Perhaps everyone’s favorite part of Thanksgiving is the food (with family coming in a close second). It’s the only day of the year that everyone proclaims, “NOW YE SHALL EAT NOTHING BUT COMFORT FOOD!”
Luckily, some of us also really enjoy cooking, adding another fine element to the holiday: picking recipes. Over the years, I’ve tried family recipes and online recipes, but this year, I’m drawn to recipes from my favorite authors — because sure, they can write a fantastic meal, but can they throw down in the kitchen? Here’s an entire Thanksgiving meal inspired by the authors who make us hungry:
1. Virginia Zaharieva's Turkey with Chestnuts from Nine Rabbits
As a former vegetarian, I always hesitate in proclaiming turkey as the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving feast, but this butter-filled delicacy earns the title. Here’s a great recipe from Zaharieva's Nine Rabbits:
Tsvetana Galileeva’s secret is injecting the turkey with a syringe of melted butter so it is juicy, albeit quite caloric.
Ingredients: one turkey (around ten pounds), one small onion, a half-pound of shelled chestnuts, 3.5 ounces of foie gras (duck or goose), salt and black pepper to taste, three green apples, one stick of butter.
Once the turkey is cleaned and washed, coat it liberally both outside and inside with salt and butter.
For the stuffing: Saute the onion, chestnuts and the chopped-up foie gras in butter. Peel the green apples and steam them until soft and make them into a puree. Add black pepper. Fill the turkey with this stuffing.
Sew the turkey shut and place it in a pan. Pour a bit of water in and cover the whole pan with foil.
Bake the turkey in the oven at a moderate heat for two and a half to three hours, taking it out every 40 minutes to add a little more water and to coat it with butter. At the end, remove the foil and put the pan back in the oven for 15 minutes to make the skin crispy. Before serving, coat the turkey with a mixture of honey and lemon.
2. Alice Munro’s Rosemary Bread Pudding inspired by The View from Castle Rock
Stuffing is great, but it often goes dry and stale just a day or two into post-Thanksgiving leftovers. This savory bread pudding is the perfect compromise: It’s simple yet complex, to complement Munro's prose:
6 cups 1-inch cubed rosemary country bread, crust removed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded Comté or Emmanthal cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and pale gold, 15 to 20 minutes, turning pan about halfway through.
2. Transfer bread to a large bowl, leaving the oven on. Add fresh rosemary and thyme; toss well.
3. In another large bowl, lightly whisk eggs with milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Sprinkle a third of the shredded cheese in bottom of a buttered 9×5-inch loaf pan. Spread half the bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with another third of the cheese. Spread remaining bread mixture in pan, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Pour in enough milk mixture to cover bread, and gently press on bread so milk soaks in. Let rest 15 minutes.
4. Add remaining milk mixture, letting some bread cubes protrude. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until pudding is set and top is brown and bubbling, about 65 to 75 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then serve.
3. Nora Ephron’s Mashed Potatoes from Heartburn
When I think of heartburn, I don’t normally think of enticing recipes, but Ephron’s 1983 novel is the exception. What I love most about Ephron’s mashed potatoes recipe is that she doesn’t tell you where to draw the line with the heavy cream and butter. (I’m a big fan of the kamikaze, taste-as-you-go style.) For Turkey Day purposes, you might want to multiply this serving by 10:
For mashed potatoes: Put 1 large (or 2 small) potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and place the potatoes back in the pot and shake over low heat to eliminate excess moisture. Peel. Put through a potato ricer and immediately add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and as much melted butter and salt and pepper as you feel like. Eat immediately. Serves one.
4. Jonathan Franzen’s Pasta with Kale from The New Great American Writer’s Cookbook
After noticing Franzen’s contribution to Dean Faulkner Wells’s cookbook, I couldn’t help wishing he had shared a recipe from one of his books — especially considering Denise Lambert’s culinary expertise in The Corrections. Regardless, this simple garlic and kale pasta recipe is not only easy to learn but surprisingly delicious:
1 lb. fresh kale
1 lb. good dry pasta, ideally Del Verde brand
1 kettle of water with lots of salt
3 medium-size garlic cloves
1/2 cup (or less) extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil water in a kettle. Peel the garlic and chop it up. Wash the kale, tearing it into pieces roughly the size of playing cards (throw away the lower, woodier two-thirds of the stems), and pile it into a pot. Add a little water, if necessary, to make maybe a quarter-inch on the bottom of the pot. Cover with a lid. Sauté the garlic (and some salt) in the olive oil until the garlic just barely begins to brown; remove from heat. Add pasta to the boiling water and stir it a little. Turn on high heat under the kale and steam/boil it, tossing it once or twice, until it’s full wilted; pour off any excess liquid. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it with the kale, garlic, and oil. Some pepper may be ground over it. Grated cheese, however, is a desecration.
