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Chef Bruce Wood - Thanksgiving

Chef Bruce Wood of Bruce's Kitchen on Salt Spring Island talks Thanksgiving, turkey, stuffing, soup and pears!

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Red wine poached pears

These are the perfect accompaniment to cheese. They only get better as they sit, so try and make them a few days ahead.

4 whole allspice berries
1 4inch piece stick cinnamon
8 black peppercorns
1 whole vanilla bean, split
2 cups red wine
2 cups water
1 cup cane sugar
6 ripe pears, peeled, cut in half and cored

Combine all ingredients (except the pears) in a clean non-reactive pan and bring to a boil.
Add the pears and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the pears cool in the poaching liquid. Place a piece of clean cheesecloth over the pears to keep them covered in the liquid.
Refrigerate the pears in the liquid for 24 hours.

Pears poached in port with a warm chocolate drizzle

This is a good dessert for a crowd. The pears can and indeed should be made a day ahead of time. Served with a nice crisp biscotti and the warm chocolate sauce they are a beautiful fall dessert. The cooking liquid can be saved and used again or can be reduced by two thirds and used as a second sauce.

6 ripe pears, peeled and cored
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split
4 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 whole nutmeg, cracked
8 allspice berries
500 ml. port wine
1 cup cane sugar

In a non reactive pot, mix together all ingredients except the pears. Add the pears and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the pears are soft. (approximately 5 minutes)
Cover with a piece of cheesecloth and allow to cool.
Refrigerate overnight or until needed.

For the chocolate drizzle ~
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely and melted
200 ml. homogenized milk
50 ml. 355 crème
1 oz. butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2tsp. vanilla

In a pot bring the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar to a simmer. Add the chocolate and bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.

To serve the pears ~

Remove the pears from the liquid and drain on a clean tea towel
Place a pear in the centre of a dessert plate and drizzle the warm chocolate sauce over and around the pears. Serve with a biscotti.

The thanksgiving turkey

Ah the bird. Mahogany coloured, steaming redolent of warm spices and stuffing. The centerpiece of thanksgiving tables everywhere. For years we have all been searching for the best way to achieve this delectable avian creation. The first place to start is with the bird itself. If you wander the aisles of your local groceteria you will see bunkers full of factory birds and butterball aberrations. These birds have little or no flavour and in the case of the butterballs are packed full of nasty pockets of fat to render them self basting. My preference would be to go to a good small local butcher and buy a grain fed bird. The flesh will be more flavourful and the bird will no doubt be moister coming out of the oven. Now how about keeping the bird moist. I find that brining is just the ticket. Now a lot of brining recipes will have you immerse the whole bird in brine for 24 hours. I don't know about you but I don't have room for a large bird in a bucket in my refrigerator at home. So a syringe is just the ticket. If you have a friendly vet they will often give you one or you can buy them at some kitchen supply stores. When brining poultry or indeed any meat safety is the most important issue. Both the brine and the bird must be fridge cold. If not then the bird will stay warm for too long and you risk growing bacteria. With these caveats in mind we should all be able to enjoy the bird of our dreams. As for stuffing the bird we all have our favourite recipes. Use whatever appeals to your own tastes. Now the gravy, some consider this to be the most important part of the meal. Certainly the next day there is no greater treat than hot turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes and tons of gravy. (Well maybe stuffing sandwiches but that's another issue) In my mind gravy should stray on the thick side with giblets. However the giblets are up to you.  

For the brine ~
2 cups apple cider (  not apple juice  )
2/3 cup coarse or kosher salt
10 whole allspice berries, crushed
10 juniper berries, crushed
2 branches fresh rosemary
2 branches fresh thyme
1 head garlic, split in half
1 cinnamon stick
12 whole black peppercorns

Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from the heat.
Add 6 cups of ice cubes to the brine and stir well.
At this point the brine should be cool enough to use.
If not, refrigerate the brine until cold.
Place the turkey breast side up on a clean work surface.
Strain the brine into a clean container.
Using a syringe, inject the turkey with the brine in several places on the breast, thighs and wings.
Place the turkey in a dish and wrap in cling film.
Place the turkey in the fridge overnight.

