A True Locavore Thanksgiving
Considering that Thanksgiving marks the celebration of a good harvest, nothing could be more in keeping with the holiday than “going local” to create the menu for your annual feast. Our favorite chefs, health coaches, and online experts turned us on to some amazing ways to find the best produce within a 50 to 100 mile range of your hometown. Not only does traveling the locavore’s route help save on energy and minimize your carbon footprint, but by relying on what area producers offer, the holidays truly become a celebration of home.
Being able to track where things are often leads to the best results. The editorial team at online cooking community Food52 suggests logging on to Real Time Farms. The site is a nationwide food guide where you can find what is in season closest to your home whether you are hunting for the perfect bird or seasonal quince for tasty desserts. And don’t forget about beverages.“ Going local doesn’t have to stop with the food. Look into local wineries, breweries, and distilleries for local drinks to go with the meal too,” advises senior editor Kristen Miglore.
Sisha Ortuzar, Partner and Chef of Riverpark Restaurant agrees “GPS”-ing the whereabouts of seasonal finds will add a lot to your table. Riverpark Farm, which sources the Manhattan restaurant, says, “Cooking local and seasonal is all in the sourcing. Just do a little research and then get out and support your local farmers,” encourages Chef Ortuzar, “Slow Food USA has a state-by-state resource on their website that helps people connect with their local chapters—and most of these chapters list local farmers markets in the region on their own sites.”
Know Your Bird
Quinn Asteak is a healthy eating coach who also works as a farm educator at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY. She suggests reaching out to local butchers and farms to see what kind of birds are being raised when searching for your turkey. At Stone Barns, the Broad Breasted White and heritage Bourbon Red turkeys are so popular that they sell out far in advance of Thanksgiving. Most turkeys gobbled up across the nation are Broad Breasted Whites–which are exactly as described, larger turkeys with greater breast width. Bourbon reds are a more expensive, older, historic breed. “Thanksgiving is a true locavore’s seasonal holiday even by the nature of the birds we prefer. Most poultry is housed indoors after the temperatures drop,” says Asteak, “Turkeys can still withstand cooler temperatures in the fall. Birds outdoors are still eating a natural diet.”
Food52 loves this simple turkey recipe: Butter and Herb Roast Turkey - moreover - they suggest sides that work well for Northeastern Thanksgiving dinners including this recipe for a Sweet Potato Parsnip Mash:
Deliciously Serves 4
- 1 & ¼ pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
- 1pound parsnips
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 packed tablespoon freshly grated horseradish + additional salt and horseradish to taste
- Sugar, maple syrup, or honey if needed to sweeten
Peel sweet potatoes and parsnips, and cut into ¼-inch thick slices. Combine sweet potato and parsnip slices, cream, butter, salt, and half of the horseradish root in a 3 or 4 quart saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened. This will take about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher to desired texture. Stir in half of remaining horseradish making sure to incorporate well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, additional horseradish, and/or sweetener if needed. Serve hot.
If you live in Massachusetts but your recipe calls for something from afar, you can still pull it off without breaking the locavore rule book. Miglore and the food52.com team give your Aunt Jane a reason not to miss her plane. “Outsource to your out-of-towners! Need Meyer lemon for your dessert? Ask your aunt from California to tuck a few in her suitcase!” Asteak is gluten intolerant. Her mom makes a regular stuffing for the rest of the family, but they always dig in to her specially prepared pumpkin cornbread substitute. Having family members with food sensitivities can yield some awesome results using seasonal ingredients. (the attached PDF should become a link)
Don’t Forget About Ambiance
Food52 suggests sourcing your centerpiece along with other decorations and floral arrangements from your local farmer’s market. Not only is this a great idea, but it helps you beat the insanity of the supermarket. “branches, in-season greenery, even produce like tiny pumpkins and cabbages look better than anything you could pick up at the grocery store,” they suggest.
And while you are basking in the beauty of seasonal decor which should last far beyond enjoying that Thanksgiving meals, don’t forget the leftovers. Ortuzar is also a founding partner of 'wichcraft with Jeffrey Zurofsky and Tom Colicchio under the Craft family of restaurants. The entire business plan of 'wichcraft relys on supporting local farms. They’ve got a yummy, coma-inducing sandwich for all the parts of your Thanksgiving meal you can’t finish.
Kafi Drexel is a media consultant and journalist based in New York.