We know what most tables will hold on Thanksgiving Day--turkey. What accompanies that turkey will vary according to family tradition and taste. In this less rigid portion of the menu, it is more feasible to slip in a new dish, perhaps an interesting treatment of vegetables.
Sweet potato pone, for example, should appeal to those accustomed to candied sweet potatoes. The recipe comes from Anne Rosenzweig, chef and co-owner of Arcadia restaurant in New York. Rosenzweig, who was in Los Angeles recently, said she developed the dish as a variation on Southern corn pone. The flavorings include orange juice, lemon peel and the sweet spices--cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Molasses and brown sugar add deeper tones.
(Rosenzweig also has come up with an interesting way to cook onions. It's a simple method based on one key seasoning--whiskey. Long, slow cooking brings out the sweet flavor of the onions. The alcohol evaporates, leaving only the vibrant flavor.)
Non-turkey eaters might consider an eggplant tart that is served at the Cassis French Grill in Los Angeles. The tart would go well with roast beef or could stand on its own at a vegetarian celebration. The filling is a combination of eggplant, tomatoes, onion and spinach layered with pesto sauce and topped with pastry.
Another vegetable tart, this one filled with mushrooms, turned up at a cooking demonstration at the Ballard Canyon Winery at Solvang. The demonstration was part of the entertainment included in the winery's annual harvest festival.
Representing Bon Appetit at the Bank of America Tower, chef Allison Lew simmered mushrooms down to rich flavor, placed them in prebaked tart shells and added shavings of Parmesan cheese. Lew recommended using such fashionable mushrooms as fresh shiitake or oyster mushrooms, but she produced a sumptuous effect at the Ballard demonstration with common button mushrooms.
The final suggestion, for Corn and Tomato Fritters, comes from the historic town of Williamsburg, Va. The first settlement on the site of what is now Williamsburg dates to 1633, just 12 years after the first Thanksgiving was proclaimed in Plymouth Colony. The fritters' link to history may be nebulous, but we all know that the Indians taught the Pilgrims to use corn, and therefore corn is appropriate for Thanksgiving.
The source of this recipe is Marcel Desaulniers, executive chef of the Trellis restaurant in Williamsburg, which specializes in contemporary American food and menus that reflect the season. In the newly published "The Trellis Cookbook" (Weidenfeld & Nicolson: $25), Desaulniers suggests the fritters for summer, when fresh corn is in season. At other times, they can be made with canned corn. A beer batter and the addition of tomatoes marinated with hot chile and raspberry vinegar make these golden morsels a lively addition to Thanksgiving dinner.
BON APPETIT'S WILD MUSHROOM TARTS
2 pounds wild mushrooms (shiitake, chanterelles, oyster mushrooms) 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons white wine
1 cup veal or beef stock
6 baked Tart Shells
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Quarter mushrooms. Heat butter in skillet. Add mushrooms and shallots and season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute until mushrooms are tender. Add tarragon and wine and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Add veal stock and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup. Spoon mixture into baked tart shells, garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve at once. Makes 6 servings.
Note: Button mushrooms may be substituted for wild mushrooms.
Cream Cheese Dough
2 cups flour
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
Place flour in food processor bowl. Cut cheese into several pieces and scatter over flour. Cut butter into tablespoons and add to flour. Process with on and off motion 6 to 8 times, then continue to process until dough is blended but has not yet formed ball. Remove from food processor and gather into ball. Cut in half. Shape each half into 4 or 5-inch rectangle, wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or longer before using. Roll out half of dough at time until about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 6 (5 1/2-inch) circles. Reserve dough scraps for another use. Fit circles into 6 (4 1/2-inch) tart pans. Fold and crimp edges. Bake at 400 degrees 15 to 20 minutes. Cool before filling.
ANNE ROSENZWEIG'S SWEET POTATO PONE
1/2 pound unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
4 cups grated sweet potatoes
1 cup orange juice
6 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons whiskey
Grated zest of 4 lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Cream butter and sugar together in mixer bowl. Add eggs and beat. Beat in potatoes, orange juice, molasses, whiskey, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn into buttered 12x7-inch baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees 1 hour. Makes 8 servings.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup whiskey
Melt butter in Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add onions and cook slowly 30 minutes. Add whiskey and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until mixture is dry, about 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
CASSIS EGGPLANT TARTS
1 medium eggplant
2 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons oil
1 bunch spinach, cleaned and steamed
2 tomatoes, sliced
Pastry for 2-crust pie
Thinly slice eggplant and season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute onions in oil until clear. In buttered individual souffle molds, alternate layers of eggplant, onions, spinach, tomatoes and Pesto Sauce. Repeat layers to top. Roll pastry out until about 1/8 inch thick. Cut 6 (5 1/2-inch) circles. Place on top of vegetables. Bake at 400 degrees 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
5 cloves garlic
3/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 bunch fresh basil
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
Combine garlic, pine nuts, basil and olive oil in blender or food processor and process until well blended. Makes 1 cup.
THE TRELLIS CORN AND TOMATO FRITTERS
3/4 cup Marinated Chopped Tomatoes
3 medium ears fresh corn or 1 1/2 cups well drained canned whole kernel corn
3 cups bread flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
3/4 cup shredded Jack cheese
1/4 cup shredded Tillamook Cheddar cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup beer
4 to 6 cups vegetable shortening
Chop tomatoes as fine as possible to yield 1/2 cup. Place chopped tomatoes in strainer over bowl and allow to drain in refrigerator 1 hour. If using fresh corn, blanch in 3 quarts boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain and place at once in ice water. When cool, drain thoroughly. Scrape kernels from cob with sharp knife.
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, cornstarch, salt and pepper in electric mixer fitted with paddle (or mix batter by hand, using whisk). Add cheeses, green onions, tomatoes and corn and mix at low speed 1 minutes. Add milk and beer and mix at low speed 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl, then mix 30 seconds. Cover batter with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes before using.
Heat shortening in deep fryer or high-sided heavy pot to 365 to 375 degrees. Use small ice scream scoop (about 1 inch in diameter) to form fritters into balls. Scoop should be full with no excess batter dripping down sides. Place 4 to 6 balls in oil at time and fry until golden brown, about 1 minute. With tongs or slotted spoon, remove fritters from hot shortening and transfer to baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat until all fritters are fried, then bake at 250 degrees 8 to 10 minutes, or until fritters are firm, indicating center is cooked. Serve at once. If necessary, fritters can be held in oven up to 15 minutes after baking time is completed, but no longer. Makes 32 fritters.
Marinated Chopped Tomatoes
1 small jalapeno chile
3 tomatoes, cored
2 teaspoons red raspberry vinegar
3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small red onion, finely diced
Char chile over burner until blackened all over. Rinse under cold running water to remove peel. Cut peeled chile in half. Remove and discard seeds. Chop very fine and set aside. Place tomatoes in boiling water until skin begins to come loose, about 45 seconds. Remove from boiling water and plunge into ice water. When cool, remove from water. Peel, cut in half horizontally, seed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces. In bowl, whisk together raspberry vinegar, pepper and salt. Add tomatoes, chile and onion and blend well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 hours, or until ready to use. Makes 2 cups.