5. Ralph Ellison’s Sweet Yams inspired by Invisible Man
“I knew that it would be sweet before I broke it; bubbles of brown syrup had burst the skin ... I broke it, seeing the sugary pulp steaming in the cold.” I ate candied yams like a madwoman for over a year after reading Ellison’s decadent description from Invisible Man, and I’m still hooked. Thankfully, I found the perfect recipe to imitate the novel’s intoxicating yams:
4 medium sized yams, or sweet potatoes, cut in 1/2
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons Toasted Spice Rub (recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon gray salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Put sweet potatoes in a glass or stainless steel bowl.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in brown sugar and lemon juice. When sugar is completely melted, stir in Toasted Spice Rub and gray salt. Pour mixture over sweet potatoes. Toss well.
Arrange sweet potatoes in a baking dish, cut side up. With rubber spatula, scrape all the butter and spice mixture over the top of the sweet potatoes, and then add a sprinkling of Toasted Spice Rub on top of each one. Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F until easily pierced with a knife.
Toasted Spice Rub
1/4 cup fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (1-ounce) pure California chili powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes, and toss, toss, toss, always under the fan. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool. Put in a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon, and blend until the spices are evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, pepper, and chili flakes. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients.
6. Louisa May Alcott’s Apple Slump
Alcott’s recipe is a fun play on your basic apple pie. In recent years, the apple slump has been ditched in favor for the crumble and the cobbler, but it’s easy to make and delicious (despite its unenthused name). Literary food blog Paper and Salt adds walnut to Alcott’s classic recipe to give it a satisfying crunch:
5 to 6 tart apples; pared, cored and sliced (Granny Smiths work well)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or bourbon)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the inside of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
2. Make apple base: In a large bowl, gently mix apple slices, lemon juice, and vanilla (or bourbon). In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt. Add the sugar mixture to the apple mixture and toss until coated.
3. Spread apple base evenly in prepared pan and bake until soft, about 20 minutes.
4. Make topping: While the apples are baking, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add egg, milk, and melted butter. Stir gently.
5. Pour flour mixture over baked apples and sprinkle walnuts evenly over the top. Continue baking 25 minutes, or until the top is brown and crusty. Cool 5 minutes and serve with your favorite ice cream (or bourbon).
7-12. The Best of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 12 Ways to Prepare Turkey from The Crack-Up
And of course, we can’t forget Thanksgiving leftovers. You can make sandwiches or chili, but theres always still so much more turkey remaining — which is why I have a soft spot for Fitzgerald's Thanksgiving leftovers jokes from The Crack Up. A few of my favorites:
Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters. Shake.
Turkey à la Francais: Take a large ripe turkey, prepare as for basting and stuff with old watches and chains and monkey meat. Proceed as with cottage pudding.
Turkey Mousse: Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc. Blow up with a bicycle pump. Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall.
Stolen Turkey: Walk quickly from the market, and, if accosted, remark with a laugh that it had just flown into your arms and you hadn’t noticed it. Then drop the turkey with the white of one egg—well, anyhow, beat it.
Turkey à la Crême: Prepare the crême a day in advance. Deluge the turkey with it and cook for six days over a blast furnace. Wrap in fly paper and serve.
Turkey Hash: This is the delight of all connoisseurs of the holiday beast, but few understand how really to prepare it. Like a lobster, it must be plunged alive into boiling water, until it becomes bright red or purple or something, and then before the color fades, placed quickly in a washing machine and allowed to stew in its own gore as it is whirled around. Only then is it ready for hash. To hash, take a large sharp tool like a nail-file or, if none is handy, a bayonet will serve the purpose—and then get at it! Hash it well! Bind the remains with dental floss and serve.
Have any enticing Thanksgiving recipes from authors to add to the list? Share them with us in the comment box below!
Freddie Moore is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her full name is Winifred, and her writing has appeared in unFold, The Paris Review Daily and The Huffington Post. As a former co-president of SUNY Purchase’s Cheese Club, she’s a big-time foodie who knows her cheese.
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