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Monday, December 1, 2014

A cozy Thanksgiving

     Thanksgiving is the most celebrated holiday in the American calendar.  That is because mostly every family who lives in the United States participates in the holiday in some way, regardless of religion or race. 

     But what is the essence of Thanksgiving?  Beyond the eating and the shopping, it is the foremost way to celebrate the harvest, and send hopes into the void for a future bounty one.  I like this latter idea of Thanksgiving.  Since I moved to Florida, over 20 years ago now, I especially enjoy the Autumn.  Once the last days of August hits I seem to become alive, and the smells of the new season come alive in my kitchen as well.

     From the entertaining point of view, it is the ideal time of year.  The fruits of the harvest invite a varied sort of cooking, and the chillier weather makes for wonderful get-togethers and cozy moments.

     This year I decided to by-pass the ubiquitous turkey and made an Argentinian classic – carbonada.  This version is by Chef Guillermo Calabrese, one of Buenos Aires top chefs, who started his career at the famous Gato Dumas Restaurant in Recoleta.  I remember eating at this trendy restaurant in the 90’s.  It was a mixture of refined Argentine specialties with a touch of French cuisine, in an ambiance that was stylish without being presumptuous. 

     The carbonada is a fulfilling dish for a cold day, not unlike the weather we were lucky to have for Thanksgiving.  It is served inside an acorn squash, making for a beautiful presentation.  Although it takes some time to prepare, it beats the long hours of the turkey and proves for a dish full of the typical flavours of Fall for which you will be remembered.

Argentine Carbonada in acorn squash:

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 4 small acorn squash (about 6” in diameter)
  • 4oz unsalted butter
  • 3oz sugar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 3 small corn stalks
  • Corn oil, as needed
  • 12oz plain rice
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 small white onions
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1pd veal, cut in cubes
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 3.5oz white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 oz veal stock
  • 3.5 oz dried apricots
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ Tbsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ Tbsp sweet paprika
  • ¼ grated goat cheese
  • More salt and pepper to taste


     Wash and dry the acorn squashes.  Cut the tops, which will be used as covers, clean and remove the seeds, and cut small incisions on the inside with a knife. 

     Coat the insides of the squashes with softened butter, dust with sugar and bathe with a bit of milk.  Place on an oven plaque and bake at 380F for 25 minutes.  Check halfway to ensure the squashes are not disintegrating.  They should only be partially cooked at this point.

     Cut the corn in smaller pieces, blanche and reserve.  In a separate saucepan add about 2 Tbsp of corn oil and sauté the rice no longer than 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and reserve.

     In another saucepan with 2 more Tbsp oil sauté the onions, previously chopped.  Add the pepper, the meat (make sure you clean all the fat) and brown.  Add the tomatoes and deglaze with the wine.  Season and cook until the alcohol evaporates.

     Add the rice, the veal stock, dried apricots and season with sugar, cumin, bay leaves and paprika.  Cook for 15 minutes on high.  Fill the squashes with this stew and bake for another 25 minutes at 380F.  Sprinkle with a nice grated goat cheese.  I chose a Spanish one from La Mancha, flavored with paprika, which you can buy HERE.  It mimicked the flavor of the pieces beautifully.  Serve with corn cobs on the side.

A tablescape inspired by the colours of Autumn
      After such a nice main course, the dessert had to be just as memorable.  And maybe a bit more patriotic.  I find nothing more authentically American than cheesecake.  Thanks to the Martha Stewart magazine, I became aware of a uniquely crafted maple syrup, infused with Tahitian vanilla and Egyptian chamomile.  As soon as I saw the recipe, I ordered it immediately.

     This is a very rich, creamy cheesecake, ideal to have with some strong Earl Gray tea.

Maple-Walnut cheesecake:

Ingredients for 8 to 12 servings:

·         9 Graham crackers
·         ¾ cup black walnuts
·         1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
·         4 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
·         Pinch of fresh nutmeg
·         Pinch of salt, ideally Himalayan pink salt
·         Four 8oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
·         ¾ Noble Tonic 02 Maple syrup, available HERE
·         ½ cup granulated sugar
·         4 large eggs
·         3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
·         ½ cup heavy cream
·         1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
·         ¼ tsp maple extract


     Fill a roasting pan halfway with water and set on a rack in the lower third of the oven (this will ensure a very moist environment for the cheesecake to cook into); position another rack in the middle and pre-heat to 350F.  Wrap the outside (bottom and side) of a 9” springform pan with foil.

     To make the crust, pulse the Graham crackers in a food processor a few times until crushed.  Add the walnuts and brown sugar and continue pulsing until finely ground.  Add the melted butter, nutmeg and salt and pulse to combine.  Press into the bottom and about 1” up the side of the prepared pan.  Bake until the crust is golden, about 10’.  Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

     For the filling, beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until nearly smooth, about 1’.  Add the maple syrup and granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 2’ more.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Increase the speed to medium high and beat in the flour, heavy cream, lemon juice and maple extract until the filling is smooth and silky, about 1’.

     Pour the filling into the cooled crust.  Transfer the cheesecake to the oven, placing it on the middle rack, directly over the water bath.  Bake until golden and set around the edge but still jiggly in the center, about 45’ to 1 hour.  Transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until cold and set, preferably overnight.  Let the cheesecake sit at room temperature 20”, the run a thin knife around the edge and remove the springform pan.  Serve and enjoy!

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