After authoring, co-authoring and ghostwriting over 100 books–including a number by celebrity chefs such as Charlie Palmer, David Burke, and Jacques Torres–Judith Choate turned to her family journal to write the cookbook she’s always wanted to write. In An American Family Cooks, Judie shares an inviting collection of time-tested “fancy, some not-so-fancy, and some just plain everyday” recipes, lovingly interwoven with fondly recalled kitchen anecdotes.
Below is an excerpt from the book’s Thanksgiving chapter, in which Judie lays out the ambitiously extravagant (3 turkeys! $500 truffles! Caviar!) family Thanksgiving dinner presented by her San Francisco-based son, wine professional and co-author, Christopher Choate.
In the years that we don’t have the West-Coast Choates home for Christmas [Judie lives in NYC], we usually go to San Francisco to celebrate Thanksgiving with them. And even some years when we do expect them back East, we pack up and head west in November anyway.
As over the top as [my other son] Mickey’s celebrations and dinners are, Chris’s traditional Thanksgivings can give them a run for the money.
Unlike anyone I know, Chris makes three turkeys: the first for a friend who does wine pairings for his customers, the second for a complete Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday before the holiday so he will have leftovers to nosh on all week, and then the final bird for the big day. Can you imagine?
When Chris moved to California, I think he got quite homesick when the holidays rolled around, so he, just as I once did, began to make traditions of his own. What started as a small group of mostly single (I think Chris was the only married guy) young folks gathering to make a home-style Thanksgiving feast has grown into a much-anticipated all-day affair. When the event ballooned to almost a hundred, as wives, husbands, children, and in-laws slowly joined the group, the hosting house (of Doug Collister and Babs Yamanaka, Chris’s best friends) decided that it had expanded a bit too much for comfort. It has since decreased to a much more manageable head count with just a few families participating, but it is no less of a culinary adventure, which begins in the morning and continues through the evening hours.
Details after the jump + a few easy ways to cook brussels sprouts from An American Family Cooks.
And here’s how it goes:
10 a.m. Chris’s Famous Fried Egg with Shaved White Truffle: Just like it sounds—an oozy fried egg with white truffle shaved over the top. It is served with a slice of toasted baguette—buttered with a drizzle of honey—to dip into the yolk. Chris usually fries somewhere around 4 dozen eggs. The truffle is the luxe ingredient of the day—usually hitting the $500 mark. (Chris’s suggested pairing: Moscato d’Asti—low alcohol, fresh, often tasting of white peaches with acidity to awaken the palate. It is terrific with this dish and a great way to start the day.
12 p.m. Complete caviar service: Caviar in hardboiled quail egg-white halves with chopped quail egg yolk and minced red onion, and tiny toasts. (Chris’s suggested pairing: iced vodka, always the latest brand[s] to hit the market.)
2 p.m. Herm’s (Chris’s friend Dave Herman) Cheese Selection: A variety of expertly chosen cheeses served with baguettes, crackers, and fruit, always with some type of gag—a little plastic animal representing the type of milk used was one year’s. He has even been known to order unpasteurized cheese directly from France. He is a cheese maniac! (Chris’s suggested pairing: red Burgundy, when we can afford it!)
5 p.m. Traditional Turkey Dinner: The whole kit and caboodle—turkey with stuffing and gravy; mashed potatoes; brussels sprouts or some type of green; carrot-parsnip puree; cranberry sauce and relish; rolls or biscuits; and whatever desserts the guests bring to the table. (Chris’s suggested pairing: Gamay, the red grape that Beaujolais is made from, and Gewürztraminer, the best of which comes from Alsace, are hands down the two best turkey wines. However, I think that pinot noir and a really zippy sauvignon blanc also work well. If you want to try an absolutely fantastic domestic Gewürztraminer, I suggest that you search out a California from Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley. In my opinion, it is the best!)
From An American Family Cooks. Text © 2013 Judith Choate. Photos © 2013 Steve Pool. www.welcomebooks.com/americanfamilycooks
Just as tasty, but far less intimidating, a few easy ways to cook brussels sprouts from An American Family Cooks:
It used to be that you only saw brussels sprouts for a very short period in the fall—just through Thanksgiving. I loved them then and I love them now. The difference being that then they were usually boiled or steamed to near sogginess, and now we eat them raw, roasted, grilled, steamed, pulled apart, sliced, halved, or whole. It’s a whole new brussels-sprouts ball game!
I have lots of ways to cook them. One of my favorites is a little tedious to prepare but quick to finish. First, pull the leaves from a couple of big handfuls of brussels sprouts. This will take a little time, but you can do it while having an aperitif. Then fry up about a third of a pound of diced slab bacon, pancetta, or guanciale. When crispy, toss in the leaves and, using tongs, toss and turn until just slightly wilted. Add a good dose of cracked black pepper and the zest of one orange. Sprinkle with a bit of moscato vinegar and serve as a side dish with grilled chops, or toss the whole mess with some pasta.
For a less time-consuming dish, cut or quarter the brussels sprouts (depending on how large they are) and roast them in olive oil, seasoned with a good handful of diced pancetta (or whatever smoky meat you have on hand), orange zest, and salt and pepper. People who say they hate brussels sprouts invariably ask for seconds!
If you’re in San Francisco, join Judie for two special book events on November 18 and 23 at The Ferry Building.