Someone wrote to me this week and asked if I knew where to find locally-raised turkeys; she was specific about what she was looking for: "...heritage turkeys, and not those terrifyingly big-breasted supermarket ones." Our family doesn't eat meat for a number of reasons, one of which is the scarcity of humanely raised, justly-processed local meat. But if we did, I would buy it from someplace like this, although they're apparently sold out of turkeys for this season.
As a family, we've traditionally eaten an alternative, yet still festive, main-dish for Thanksgiving. For the most part this has been well-received by the kids (except Ben who, once after a week of drawing turkeys, reading about turkeys, and singing songs about turkeys at his elementary school, announced: "I'm just going to get myself a gun and go kill myself a turkey so we can have a HAM for Thanksgiving!")
For years, I stuffed acorn squash with my family's recipe for southern-style cornbread recipe. I think all of us (most anyway) craved the stuffing more than the turkey, and it was fairly simple:
Thanksgiving Stuffed Acorn Squash
Use your family’s traditional stuffing/dressing. For southerners, that would be cornbread dressing.
½ acorn squash per person
Your favorite family recipe for stuffing
Cut acorn squash in half and dig out the seeds. Do not peel. Place on jelly roll pans or other large pans. Pour about ½ - 1” water around squash. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes – one hour, until squash are soft.
Meanwhile, prepare stuffing. When squash are soft, place a rounded scoop of stuffing into hollowed-out center. Put back into oven a few minutes before serving to brown the stuffing. Leftover stuffing can be served as “dressing” if you bake it in a casserole for 15-20 minutes at 350.
A few years ago, though, I started serving roasted autumn veggies on polenta. It has the same "festive flair" as the individual stuffed squash I think. It is delicious and beautiful, and I plan to serve it again this year.
Roasted Autumn Vegetables on Polenta (serves 6)
Marinade for veggies:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice
5 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 -2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or sage
1 large onion, peeled and thickly sliced
medium carrots, cut lengthwise into halves, the crosswise into 2-inch pieces
2 sweet potatoes, cut into generous bite-size chunks or wedges
3 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut into two-inch pieces
2 red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into two-inch squares
6-8 fresh plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Preheat oven to 450. Lightly oil two large baking pans
In a bowl, mix together all of the marinade ingredients. Toss onions and carrots with marinade, place on one of the baking pans and roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the rest of the vegetable for roasting. Toss with marinade.
When the onions and carrots have roasted for 30 minutes, stir them and lower the oven temp to 400. Place the newly prepared veggies on the second large pan. If there isn’t enough room, push the onions and carrots to one end of their pan and add the remaining new vegetables to the hot pan.
Roast all the vegetables for 15 minutes, stir well, and continue to roast for another 10 – 15 minutes, until tender and slightly carmelized. Add salt to taste.
While vegetables are roasting, prepare and cook the polenta.
6 cups water
1 tsp. salt
2 cups cornmeal
4 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup grated sharp cheese (optional)
Bring water to a boil in saucepan. Add cornmeal in a thin, steady stream while whisking briskly. Stir in butter and crushed red pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often till thickened. Remove from heat, stir in cheese, and place in large fancy bowl. Top with roasted veggies (or surround polenta with them if your platter is large enough).
Bon Apetit! If you know of a local source for modestly-breasted turkeys, let us know!