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Food & Entertaining

Beyond Traditional Turkey

Author: Karen Fernau
Issue: November, 2016, Page 112
photography by Rick Gayle
Add Fresh Flavor to Your Thanksgiving Meal With New Takes on Classic Dishes

Chef Rochelle Daniel prepares her Thanksgiving feast with a pinch of tradition and a heaping of modern-day flair.

“I take the old and change it up,” explains Rochelle, former executive chef at L’Auberge de Sedona. Known for meticulously crafted dishes with unexpected flavors, she takes cuisine traditions and adds her own twist to them.

Her appetizer is Iowa-bred pork belly dressed with toasted anise, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Her turkey is a boneless breast seasoned with citrus zest and wrapped around a brioche-and-croissant stuffing with shallots, garlic, honey and toasted cumin. Her side dish is a galette is stuffed with butternut squash, apples, cranberries and toasted pepitas, and served with a blue cheese ice cream.

Dessert? A bourbon-spiked pecan pie with chocolate chips and topped with chocolate whipped cream and candied cranberries.

While she plays loose with tradition, Rochelle stays true to the spirit of the holiday. She believes, like the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians did four centuries ago, that Thanksgiving is a celebration of abundance and community. It’s a holiday that calls for top-notch ingredients and shuns any shortcuts that compromise quality.

“It is the one big day that family and friends get together at the table for a meal. It’s a holiday all about cooking and food, and it deserves the best possible,” she says. “What other day do we wake up thinking about the meal?”

For Rochelle’s Thanksgiving feast, turkey remains the undisputed centerpiece. But she trades a factory-farmed bird for a heritage breed. A half-century of genetic engineering has turned American
turkeys into sterile tasting birds with oversized breasts and scrawny legs. They taste nothing like the rich-flavored, long-legged turkeys from the original feast in 1621 through the 1940s.

Heritage birds are richer, firmer and moister than industrial-raised birds. Rochelle, however, still recommends brining as an added protection against dryness and overcooking. A good rule is to brine one hour per pound.

Her first choice for cooking the bird is sous vide, a simple method that combines the gentle, steady heat of poaching in an airtight seal. The result is a moist turkey that has basically stewed in its own juices. Another perfectly acceptable option for those without an at-home sous vide is roasting in the oven.

For both options, Rochelle removes the breast from the whole turkey, slices and pounds the white meat into sheets, then rolls the cutlets around the vegetarian stuffing.

Her twist for the appetizer is a savory, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, which she serves with sliced, soft-boiled eggs and sautéed Brussels sprouts.

The Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving fits the bill as a locavore feast. While at L’Auberge, Rochelle worked hard to incorporate as many local ingredients as possible, often foraging from the resort’s grounds, which are nestled along Oak Creek, for watercress, rosemary and mesquite. In addition, she would weave culinary touches from the Southwest, including pepitas, toasted cumin, citrus zest and desert honey, into menus.

According to Rochelle, it’s best to begin preparation on the dishes a day or two before Thanksgiving.
“This is not a last-minute meal you can put on the table in a few hours,” she notes. 

It’s also a Thanksgiving that, at first glance, might be unsettling to Norman Rockwell traditionalists. But Rochelle can attest to its appeal.

Her advice to the skeptical: “I tell people to, at the least, add one of the dishes to their meal. You never know. It might just start a new tradition.”

Select below to see Chef Rochelle's full recipes

TURKEY ROULADE WITH BRIOCHE-AND-CROISSANT STUFFING

SQUASH-AND-APPLE GALETTE

VALDEON BLEU CHEESE ICE CREAM

PORK BELLY WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND BUTTERMILK CRACKER TOPPING

BOURBON-SPIKED CHOCOLaTE CHIP PECAN PIE WITH WHIPPED CREAM AND CANDIED CRANBERRY GARNISH
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