Call me a traditionalist, but when I look over a Thanksgiving table I don’t want to find strawberries spilling out from the cornucopia. Nor asparagus. And definitely not rhubarb.
No, there will be none of that out-of-season produce on my table. I want to see — and taste — the fruit of the fall harvest, our regional plenty, in all its glorious splendor: the potatoes, onions, cranberries, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and wild rice (yes, lots of wild rice) grown in these parts, that sustain us throughout winter. Hearty fare, all.
And local fare — which ties our meal today with the one served centuries ago.
While I may be a traditionalist when it comes to the type of food that lands on the table, as a cook I’m looking for new twists and turns on these favorites (and I know you are, too). For inspiration, I turn to the voices of the Midwest, found in our local cookbooks. They’re the ones who know how to make yesterday’s favorite into today’s must-have.
From Amy Thielen, who is the star of “The Heartland Table” on the Food Network, we have variations on two traditional dishes: wild rice (hers with chestnuts and pistachios) and a potato-rutabaga bake that will look familiar to anyone with Scandinavian roots. From Beth Dooley and chef Lucia Watson, it’s a compote of cranberries and leeks. Blogger Brett Laidlow gives us roasted carrots with a maple-mustard glaze. Chef Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma and Brasa serves up a twist on creamed onions with a fennel-onion gratin.
Baker extraordinaire Beatrice Ojakangas of Duluth offers a Northern twist on a buttermilk cornbread muffin. Heid Erdrich, in her new book on indigenous foods, looks to cranberries for a pie and buttery squash with sage for a side.
Now these are dishes to be thankful for. Let’s get cooking.