For the turkey ~
1 bolt of cheesecloth
4 oz. Unsalted butter
sea salt & freshly milled black pepper

Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees
In a small pot melt the butter, reserve warm.
Place a roasting pan on a clean work surface.
Remove the turkey from the fridge and unwrap the bird.
Unfold the cheesecloth so you have a double thickness of cloth and drape the cloth so it covers the bottom of the roasting pan with a heavy overhang.
Place the bird breast side up on the cheesecloth and season with a little coarse salt and pepper.
Fold the cheesecloth over the bird and pour the melted butter all over the cheesecloth.
Place the turkey in the oven and roast uncovered for 45 minutes.
Open the oven, baste the cheesecloth well and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Cook the turkey for 20 minutes per pound, basting the cheesecloth often with the pan juices.
45 minutes before the bird is to come out of the oven, gently fold back the cheesecloth to expose the breast.
Roast for a further 45 minutes or until done and remove the turkey from the oven.
Gently remove the cheesecloth from the turkey and leave in the pan.
Place the turkey on a nice platter and tent with tinfoil to keep warm.
Place the cheesecloth and  press down gently to extract all the juices.
Use the pan juices to make gravy and serve the bird warm with the gravy.

For the stuffing ~
one loaf cheddar walnut cornbread ( recipe follows ), diced in one inch cubes
one loaf white bread, cut in one inch cubes
one small onion, minced
2 stalks celery with leaves, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. Dried savoury
6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tbsp. Unsalted butter
4 large eggs
sea salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and add the onion, celery and garlic, cook for 5 minutes stirring often.
Remove from the heat and place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients.
Mix well to combine.
Stuff the body and neck cavities of the turkey.
Roast the turkey according to the above recipe

For the gravy ~
Pour the pan juices into a separating measuring cup and let rest 5 minutes.
Place the roasting pan on the stove and add 2 tbsp. butter to the pan.
Stir well scraping the bottom pan well to release all the yummy brown bits.
Add 2 tbsp. flour to the pan and stir well.
Carefully pour in the degreased pan juices and stir well.
Simmer for 5 minutes on medium and strain into a clean warm gravy boat

Roasted pear & parsnip soup with caraway flat bread

This a very elegant and light soup that can be served as the first course of a special meal. If you wish to make a more elegant presentation than you deep fry strips of parsnip and drizzle with a little good maple syrup. I don't mind using tinned pears for this type of soup as I can guarantee Canadian pears and they are nice and ripe.

1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut in 2" cubes
2 tbsp. organic canola oil
1 tin pears, drained and cut in 2" pieces
2 tsp. Fresh thyme, leaves only
sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 leek, white only (reserve the green leaves for stock) washed and thinly sliced
1 litre light chicken stock or water
1/4cup whipping crème (optional)

Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss the pears and parsnips with the canola oil, thyme and salt and pepper.
Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the pre heated oven.
Roast for 25 minutes or until browned.
While the veg is roasting, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the leek.
Cook for 5 minutes - stirring often and add the roasted vegetables.
Stir well and add the stock.
Continue simmering for approx. 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Puree the soup with a hand blender and return to the stove.
Add the crème and season to taste.
Serve the soup hot with the caraway flat bread.

Caraway flat bread

1 cup warm water
1 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. Rapid rise yeast
2 1/2cups white all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
3/4 stick unsalted butter, cut in small dice
1 tsp. Sea salt
1 tsp. Caraway seeds + more for dusting the flatbread

1 egg lightly beaten
coarse salt for sprinkling

In a bowl combine the water, yeast and sugar and let proof for 5 minutes.
Add the flour, cornmeal, caraway seeds, salt and butter.
Work the butter into the dough and turn the dough out onto a clean surface.
Knead for 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for one hour.
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly flour 2 baking sheets.
Roll the dough out as thinly as possible and brush with the egg wash, sprinkle with the caraway seeds and coarse salt.
Using a ravioli or pizza cutter cut the dough into irregular wedges, and place on the baking sheet.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned and remove from the oven.
Transfer to a rack to cool and serve.
The wedges can be kept in an airtight container for 3 days.

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