Two years ago, I had the divine privilege of indulging in a heavenly Thanksgiving buffet. Succulent dishes. Delectable desserts. Ah, the nectarous memories.
Last year, I sweated buckets in my kitchen, but nothing I produced could compare. So this year, my family and I will be back for a luscious feast at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club.
Jason Cunningham is executive chef for the Washington Duke, which is the only four-diamond hotel and conference center in Durham. Since 2001, he has led the inn’s culinary team in preparing innovative, contemporary cuisine.
A slow-food adherent and master at blending seasonal and exotic flavors, Cunningham was included in Linda Long’s book “Great Chefs Cook Vegan.” The cookbook offers recipes from 25 of the industry’s renowned chefs.
Cunningham, who graduated from Johnson & Wales University, received his culinary training in Hawaii and at two Relais & Chateaux properties — Restaurant Million in Charleston and Blantyre in Lenox, Mass.
Tanya Catolos is the Washington Duke’s pasty chef. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Catolos has spent time baking in Manhattan and Colorado.
As the chef/owner of Daisycakes in Durham, she can be seen every weekend selling cupcakes and pastries from her custom Airstream Daisycakes trailer at the Durham Farmers’ Market.
I asked the Washington Duke chefs to give Carolina Woman readers a taste of Thanksgiving. Here are six recipes that put a zesty twist on tradition.
Sweet Pumpkin Bisque
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
One 14-ounce can solid-pack pumpkin
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 quart cream
In a large pot, saute the first five ingredients with vegetable oil over medium heat until tender. Add remaining ingredients except 2 cups of cream and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
Working in small batches using a blender or food processor, puree until smooth, and transfer to a second pot.
Return the soup to the stove over medium heat.
Stir in 2 cups of cream, bring to a simmer and adjust seasoning. Add more cream if the soup is too thick.
Grilled, Whole-Grain Mustard and Molasses-Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Local Goat-Cheese Grits
2 pork tenderloins
2/3 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 cup white or yellow coarse grits or polenta (not instant)
1 cup water
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup goat cheese (from Celebrity Dairy if possible), crumbled
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped
Mix molasses, mustard, vinegar, pepper and bourbon in a small mixing bowl.
Place the pork in a nonreactive dish and pour enough of the marinade over it to just coat the meat.
Refrigerate about 4 hours.
For the grits:
Place the water, milk and butter in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the polenta, return to simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes until smooth and creamy. If the grits get too thick, add more water as needed.
Remove from heat and whisk in goat cheese and chives. Season with salt and pepper.
For the pork:
Remove the pork from the marinade and allow excess liquid to drip off.
Season the pork with salt, and grill over medium-high heat, turning frequently, until cooked through.
Allow the meat to rest for about 5 minutes prior to slicing. Serve over grits.
Cranberry Chipotle Compote
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 pears, peeled, cored, medium dice
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
12 ounces fresh cranberries
1/3 cup chipotle puree (see recipe below)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1 orange, zest and juice
1 cup water or apple juice
Saute pears and raisins in oil over medium heat until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add Grand Marnier and flambé.
Add remaining ingredients, and simmer over low heat until liquid has reduced to a consistency that’s nearly a syrup. It should be thick enough to just coat a spoon.
Serve warm or thoroughly cool and store, refrigerated, up to 5 days.
In a blender, combine one 4-ounce can chipotles in adobo and 20 ounces water. Blend until pureed. Only use the amount that the recipe calls for and reserve the remainder for sauces or marinades.
Honey Roasted Winter Vegetables With Rosemary
1 cup butternut squash
1 cup carrots
1 cup turnips
1 cup shallots or sweet onions
1 cup celery root
1 cup parsnips
1 cup rutabaga
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stemmed and chopped
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Peel and dice all of the vegetables to roughly the same size, about ¾ inch works well.
Place all the vegetables in a large bowl, and season with the cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place a large sauté or roasting pan over medium to high heat and allow it to warm up for about 5 minutes.
When the pan is hot, add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the vegetables, and allow them to cook for 2 to 3 minutes before stirring. Cook the vegetables on the stove top for about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring periodically.
Transfer the pan to the oven, and cook, stirring periodically, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, and add honey and chopped rosemary. Mix well and return to the oven for about 10 minutes.
When the vegetables are tender, remove from the oven and check the seasoning. The vegetables should be quite aromatic at this point. Place vegetables in a bowl and serve family style with roasted meats or poultry.
Molasses Ginger Crinkles
2-2/3 cups canola oil
3-3/4 cups sugar
1 cup regular molasses
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
10 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons ground ginger
Combine first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Sift flour and add to molasses sugar mixture. Dough will be stiff.
With small ice cream scoop, form dough into balls and chill for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. When ready to bake, coat cookies in sugar and place on parchment-lined baking pan. Do not press scoops down. Bake about 12 to15 minutes or until they crack on top.
Enjoy with a large glass of milk or apple cider!
Yields 4 dozen
Pumpkin Bread Pudding
2 cups half and half
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2-inch-cubed egg bread
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Combine all ingredients except bread in a mixing bowl. Whisk until fully combined.
Place cubed bread in 4 ounce ramekins that have been buttered and sugared (or use one large casserole dish). Pour custard over bread and let sit approximately 20 minutes.
Bake bread pudding until custard is set on top (about 20 minutes for small ramekins or 40 minutes for large casserole dish).
Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve slightly warm. This dessert is great when accompanied by whipped cream or caramel sauce.