It isn’t the big, tanned jock of a turkey, the darkly suave prime rib, or even the good ole red-faced broasted ham that gets holiday pulses racing. No, it is the mashed potatoes, the cranberry sauce, the stuffing, the candied yams, the creamed pearl onions, the green beans with crunchy onions, and the gravy—these are the reasons your guests show up. Not that the bros aren’t great, of course, particularly the day after when their overbearing scents are out of the house and we can finally enjoy them playing nice on a sandwich. Then, they’re absolute phenoms. And, honestly, we wouldn’t even ditch the bros “day of.” They’re the counterpoint, the contrast, the foils to our tastier-than-thou sides.
This fall, when considering recipes, we looked for dishes where our products could out-perform, garner some compliments, and make us proud. And, of course, we wanted them to complement each other and the main course on the holiday table. We winnowed the list down to four before realizing what was missing. Gravy. Gravy, ever the culinary diplomat, unites a main course broast with an array of side dishes, magnifying their flavor combinations to produce maximum satisfaction.
A click on each image will take you to its recipe.
Madeira Gravy for Roasted Turkey
Gravy is homey, sauce is elegant. When do they connect? Definitely not in a pan gravy scraped together on the fly in the final moments before stepping to the table for a lavish holiday meal. It’s no wonder these gravies end up with lumps or fat slicks. But gravy and sauce do connect when the process of making one proceeds at a comfortable pace a day or even a week before your gathering. Madeira gravy—now there’s a concept, right? Yet this gravy presents itself without pretension. What everyone wants in a gravy is richly layered meat flavor, lusciousness on the tongue, and an effort to connect with other dishes served. This gravy checks all those boxes. But what truly sets it apart is a deep barely perceptible note of caramel, a touch of muted spice, the nuttiness of fine roux made with fresh heirloom flour, and a faint modulated sweetness from the late fall brilliance of dry Sercial Madeira. Who knew gravy could be so charming?
Larger than life, lighter than air, nothing embodies astonishment like the humble popover. Its distant ancestor, Yorkshire pudding, has been trapped under a fat-dripping roast for a couple of centuries, but leave it to the Americans to bake two words into a single pastry, and, dare we say, make it lighter, crisper, better? Ah, and wait until you taste a popover baked with Anson Mills French Mediterranean White Bread Flour for the ultimate in popover prowess: a thin, rather buttery patina, magnificent browning, and moist interior under the faint flavors of sweet dark berry, fresh cream, and Brazil nut that manifest only when heirloom flour is alive and new crop–fresh from the field.
Charleston Gold Brown Rice Stuffing
Roasted turkey stuffing should evoke rural field habitat, autumn scents of herb and spice, moist earth, fallen leaves, and wild grass. But what about stuffings that distend their pleasures beyond “pleasantly full” to dumbstruck? This year we considered how a stuffing might take its cue from the decades-deep American trek toward lighter fare and do the honors without the bulwark of bread. Enter Charleston Gold Brown Rice, stage left, which lightens the arrangement and curries new flavors, while retaining all the fine character and disposition of a traditional bread stuffing. Excellent, too, straight from a fork at the fridge ’round midnight.
Cheddared Grits Casserole
Hey, remember the primary school science class where teacher used a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight onto the palm of a student’s hand to heat it up, and everyone learned about optical magnification? We’re coming in through the back door here, but this very principle applies to the flavor magnification that takes place when Pencil Cob Grits meet aged Cheddar in a casserole. From crackling burnished crust to sublimely soft center, dairy and corn engage in back and forth flavor impressions in casserole form, which can be enjoyed breakfast, brunch, or dinner.
Roasted Carrots with Toasted Benne
You didn’t think we’d allow you to leave the table without a serving of vegetables, did you? We struggle to describe the seductions of this dish, which is comprised of creamy-centered roasted carrot slices whose burnish is hastened by a butter and raw honey glaze, and which are stipled with crispy butter-toasted benne seeds and sweet poached garlic. Benne and honey, possibly the oldest savory-sweet pairing known to man, seem to have a near magical relationship with each other that inflects all other ingredients in their midst. A holiday-worthy side.
Rye Gingerbread with Grand Marnier Hard Sauce
Pies and puddings, the occasional Paris Brest or bûche de Noël. These are holiday desserts. Yet there are times we prefer a simple slice of cake. Gingerbread is a such a cake, a quick little spice number, but when new crop Abruzzi Heirloom Rye makes the cake, the natural spiciness of the rye sinks into your psyche like the embers of a late-night fire. A fire we put out with a grand dollop of hard sauce, which, in case you aren’t familiar, is a fluffy icing seasoned with a measure of brandy or the like. The hard sauce performs a sensory code switch as it melts on the warm cake to suggest a sensation of cool above the heat.