Spiced Sweet Potato Biscuits

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This is one of my favorite holiday recipes. We had these biscuits again this Thanksgiving, and they are marvelous! The recipe comes from Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, where I was lucky enough to intern in graduate school. I’ve altered the recipe a bit, replacing lard with butter (you’re welcome) and increasing the spices. They are sweet, spicy and moist, with enough flakiness that they are a true biscuit and not a roll. Great with ham or with soup!

This recipe makes a LOT of biscuits. If you don’t want quite that many, you can freeze the uncooked biscuits for later and just pop them onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees. Or you can just halve the recipe!

Spiced Sweet Potato Biscuits (makes about 3 dozen biscuits)

  • 5 c. unbleached flour
  • 1 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 c. solid very cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 c. roasted, mashed and cooled sweet potato
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger and allspice. Combine well.
3. Cut in the butter with two knives or with your fingers, until crumbly.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the sweet potato, cream and pecans.
5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the potato mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll or pat dough to about 2″ thick.
7. Cut biscuits with a 2″ cutter and place biscuits about 1″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
9. Serve warm to happy guests!

Cranberry Apple Chutney

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I love cranberries, and Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without homemade cranberry sauce. It is so easy to make, and can be prepared ahead and parked in the refrigerator for several days. Usually, I make a cranberry-orange sauce. And usually, I remember to take it out of the refrigerator before dessert 🙂 This year, we changed things up just a bit, using some of the local apples we received in our Produce Box to make a spicy chutney instead. This chutney is sweet,savory and spicy all at the same time. It will pair well with turkey, but I’m betting it will also really rock a pork loin roast (note to self: get a pork loin roast!). I think it will also be fabulous on a turkey burger or on a sandwich. Endless possibilities!

Cranberry Apple Chutney (makes about 4 cups)

  • 12 ounces fresh, organic cranberries
  • 2 large tart apples (like granny smith), cored, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup organic raisins
  • 1 cup pure cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup packed, organic brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  1. Heat the cane sugar and water in a large saucepan to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
  2. Add all other ingredients except the nuts, stir well and return to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer the sauce for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Sauce should be thick and jammy when done.
  5. Add the chopped pecans and serve warm or cold. You can store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Thanksgiving Menu 2013

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We’ll have organic cranberries two way–in salad and in sauce!

Do you obsess about Thanksgiving dinner? It’s hard not to once Halloween is over. Every food blogger and Pinterest pinner is sharing lovely, tantalizing dishes for the food glutton holiday season. It’s easy to get carried away with planning a meal that is both too expensive and too much food.

This is our second year of producing a locavore Thanksgiving dinner. We’re adding a couple of new dishes, but mostly we are sticking to what works and makes people happy. In addition to our heritage breed, free range turkey, we’re picking up a mini boneless ham from Mae Farm. These are absolutely amazing! The kale and carrots in our salad will be local and the rest will be organic. This salad is new–I’ve seen it floating around Pinterest and can’t wait to try it! I love having a fresh salad to balance all the rich, roasted foods we’ll be having.

So here is our draft menu. We may tweak it slightly depending on what is actually available at the farmer’s markets that week, but the basics should stay the same. What is on your menu for Thanksgiving???

  • Herbed Roasted Heritage Turkey (Homestead Harvest Farm)
  • Honey Mustard Glazed Mini Ham (Mae Farm)
  • Kale, Cranberry and Edamame Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
  • Deviled Farm Eggs with NC Shrimp (Mae Farm and Locals Seafood)
  • Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Mae Farm and CSA)
  • Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes (CSA)
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Sweet Potato Biscuits (CSA)
  • Giblet Gravy
  • Cinnamon Cranberry Apple Sauce (CSA)
  • Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie (Trader Joes Pumpkin Ice Cream)
  • Pecan Pie (homemade)

Tutorial Tuesday #10–Buying and Preparing a Heritage Breed Turkey

burbon redThis is a bit of a repost from last year’s turkey experience, with some additional consumer information thrown in. We have our heritage turkey on order for this year and plan a repeat of last Thanksgiving!

Turkeys, man. There is a lot of pressure on the turkey at Thanksgiving. Even if you make a million roasted chickens (which does help), you can’t help but be a bit on edge when you are responsible for everyone’s Thanksgiving turkey. Now, I have an awesome family, and they are always great about whatever turkeys I’ve cooked, even when they haven’t been all that tender. But still, I like to make something that is worth the 5 hour drive to my house. So this year made me especially nervous. I was cooking a new (old) kind of bird.

This year, we ordered a Bourbon Red heritage breed turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm in Wake Forest. Jan raises a limited number of birds with lots of sunshine, grass and love. I’ve heard a lot about heritage breed turkeys and how different they are from the standard grocery store variety, but I’ve never had one, so when I had the opportunity to place an order this summer (yes, this summer!) at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market, I jumped at the chance.

What is a heritage breed turkey?

Heritage breed turkeys can trace their lineage back at least one hundred years.

