Thanksgiving is holiday No. 1 for Mike DeCamp, culinary director for Jester Concepts, which operates Monello, Constantine, Borough and Parlour in Minneapolis and is opening a branch of Parlour in St. Paul.

“It’s my favorite, because it’s food-focused,” he said. “It’s all about the food. And I really like all those fall flavors.”

Especially carrots.

“They’re my favorite vegetable, because they’re cheap and because you can do so much with them,” he said. “They’re fun to experiment with, like potatoes.”

DeCamp calls this “a very homestyle” dish.

“There’s nothing too fancy about it,” he said. Well, there is the Brie-enriched sauce. The Brie is a shout-out to a technique that was often employed at La Belle Vie, where DeCamp cooked for years.

“We would use Tallegio,” he said. “I use Brie here because I figured that it would be easier to find. But really, just about any cheese would be fine.”

He offers two chef’s tips.

“If I thought about it a little more, I might add something crisp to this dish,” he said. “Some kind of granola, perhaps.” Oh, and DeCamp highly recommends seeking out dill pollen, as a garnish.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “When I smell it, it reminds me of pickles, you know what I mean? Not just dill, but a little more powerful.”

Keeping it Korean

“Growing up, my mother primarily made Korean food,” said Ann Kim, chef/co-owner of Pizzeria Lola and Young Joni in Minneapolis and Hello Pizza in Edina. “But Thanksgiving was a total American fest, with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, all of that. It was the one day when we ate a traditional American meal.”

One of the most talked-about dishes on her Young Joni menu is the roasted Japanese sweet potatoes, tubers with reddish-purple skins and dense, light-colored flesh.

This slight variation makes for an ideal Thanksgiving side dish, one that can be prepared in advance and warmed just before serving.

“Thanksgiving is hard, logistically, because most people have one oven but are trying to serve a bunch of dishes,” she said.

The recipe’s flexibility is a major draw. For example, can’t find creme fraîche?

“Sour cream will do in a pinch,” said Kim. Even the type of tuber can vary, since many supermarkets and natural food co-ops are currently featuring a half-dozen varieties of sweet potatoes.

“Yams would be just fine,” said Kim, noting that their higher water content means they’ll bake slightly differently. “You could even stick to a regular baked potato, but you’ll be missing out on the sweetness.”

A Mexican switch-up

When Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse opened Pajarito late last year, they had hoped to offer sweet corn, elote-style. Unfortunately, the season had passed. That led to a brainstorm: Why not try that same format, using Brussels sprouts?

The variation turned into a runaway hit at the restaurant, with the kitchen going through up to 200 pounds of Brussels sprouts a week. This recipe is the same as the restaurant’s formula.

“We didn’t leave anything secret out,” said Hesse with a laugh. They do offer suggestions for shortcuts.

“You can use store-bought mayonnaise and add all the seasonings,” said Nelson. And instead of frying, consider roasting. Toss the peeled and trimmed sprouts in oil, season with salt and pepper, spread in a single layer (cut-side down) in a roasting pan and roast at 375 degrees until they start to crisp.

“Just don’t boil them,” said Hesse. “They get really cabbage-ey tasting.” Instead, follow his at-home method.

“That’s using a cast-iron skillet over high heat, until they get nice and charred,” he said, adding that this technique works even better if the Brussels sprouts are blanched first, for 3 to 5 minutes.

As for Thanksgiving, “I love it,” said Hesse. “It’s probably tied with Christmas.”

Nelson agreed. “It’s my No. 1 holiday,” he said. “You’re eating food, drinking wine, watching football and hanging out. That feeds into most of the seven deadly sins.”

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Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes With Lardon, Pickled Peppers, Togarashi and Crème Fraîche

Serves 8 to 16.

Note: Serve the potatoes whole for 8, or cut larger potatoes in half to serve 16. Use any sweet potato available. Togarashi is a Japanese seasoning blend, available in the international foods sections of most supermarkets. From chef Ann Kim of Young Joni in Minneapolis.

• 8 Japanese sweet potatoes with white flesh

• 1 lb. thick-cut bacon (or slab bacon)

• Flaky sea salt (preferably Maldon)

• Togarashi (see Note)

• 1 c. crème fraîche

• Freshly chopped chives, for garnish

• Pickled Fresno chiles (see recipe)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork in several places and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until fork-tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven.

Meanwhile, slice bacon into 1/4-inch pieces, or lardons. In a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until slightly crisp and golden brown. Transfer lardons to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm.

While sweet potatoes are still warm, slice lengthwise down the center. Press ends together to force the sweet potatoes open. Sprinkle each potato with salt and togarashi to taste. Divide lardons evenly among potatoes, and spoon a dollop of crème fraîche on each. Garnish with chopped chives, pickled Fresno chiles and extra togarashi, and serve.

Nutrition information per each of 16 servings:

Calories 145 Fat 8 g Sodium 470 mg

Carbohydrates 14 g Saturated fat 4 g Total sugars 5 mg

Protein 4 g Cholesterol 25 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1 ½ fat.

 

Pickled Fresno Chiles

Makes 7 oz. pickled chiles.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. From chef/owner Ann Kim of Young Joni in Minneapolis.

• 1 c. white vinegar

• 1/3 c. water

• 1 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds

• 1 1/2 tsp. sugar

• 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/2 tsp. peppercorns

• 7 oz. Fresno chiles, thinly sliced

Directions

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine vinegar, water, coriander, sugar, salt and peppercorns and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. When sugar is dissolved, remove from heat.

