Thursday, November 27, 2014


Wild rice and foraged mushroom stuffing, cranberry chutney, bbq turkey, spiced sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, brussels sprouts with bacon and onions, squash soup, carrot and potato gratin, beans, garlic and brie mashed potatoes, sweet potato fries, cumin roasted carrots, kale and brussels sprout salad, baked brie, pomegranate seeds with mint, toasted almonds, an Amador County Barbera, Deerfield Ranch 2005 Meritage Blend, Spiced cupcakes, tres leches cake, apple crumble, flan with homemade dulce de leche, and chocolate cubes. We served twenty people, and a day later, I am already out of left overs. 

Over the past 5 years, I have gone from the potato peeling girl to the one organizing the menu, sending out invitations, and making sure the Turkey makes an appearance by 4pm. I love the creativity Thanksgiving inspires in menu planning and recipe development. Every year I choose one to two new recipes to add to the table, however the kale and brussels sprouts salad always makes a return appearance. My favorite new recipe was homemade dulce de leche simmered down from whole milk with vanilla beans. However, I will share this recipe later in the holiday season, as I have a couple ideas to spice it up with. I have half a mind to mass produce the stuff and send it out as holiday gifts. So if you want some extra holiday dulce de leche, just keep pestering me until I finally whip it up again.

Despite the vast array of recipes scattered across our table, it’s the people leaning against the white linen table cloth that add the real spice to Thanksgiving. Each year our community expands, and someone new is introduced into the family. This year we experienced the return of Emily Ward and her mother. My sister and I lived next to Emily for a good part of our childhood, but she wasn’t called Emily back then. No, we called her the Altoid for that one stray front tooth that grew in a little too early. Our little Altoid, the third Barton sister, is all grown up now, attending University, and just returned from New Zealand, but one thing hasn’t changed a bit; Emily still knows how to bring the party. 

After we gorged ourselves, understanding the real meaning of gluttony, Emily turned up the music, and the living room was roaring with song and dance. We had people getting low, the Macarena, a couple people who could actually dance, and a three year old being tossed from person to person. Every face glowed. In this moment, on the dance floor, we were all connected, and love flowed evenly between us, true holiday magic. 


Servings: 10 people
Time: 20-25 minutes

  • 1 cup kahlua coffee liquor
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans
  • 1 round of Brie
  • Water crackers
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Bake the round of Brie in a glass pie pan at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. 

In a small pot, combine the brown sugar and kahlua. On medium heat, stir until all the brown sugar is dissolved. Then on low heat, reduce the liqueur while stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon. After the sauce has thickened, add the nuts, stir. 

Pour the sauce and nuts on top of the baked brie. The sauce will drip down around the sides. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Line the edge of the pie pan, around the Brie, with water crackers. 

 The evolution of my involvement with Thanksgiving has mirrored my switch from the biotech industry to the wine industry, and marked the beginning of my food blogging. One of the first recipes I blogged was this kale and brussels sprout salad, which I originally obtained from Saveur magazine in 2011. The copy of the recipe below is now my family’s version. This recipe has been passed around, with each new person adding a small twist. It is our favorite hearty holiday salad, and satisfies almost all dietary requirements. Gluten-free, and easily vegan, if the cheese is removed.


Servings: 12 people
Time: 30 minutes

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp finely minced shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 2 large bunches of Tuscan Kale (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
  • 12 oz.  brussels sprouts, finely grated 
  • 1/3 cup almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds. 

For the dressing, combine lemon juice, mustard, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir and set aside. Finely grate or chop all of the ingredients for the dressing to homogenize flavor. 

Thinly slice the kale, but leave the stems behind. Grate the brussels sprouts. Toss the kale and brussels sprouts together, in a large bowl. 

Chop, and toast the almonds on medium heat until browned, but not burnt. Mix in the dressing, cheese, and almonds. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. 


Two wines stood out the most to me, an Amador County Barbera, and Deerfield’s 2005 Meritage.

The Amador County Barbera was a wonderful surprise. Unfortunately, I do not remember the winery from which it originated, but I will update this information once it is rediscovered.  True to a Barbera it was a lighter red wine. However, it lacked a lot of the red fruit characteristics I am used to in Sonoma Valley Barberas. This Barbera was all earth. It reminded me of an Oregon Pinot Noir, without the extra smoke on the nose. I have never tasted so much earth in such a light wine. It paired wonderfully with the heavy Thanksgiving food, and has given me a reason to take a trip to Amador County. 

2005 Meritage, Napa Valley, Trio Vineyard by Deerfield Ranch Winery is a red blend. The winemaker, Robert Rex, has an amazing blending ability, and this wine demonstrates that. The blend contains 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, and 2% Malbec.  The Cabernet Franc and Malbec are evident in the middle of the wine with a burst of red fruit. The earthiness of a Napa Cabernet is present at the back of the palate. This 400 case wine was barrel aged for 40 months in 80% French and 20% American oak. 

I chose this Deerfield wine, because the complexity of its palate holds up well to the vast array of hearty foods on the kitchen table, and because of the pop of red fruit in the middle of the palate. When drinking a heavier red with a rich meal I tend to pick wines with red fruit characteristics.  

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