Every Thanksgiving, our friend Penny roasts her famous port-basted turkey with homemade chestnut stuffing, and for the past decade or so we’ve been among the lucky crowd who descends to eat it. Penny also serves her award-winning apple pies, using the pie crust recipe that she’s followed for 30-plus years, with a particular type of apple that she and her husband pick from a particular orchard every fall. She likes tradition. In fact, when I suggested a short cut regarding the chestnuts for the stuffing, she held up her hands and cried, “No, no, don’t make me do anything new, I’ll panic.”
Another regular to this feast always brings wonderful creamed onions. Penny’s daughter makes a silky butternut squash soup. Her daughter-in-law hauls in a vat of heavenly mashed potatoes whose recipe suggests you don’t bother unless you’re willing to put in the several sticks of butter it calls for, which she is.
I’m on call for something green, or at least not beige, and I’m still searching for my own traditional contribution. In the past, I’ve taken broccoli perked up with fresh ginger and garlic, which was a hit one year and a flop the next, when we ate much later and the broccoli got tired of waiting and went soggy. Green beans don’t reheat well unless you like them limp. Roasted Brussels sprouts were a moderate success, although there are holdouts who still remember being forced as children to eat what one friend insists on calling “little green balls of death.”
Parsnips are beige, as well as being a starch, but they’re wonderful cut into fat sticks, tossed in a little oil and coarse salt and roasted in a hot oven until they’re tender. Add some carrot sticks, a sprinkling of fresh rosemary and a minced shallot and the dish tastes even better, and has some color, as well.
This year, I’m taking baked artichoke hearts, which is a doddle to prepare, will withstand a short trip, and can be warmed up, or finished just before serving, if there’s a chance of oven time. I imagine it’s best made with fresh-cooked artichoke hearts, if you’ve got lots of time on your hands, but most recipes call for canned or frozen. I think the frozen ones have a slight edge. You can use less lemon, or different herbs, or even include a few anchovy fillets in the topping, as Rachael Ray does in her version. The dish seems to come out tasty, no matter how it’s tweaked. (And don’t wrinkle your nose about anchovies, you in the back — they add depth of flavor to all sorts of dishes).
Baked Artichoke Hearts
1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh curly parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, or a mix
1½ tsp dried thyme
1½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 packages (9 ounces each) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the breadcrumbs, parsley, cheese, herbs, and salt in a bowl, and season with pepper.
Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, or use two smaller ones. Spread the artichoke hearts in a single layer, gently pressing them flat, and sprinkle evenly with the breadcrumb mixture.
Whisk oil, lemon juice, zest and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle dressing over the breadcrumb topping.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Increase temperature to 375 degrees, remove the foil, and bake until the breadcrumb topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
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