Hello my fabulous human friends! As I sit here watching the rain trickle down on a fog covered lake just outside of Seattle, I can't help but wonder whatever happened to Thanksgiving. These days I barely have time to put away my Don Flamenco Halloween costume before being bombarded with Christmas decorations and ads about black Friday and cyber Monday. Sale, sale, sale! Maybe I’m biased - being a chef and all - but that just ain't right. This is the one holiday devoted to remembering where you come from, who's been part of that journey and shamelessly stuffing your face, of course! There's simply nothing better than that.
One of my most memorable Thanksgivings was during my first year as an accidental chef in France. As it turned out, the French have another word for this holiday -"jeudi," or simply, “Thursday.” I wanted to recreate the grand feasts I had growing up on Kodiak Island for my new friends, but finding all the fixings was more challenging than I had anticipated in a place that survives on butter, chocolate and bread (have I mentioned I love the place?). Needless to say, I had to get creative with some of my family’s old recipes, of which I'm including a couple below. To me, that’s what this day is all about; sharing what you have and know with family and friends. Oh, and the aforementioned shameless face stuffing, obviously.
Speaking of family, many of you are so sweet and continue to inquire about if and when I'll be seeing Osa and Osito. Sure enough, I've arranged for the three of us to rendezvous at a top-secret location near Lake Tahoe for a few days of fishing, foraging and bear-back bobsledding. It'll be the first time Osito has seen snow and I can't wait to get into a family snowball fight whilst teaching him the dangers of the yellow snow. After fishing with my paws and jaw all my life, I've recently been introduced to the wonders of a fishing pole and my oh my has it changed my life. Osa will be bringing her Dutch oven for bread and desserts over the fire, just like her father used to during their winters in Whitefish. As for Osito, he's been foraging his little heart out and promises to serve up all the fruit, veggies and weeds we desire. When all is said and done, we'll each bring offerings to the table made from the number one ingredient: LOVE.
Have a great Thanksgiving, friends.
Fun fact: sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing. They each have their own identity, but because of improper labeling at grocery stores they get confused with one another. But, hey, after you top them with marshmallows does it really matter?
Yam, Bam, Thank You Ma'am
8 (6 oz.) yams
1 c upsalted butter
1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage
mini marshmallows (as many as you'd like)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the yams crosswise into ¼-inch slices, leaving about ⅛ inch intact at the bottom. Place the yams on an aluminum foil–lined baking dish; cover tightly with foil. Bake until slightly tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter with the sage in a large skillet over medium and cook, stirring often until golden, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove foil. Brush half of the butter mixture on the yams so it seeps in between the slices. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, until tender, about 1 hour.
4. Turn the broil function on in your oven. Wedge the mini marshmallows randomly between the slices and watch closely as the marshmallows will brown fairly quickly.
5. Remove from the oven and brush the remaining sage butter over the tops and sides. Enjoy!
I came up with this when a truck-load of figs from Toulouse showed up at our restaurant one day. The chef wanted something interesting on the cheese board that night - a twist on a classic flavor. These babies are great on their own, paired with cheese, or as a funky substitute for cranberries on your Thanksgiving table.
1 lb. fresh figs*
2/3 c apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 c sugar
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 allspice berries
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
*A note on the figs: Figs are still available in the Seattle area but word on the street is they are now hard to find in San Diego. You can sub with dried figs, but you may need to cook a little longer on day two. Just make sure they are nice and soft.
1. Bring vinegar, 1 cup of sugar and the salt to a simmer in a small but heavy pot. Add the allspice berries, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cloves. Cover the pot and remove from the heat, allowing the spices to steep for 10 minutes.
2. Add the figs to the pot and return it to a simmer, uncovered over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, then cool, cover and refrigerate everything in the pot overnight.
3. The next morning, add the last 1/3 cup of sugar to the pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until the figs are soft and slightly shrunk, about 15 minutes.
4. Pour everything into a jar, cool and refrigerate before serving. Enjoy!