Pour mixture into a glass canning jar and let cool to room temperature. Add sliced chiles. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Chiles can be pickled up to 1 week in advance.

Pajarito’s Brussels Sprouts Elote-Style

Serves 6.

Note: Tajín brand seasoning, a mix of lime, chiles and sea salt, is available in Mexican specialty foods stores and the global foods aisles of most supermarkets. From chefs Stephan Hesse and Tyge Nelson of Pajarito in St. Paul.

• 1 1/2 quarts (6 c.) canola or vegetable oil, divided

• 2 lb. Brussels sprouts, cut in half and bottoms trimmed, divided

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 1/4 c. Elote Aioli (see Recipe)

• 1 tsp. Tajín brand seasoning (see Note)

• 1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions

Line a sheet pan with paper towels.

Place canola (or vegetable) oil in a Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat. Using a thermometer, bring oil to 350 degrees.

Gently place 1 pound Brussels sprouts in oil and fry until sprouts are cooked through and golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Using a strainer, remove sprouts from the oil and transfer to prepared sheet pan, allowing sprouts to drain a bit. Repeat with remaining 1 pound Brussels sprouts, making sure that oil is still at 350 degrees.

Transfer cooked sprouts to a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss with 1/4 cup Elote Aioli. Transfer sprouts to a serving dish, sprinkle with Tajín seasoning, garnish with lime wedges, and serve.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 200 Fat 16 g Sodium 170 mg

Carbohydrates 13 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 3 mg

Protein 4 g Cholesterol 5 mg Dietary fiber 5 g

Exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, 3 fat.

 

Elote Aioli

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Note: Think of this as a flavored mayo. Crema is a more sour crème fraîche and is available in most supermarkets and Mexican specialty food stores. Chefs Stephan Hesse and Tyge Nelson prefer Tapatío brand hot sauce, which is available in the global foods aisles of most supermarkets. This recipe will make more Elote Aioli than required for this Brussels sprouts recipe. Use the remaining aioli on “just about anything,” said Hesse. “Grilled asparagus, corn. I think a dip for fried or broiled fish — in place of tartar sauce — would be awesome.” Refrigerate remaining aioli in a tightly sealed container for up to a week.

• 2 garlic cloves

• 1 egg yolk

• 2 c. canola oil

• 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

• 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/4 tsp. dried oregano

• 1 1/2 tsp. hot sauce (see Note)

• 1/2 c. crema (see Note)

• Salt to taste

• 1 to 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions

Place garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade, and pulse until finely chopped. With food processor running on low speed, add egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water and process until combined.

Slowly drizzle canola oil into the egg mix, making sure that the oil is emulsifying into the yolk. Add the cayenne pepper, cumin, oregano and hot sauce and pulse until combined. Transfer mixture into a medium bowl. Stir in crema and taste for salt. Add lime juice, starting with 1 teaspoon, adding more as necessary to achieve the proper consistency. Transfer aioli into an airtight container and refrigerate.

Glazed Baby Carrots With Cumin and Dill

Serves 4.

Note: To toast cumin seeds, place in a dry pan over medium heat and warm until fragrant. From chef Mike DeCamp of Monello in Minneapolis, who suggests taking advantage of the potent flavors of dill pollen and using 1 tablespoon as a garnish. Find it at worldspice.com.

• 2 lbs. baby carrots

• 2 c. carrot juice

• Salt

• 2 c. Carrot Purée (see recipe)

• 1 tbsp. toasted cumin seeds (see Note)

• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter

• Maldon sea salt to garnish

• Sprigs of fresh dill

Directions

Trim the long green tops off the baby carrots. Using your hands, clean carrots under running water, removing all dirt; no need to peel.

In a medium-sized pot large enough to hold the carrots in 2 or 3 layers, add the carrots. Cover with the carrot juice, season with salt and cook over medium heat until the carrot juice has reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 25 minutes. Remove the carrots from the pan.

Add the butter to the pan, whisking and moving the pan vigorously to create an emulsion. Adjust seasoning if needed. Add the carrots back to the pot and glaze in the carrot butter. Sprinkle in the toasted cumin seeds.

On a serving plate, spread Carrot Purée across the plate. Place the cooked carrots in the center of the purée. Top with a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt and sprigs of fresh dill, and serve.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 540 Fat 39 g Sodium 770 mg

Carbohydrates 43 g Saturated fat 24 g Total sugars 23 mg

Protein 7 g Cholesterol 110 mg Dietary fiber 7 g

Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 1 carb, 7 ½ fat.

 

Carrot Purée

Makes about 3 cups.

Note: From chef Mike DeCamp of Monello.

• 1 lb. large carrots, peeled and cut into medium-size pieces

• 1/4 c. white honey

• 1/2 c. sherry vinegar

• 1 c. (2 sticks) butter

• 1/4 lb. Brie

• Salt

Directions

Place the carrots in a pot large enough to hold them. Cover with water, add honey and vinegar. Cook over medium heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 25 minutes.

Transfer carrots to a blender and blend until smooth. Pass carrots through a fine-mesh sieve.

Transfer carrot purée to a medium saucepan. Add butter and Brie, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until butter and cheese have melted. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and reserve.