rest. Tent loosely with foil. Return pan to oven and continue roasting thighs for an additional 15 minutes, or until they are done, as indicated above.
9. Rest. Don’t wash the roasting pan. Pan juices are your liquid gold for gravy.
10. Carve and serve.
Persimmon Cranberry Chutney
Persimmon Cranberry Chutney is our newest addition and connects us with our family here in Lancaster: our friends. Last year local cranberries and persimmons found themselves in my hands and this is the fabulous result. The chutney was the definite dark horse of last year’s Thanksgiving meal and was requested to become a new favorite. I can only hope it will be bring me physically and spiritually near my kids and their future families’ tables, wherever they may be.
Makes About 3 Cups
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
5 sprigs thyme, tied together
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 fuyu persimmons, roughly chopped
12 ounces cranberries
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1. Build flavor. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; add oil. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add thyme bundle, mustard seeds, coriander, bay leaf, cinnamon, salt and red pepper; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add persimmons and cranberries.
2. Make it sweet and sour. Raise heat to medium and stir in brown sugar and vinegar. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and only a few cranberries remain intact, about 10–15 minutes. Season to taste.
3. Serve at room temperature. Make ahead note: Keeps chilled for 2 weeks or can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples, Celery and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette
My husband has always loved Brussels sprouts and I am a convert since delighting in farm-fresh Lancaster gems. Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples, Celery and Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette guarantees each of us a seat at the table – the bit of bitter bite from the mini cabbages for him, the crunchy sweet and savory balance of the apple celery salad for me
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved, if large
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
1 medium sweet and crisp apple, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, ½-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped celery leaves
goat cheese, to garnish
1. Get ready. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Cook the Brussels sprouts. Heat large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat; add Brussels sprouts, apple cider and butter and cook over high heat until cider begins to boil and butter melts, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with a generous pinch of salt.
3. Roast. Transfer to oven and cook until Brussels sprouts are browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
4. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a small skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds and toast for 1 minute. Add cider vinegar and shallot and cook for 1–2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.
5. Finish cooking the Brussels. Return skillet to stovetop and cook over medium heat, basting occasionally with remaining liquid, until well glazed and liquid has nearly evaporated, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
6. Make the apple salad. In a medium bowl, toss the apple and celery with parsley, celery leaves and about 2 tablespoons vinaigrette.
7. Put it together and serve. Transfer Brussels sprouts to serving dish. Shave goat cheese over top. Garnish with apple mixture and spoon remaining vinaigrette over squash. Serve soon.
Celery Root, Fennel and Cauliflower Puree
Celery Root, Fennel and Cauliflower Puree ensures my husband’s parents and grandparents are always with us at holiday time. “Cauliflower Pudding” was a part of every family event and sad faces were evident without it. My updated version cooks a variety of roots in milk for ultimate flavor and makes it holiday-worthy with a vanilla bean thrown in for a hint of sweet aroma.
1 large (1 ½ pound) celery root, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 large fennel bulbs, quartered
1 pound cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ cup skim milk
½ cup half and half
1 vanilla bean, seeded (keep bean)
2 thyme sprigs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses to garnish (optional)
1. Cook the veggies. In a large saucepan, combine the celery root, fennel, potatoes, milk, cream, vanilla seeds and bean, thyme and salt and bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Stir from time to time to prevent the veggies from sticking to the pan.
2. Puree. Remove vanilla bean and thyme and discard. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the veggies to the work bowl of a food processor or blender. Process to blend.
3. Season and serve. Add butter and gently mix into puree. Season to taste with white pepper and salt. Consider garnishing with pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses. Serve warm or room temperature.
Gigi’s Sausage and Chestnut Dressing
My sister Gigi joins us every year with her Sausage and Chestnut Dressing. Bringing her side of the family’s Greek heritage to the table, this wild rice stuffing is naturally gluten free. I substitute mild pork sausage for her lamb and both versions are delicious.
Serves about 8
½ pound chestnuts, cooked and peeled
¼ cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons brandy
1 cup wild rice blend
1 pound sweet sausage meat
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup chicken stock
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Get ready. Heat oven to 425F. If baking outside the bird, butter an 8- x 12-inch baking dish. Place chestnuts and raisins in a large bowl, sprinkle with brandy and set aside.
2. Boil the rice. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add rice blend and cook until it is just done, about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and place in bowl with chestnut mixture.
3. Meanwhile, sauté. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and onions and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up with a fork, until meat is browned and cooked through, about 7-9 minutes.
4. Add major flavor. Push meat to one side of skillet. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir paste into meat and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Paste may stick; do not let it burn. Sprinkle with cinnamon and cook for 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth, scraping up browned bits. Turn off heat.
5. Combine. Place sausage mixture in bowl with chestnuts and raisins. Add pine nuts and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss and break apart about ½ of larger chestnuts. Make ahead note: Dressing can be chilled for up to 1 day.
6. Bake. Spoon stuffing into bird and roast. To bake this stuffing outside the bird, place in buttered baking dish, bake until the mixture is hot and liquid is almost absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Pear & Grape Crostata
The Pear and Grape Crostata brings one of my cooking mentors, my Aunt Harriett, to our holiday table. I still remember making pies with her at Thanksgiving as a kid. A crostata is a pie without the dish. It’s assembled and baked flat on a cookie sheet, bringing a delicious dessert to your table with much less hassle.
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon coarse salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 medium Bartlett pears, firm yet ripe, peeled, halved lengthwise, cored
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
2 teaspoons lemon zest
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons plain, dry bread crumbs
½ recipe Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
1. Get ready. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Make the streusel topping. Toss all the ingredients, except butter, together. Drizzle 12 tablespoons butter and mix just until the streusel comes together. Spread onto the baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes. Crumble the streusel with your fingers. Set aside ½ cup and store remainder in an airtight container for future use. Make ahead note: Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and freezer for up to 1 month.
3. Make the filling. Cut each pear half crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Combine fruit, zest, cardamom, flour and a pinch of salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add honey and stir until all ingredients are evenly coated.
4. Roll and fill the pastry. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll the pastry with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch circle. Transfer pastry and paper to a baking sheet.
5. Sprinkle. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1½-inch border. Put the fruit mixture on top; the mound of fruit will be several inches high. Sprinkle ½ cup streusel evenly over fruit.
6. Fold. Gently fold the border over the fruit, pleating it to make a circle. Brush the border gently with melted butter and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.
7. Bake. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender.
8. Serve. Transfer crostata to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Cream Cheese Pastry Dough
Makes 1 double-crust 10-inch pie or 10 hand pies
(Halve for grape crostata)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream
1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Combine the dairy. Thoroughly combine butter, cream cheese and cream in a food processor.
2. Add dry. Add flour, sugar and salt. Process until just combined and dough holds together in a ball when pinched.
3. Halve, wrap and rest dough. Turn dough out onto well-floured surface. Divide dough in half and gently shape into a ball. Wrap with plastic, flatten into a disk and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Make ahead note: Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days and frozen for up to 3 months. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling out.