Category: Nona Brooklyn

By Rachel Graville, Owner, Iris Cafe

Photo from PorkChopExpress

A Thanksgiving Snack
Before Thanksgiving dinner, I like to have things guests can nibble on. Nothing too filling, of course, but, if they’re like me, they don’t eat breakfast, so they are famished and there’s usually still cooking to be done! A nice cheese plate with regional cheeses is great – there are some special-occasion cheeses you can find at the Greenmarket.

Everyone loves Pimento Cheese, but I have found that the pimentos don’t add much except color. I make my own version that can’t be called Pimento Cheese (but I do anyway!) because there are no pimentos, but no one minds when they’re eating it with crackers or a baguette! When I’m making it for a party at the cafe, I use a Cambozola (blue brie) that we have on the menu, but any mild blue cheese will work well.

Pimento Cheese

  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 lb blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cholula or any hot sauce you prefer

- Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.

- Serve at room temperature with crackers or bread, and alongside thin-sliced ham and/or bread & butter pickles

A Thanksgiving Soup
For Thanksgiving, I like to serve Chestnut Soup. It’s an unexpected flavor (for some) and the velvety texture achieved by adding cream and blending it makes it luxurious. I love pureed soups, and serve them often at the cafe. We use an immersion blender and I find the the simple Braun ones are best and very reasonably priced (great holiday gift idea!)…here is a recipe that I like a lot:

Chestnut Soup

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf (preferably home-dried like mine are!)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb (about 2 1/2 cups) fresh chestnuts (can be purchased at some Greenmarkets)
  • 1/4 cup Madeira
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

- Roast the chestnuts: Using a sharp knife, carefully make an “X” in the shell of the chestnut. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until the X starts to pull away from the flesh of the chestnut. Once slightly cool (if they get too cool they are harder to peel), remove the outer shell and roughly chop the chestnut flesh.

- Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then stir in celery, carrot, and onion. Sauté for about 10 minutes

- Wrap parsley, cloves, and bay leaf in cheesecloth and tie into a bundle with string to make a bouquet garni

- Add broth and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Add chestnuts and Madeira and simmer, covered, for 3 minutes.

- Purée soup in small batches (4 or 5) in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), or with an immersion blender, transferring to a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in cream, pepper, and salt to taste and reheat soup over moderate heat, stirring occasionally.

Rachel Graville is the owner of Iris Cafe at 20 Columbia Place in Brooklyn Heights.


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