According the the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, heritage breed turkeys must meet all three of the following conditions. First, they must mate naturally and must be the product of at least two generations of turkeys that have mated naturally. Second, they must have a long, productive lifespan (5-7 years for hens and 3-5 years for toms) and they must be able to live outside. Third, they must have a slow to moderate rate of growth (about 28 weeks).

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, except that grocery store turkeys don’t meet any of these. Nope, they can hardly walk and can’t even mate by themselves. Do I want to know? No, I do not.

Most current turkeys on the market are a mashup of different varieties designed to maximize the amount of white meat and reduce the amount of dark meat. As a result, these birds are frequently given growth hormones and filler food to make the breast portion of the bird as large as possible. Heritage breed turkeys have a ratio of white to dark meat that is about 50/50, making them more flavorful and juicy. Because they are not given growth hormones and are typically raised to be…well…turkeys, they are more expensive and harder to find.

Our bird, Mr. Gibbles as he was named by Ellie, was “processed” Monday, picked up Tuesday and served on Thursday. I’ve never in my life had a turkey so fresh. At 17 pounds, he was quite a good sized bird! Our first observation was that he looked pretty different from the grocery variety. He seemed longer than a grocery turkey and he was not in that strangely uniform, compact shape. Ellie remarked that he really looked like a “real” bird. We got him all ready for his last journey in the oven and served him up to a delighted family. So how was it? Pretty darn fabulous. Very juicy, lots of rich, turkey flavor (almost like a wild turkey) and great texture to the meat. I don’t think we’ll ever go back again.

Cooking Mr. Gibbles was very different from cooking a frozen bird. First, it does not take nearly as long to cook a fresh, heritage breed turkey. Our 17 pound turkey took 2 hours and15 minutes. For reals. And I used a thermometer backup to make sure. Second, heritage breed turkeys have a wonderful layer of thick fat under the skin, so basting is completely unnecessary. He basted himself, which was terrific, although when serving, the fat freaked my dad out a bit.

We used the recipe below, which was suggested by Homestead Harvest Farm and it worked beautifully. Being a skeptic, I allowed more time than I really needed, which made for some quick hurrying around when the turkey was done so soon, but it all worked out in the end.

Check your farmer’s markets for fresh and/or heritage breed turkeys. Not only will you know a lot about your turkey, you won’t have a frozen block o’ turkey in your refrigerator stressing you out about when it will be thawed! And, most importantly, you will be getting a turkey that does not have added sodium, artificial coloring or artificial flavoring added!

Here is some shopping information to keep in mind as you shop for your turkey:

Fresh Turkey: “Fresh” is really a misnomer here. Turkeys can be labeled as fresh if they have never been chilled below 26 degrees F. It does not mean that they were never frozen, because if you remember from science class, “freezing” is 32 degrees. These turkeys may have been stored at farms or markets for months before being sold, so always ask when your bird was actually processed.

Frozen Turkey: Frozen turkeys have been stored at temperatures below zero degrees. They can be frozen for many months before being shipped to grocery stores. Frozen turkeys are the most commonly purchased turkey in the U.S. and are the most economical.

Not Previously Frozen Turkey: This means that the turkey was chilled below 26 degrees F, so it can’t be called “fresh”, but above 0 degrees F, so it does not need to be labeled “frozen”. Otherwise, it means nothing in terms of the quality of the turkey.

Natural Turkey: The term “natural” only means that there is no seasoning or coloring added to the turkey. It does not reflect on how the turkey was raised or processed.

Kosher Turkey: Kosher turkeys are raised on grain, and are not given chemical stimulants. Allowed to graze freely, these turkeys are raised, killed and prepared according to kosher regulations, which includes a salt brine soak, which many of us do at home anyway. Keep in mind though, that the brine included in the turkey package adds to the weight of the turkey and increases your price.

Free Range Turkey: Like many labels, “free range” could mean something or it could mean very little. To be labelled “free range,” a turkey only has to have access to outside air for a few minutes a day. Again, ask questions. Grocers can charge a premium for “free range” turkeys–it’s up to you to find out what the label means in your circumstance.

Certified Organic Turkeys: These birds are raised with specifically designated feed, hormones and without any added chemicals.

Here is the recipe we used for our heritage breed turkey. Whatever turkey you choose, we hope you enjoy it with friends and loved ones!

Roasted Heritage Breed Turkey

  • 1 fresh heritage breed turkey at room temperature
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • Fresh sage and rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth or white wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix the butter and chopped herbs until well combined.
  3. Rub the butter mixture over the turkey skin and under the skin if you can.
  4. Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper
  5. Put the turkey in a large roasting pan. Add broth or wine to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Butter a piece of parchment to fit over the turkey. Use the parchment to make a tent over the turkey.
  7. Insert a meat thermometer into the breast.
  8. Put the bird in the oven and roast until the breast meat is 145 degrees. Do NOT open the oven door during this time.
  9. Remove the parchment tent over the turkey and continue cooking until the internal temperature is 155-160.
  10. Remove turkey from the oven (the meat temperature will continue to rise after removing it from the oven).
  11. Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
  12. Carve and serve the turkey with trimmings.Voila!
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