By Ted Jackson, Chef/Owner of Ted & Honey Cafe in Cobble Hill
For any chef, Thanksgiving is a great time to show off some skills and create lasting memories. I grew up with the classic Thanksgiving memories of canned cranberry sauce, dry turkeys, box stuffing and what my sister and I always called mom’s “grease” gravy.
So when I took over Thanksgivings I couldn’t wait to make the annual gathering the most memorable and longed-after holiday of the year.
Each year our Thanksgiving is an extravaganza of local foods and ingredients and new cooking techniques. We get our turkey from Dines Farm in upstate New York. I brine our turkey in a lemon sweet tea mixture, then grill it over charcoal with pecan wood chunks and a bit of sassafras. It’s perfection.
My personal favorite dish is smoked turkey wings. I order extra turkey wings from Dines Farm just to smoke. First, I brine the turkey wings with sweet tea. I then confit the wings in pork lard for 3 hours until they are barely hanging on to the bone but oh-so tender. After resting the wings, I smoke them. To finish, I put them in a cast-iron skillet over high heat with my own homemade hot sauce, and roast them in a 500-degree oven until they’re nicely browned.
My wife’s favorite Thanksgiving dish is rice baked in the neck of the turkey with celery, onions and carrots. For this side, I first cook rice with a classic mirepoix (a mix of celery, onions and carrots), along with the gizzards from the turkey and a turkey stock using the neck. I then stuff the rice in the neck cavity of the turkey, wrap the excess skin around the rice mixture, tie with butcher twine and roast it for the entire time that I’m grilling the turkey. When done, I make two incisions in the crisp skin with my knife and out comes a perfectly baked, juicy rice dish!
We also love a good beet salad on Thanksgiving. I make a roasted beet salad with poached then grilled apples, baby red oak lettuce, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds and candied walnuts, tossed with a maple black pepper vinaigrette.
One thing I love about this salad is that you can get most of the ingredients from local farmers at this time of year. I love getting candy-striped beets from Long Island, apples from Red Jacket Orchard, fall lettuces from Satur Farms, organic maple syrup from upstate NY, and goat cheese from Four Brothers Dairy in Dutchess County.
Here’s the recipe:
Roasted Beet Salad
- Rinse and trim your beets.
- Wrap the beets in foil, place on baking sheet and roast in 350 degree oven until tender when pierced with a knife (about an hour).
- Remove and let rest until they’re cool to the touch. Then, using a towel, peel away the skin.
- Cut into a medium dice and reserve.
- Peel your apples but keep them whole.
- Poach the apples in Red Jacket Orchards apple cider until they’re tender when pierced with a knife.
- Remove from poaching liquid and cool.
- Once the apples are cool enough to handle, cut around core and then grill apples (on the same grill as your turkey if you’re grilling your bird like I do!) to give some nice smoky flavor and grill marks.
- When apples are cool enough, cut into a medium dice and set aside.
Note: Save the poaching liquid for mulled apple ciders! After removing the apples add a cinnamon stick, sliced fresh ginger, star anise and some cloves. Simmer and enjoy!
- Cut your pomegranates in half and remove the seeds and set them aside.
The Candied Walnuts
For these, you’ll need:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup walnuts
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil, then add the walnuts.
- Simmer for 5 minutes and then pull out walnuts using a slotted spoon or spider net.
- Bring 3 cups of oil in a sauce pan equipped with a candy thermometer to 350 degrees.
- Add walnuts and fry for approximately 1 minute.
- Remove the walnuts and toss with a couple tablespoons of sugar and then lay out on a sheet pan.
The Maple Black Pepper Vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 3 tablespoons cracked black pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 shallot, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup olive oil, light or blended olive oil
Place all ingredients in a blender except olive oils. Slowly emulsify with olive oil. Check for seasoning.
For salad assembly:
- Put your cleaned fall salad greens in a bowl with a small amount of the maple black pepper vinaigrette and pomegranate seeds; toss lightly to coat.
- Place greens on a plate or in a serving platter and then garnish with poached/grilled apples, crumbled goat cheese, candied walnuts and beets.
Ted & Honey recently debuted their fall menu, which includes four new seasonal sandwiches, two new oatmeal flavors (caramelized banana and maple and winter squash), a mulled cider made with organic apples from Red Jacket Orchard, and daily hot soups and specials.
They also recently got their liquor license and are now serving wine and beer. Keep an eye out for their late afternoon draft/sandwich specials.
If you’re looking for some Thanksgiving help, chef Ted’s Cranberry Compote, Turkey Gravy, and Pumpkin Cheesecake will be available in limited quantities next week. Call the shop at 718.852.2212 to inquire about availability.