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by Heather Sperling
November 2007

Rather than follow the rafter,* this Thanksgiving we offer some seasonal recipes for the holiday that can hold their own next to – or instead of – the particular gobbling character that has become central to the feast. The turkey did not always reign supreme; in fact, fowl was only one player at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. According to Edward Winslow, who documented the affair in the riveting A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, five deer and various fowl were among the day’s booty.

Along that vein, we have a variety of alternative – but not irreverent – recipes from Chefs Daryl Nash of Chicago and Chefs Todd Immel and Joshua Perkins of Atlanta, featuring game, fowl, and timely fruits of the season to accompany the feathered centerpiece. Nash, of Moto’s new neighbor, Otom, emboldens his produce – his smoked oyster mushrooms are hearty and meaty enough to replace bacon in a wilted spinach salad, and beets form the tangy finishing that takes a plate of pork belly from rich to vibrant. Immel’s menu is rustic and game-y, with jewel-toned fruit complementing each savory component. Pickled cherries and crosnes, those high-starch, highly-seasonal little tubers, fill the role usually reserved for cornichons, and golden persimmon and coppa play jamon y melon. Perkins plays with sweetness as well, dotting striped bass with an orange juice citrus butter, and pairing spiced duck with a salad of dates, figs, cherries, apricots and currants. The dish is elegant, aromatic, and sumptuous – it gives the turkey gangs a run for their money.

As for the big bird itself – ever wonder how to deep-fry your fowl, how to get it done the day before, or how to achieve maximum turkeyness? The answers are all here; click “TIPS” to find out.

*Rafter: a gang of turkeys

Chef Todd Immel
Table 1280 – Atlanta, GA

»» Rabbit Pâté with Pickled Cherries and Crosnes
»» Frisee Salad, Coppa, Fuyu Persimmon and Saba
»» Cervena Venison with Red Wine-Poached Seckel Pear and Celery Root
Tips >>

Daryl Nash
Otom – Chicago, IL
»»Wilted Spinach Salad with Smoked Oyster Mushrooms
»» Braised Pork Belly with Coriander-Red Beet Puree
Tips >>

Why all the fuss about brining? Admittedly turkeys aren’t the most flavorful fowl, and large sizes and long roasting times makes dried out meat a common affliction. Brining results in a noticeably juicier bird. Basic brine consists of a liquid (water with or without stock), spices, and around 5% salt (by weight). The salt acts as a tenderizer and adds water weight, yielding meat that is softer, moister, and more flavorful after sustained heat. Turkeys benefit from a bath that lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days; obviously the longer brining time means more complete saturation. But even quick 2-hour dip will help — this gives the brine time to permeate the outermost layer, adding juice for those long hours in the oven.

Meet the deer farmers from New Zealand who consistently live up to high expectations at