Thanksgiving recipes from farm-to-table chef John Ross

Chef John Ross holds a a slow-roasted, brined Chef John Ross holds a a slow-roasted, brined turkey with chestnut sage stuffing garnished with fresh local herbs. (Nov. 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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John Ross modestly protests the distinction, but he is well known among New York food devotees (and has been honored by Gov. Andrew Cuomo) as one of the founders of farm-to-table cuisine on Long Island. He and his wife, Lois, opened Ross's North Fork Restaurant in 1973, the year the area's first modern vineyard, Hargrave, debuted.

For more than 25 years, he cooked Thanksgiving dinner at Ross's. He sold the restaurant in 2000 and his nearby take-away shop, the Rotisserie, in 2004, but he's far from retired. Today, Ross is the manager of the North Fork Country Club and writes a biweekly food column for the Suffolk Times.

And the seasoned pro is still cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but now it's for family and friends.

"What you do," he says, "is start with the farm stand. You acquire all of the vegetables that are so wonderful at this time of year. Mix up the colors, the flavors, the cooking methods. If you start this way, you are going to end up in a very good spot."

Before each course, Ross likes to read a short poem celebrating the American tradition of simple, pleasing food. This year, at a pre-Thanksgiving run-through of of this year's Thursday's dinner, he quoted John Greenleaf Whittier:

"What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye? What calls back the past like the rich pumpkin pie?"

JOHN ROSS' 2013 THANKSGIVING MENU

Roast turkey with gravy

Stuffed Jack-Be-Little pumpkins

Roasted beet and orange salad

Sage and chestnut stuffing

Sliced and sauteed Brussels sprouts

Roasted cauliflower

Roasted parsnips, carrots and turnips

Mashed potatoes and rutabaga

Cranberry chutney

Pumpkin chiffon pies

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ROAST TURKEY

2 quarts store-bought vegetable broth

3/4 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon allspice berries

1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger

2 quarts cold water

4 cups ice cubes

1 (12- to 15-pound) fresh turkey

1 apple, sliced

1/2 onion, peeled and sliced, plus 2 cups chopped onion, divided

4 sprigs rosemary

6 sage leaves

1 cinnamon stick

Twine (for tying the turkey legs)

Canola oil

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1. The night before serving: Combine vegetable broth, salt, sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries and ginger in large pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add water and ice cubes to cool down mixture.

2. Remove giblets and neck of turkey. Rinse turkey under cold running water and place in a deep stockpot. Pour brine over turkey and refrigerate overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, remove turkey from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place apple, sliced onion, rosemary, sage and cinnamon stick in cavity of turkey. Place turkey on a poultry rack, breast side up, and place rack in a large roasting pan. Cut off the wing tips and secure the legs together with twine.

4. Brush the outside of the turkey with canola oil and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 300 degrees and add the 2 cups chopped onion, chopped celery and chopped carrot to pan. Continue to roast, basting occasionally, until internal temperature registers 165 degrees in the thigh on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 hours. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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STUFFED JACK-BE-LITTLE PUMPKINS

8 Jack-Be-Little Pumpkins

2 medium spaghetti squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 Spanish onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups peeled and seeded cheese (cooking) pumpkin cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 green pepper, diced

1/2 red pepper, diced

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 medium head kale, stems removed, rinsed, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons mild cHarissa spice blend (see note)

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the Jack-Be-Little pumpkins, cut off the tops, and scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkins, with their lids on, on a foil-lined baking sheet.

2. Split the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise with a large chef's knife. Remove the seeds with a spoon and place the squash, cut sides down, on the lined baking sheet with the pumpkins. Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast the pumpkins and squash for 25 minutes. Remove the pumpkins and continue to roast the spaghetti squash until you can scrape out its flesh with a dinner fork, another 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, saute the diced onion and garlic for 2 minutes before adding the diced cheese pumpkin and the green and red peppers. Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon, until pumpkin is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and the kale and continue to cook 5 minutes longer. Season with the cHarissa, salt and pepper. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice and set aside.

4. Holding the squash halves with a towel, scrape out the flesh with a dinner fork. It should come out easily and resemble strands of spaghetti. Place the spaghetti squash strands in a large, shallow casserole, filling the bottom with it. Put the Jack pumpkins on top of the squash and form the squash into nests surrounding the pumpkins. Remove the tops of the jack pumpkins and fill them with the cheese pumpkin filling. Place any remaining filling in a separate casserole. Reheat the pumpkins and squash in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes, arrange them on 8 individual plates and garnish with chopped cilantro and lemon zest. Makes 8 servings.

Note: cHarissa, a blend of Moroccan spices, is available at A Taste of the North Fork in Southhold and Braun's Seafood in Cutchogue. You can substitute a homemade blend of 1 teaspoon each cumin, ginger, salt and black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, coriander, cayenne and allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

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ROASTED BEET AND ORANGE SALAD

4 medium beets, trimmed and rinsed

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided

3 navel oranges

1 ripe avocado

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 shallots, minced

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces baby arugula, washed and dried

1/2 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup merlot-roasted walnuts (see note)

14 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Loosely wrap beets in foil, place foil packet on a baking sheet, and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from foil, cool, peel and cut into bite-size wedges. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Peel 2 of the oranges and section into wedges, removing membrane and seeds. Squeeze the juice from the third orange and reserve.

3. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh with a tablespoon. Cut the halves into wedges, toss with lemon juice and set aside.

4. Combine toasted sesame seeds, remaining 1/2 cup canola oil, orange juice, vinegar, shallots, honey, ginger and salt in a jar or airtight container, cover and shake vigorously.

5. To assemble salads, lay out 8 salad plates. Toss 1/4 cup of the dressing with the arugula in a bowl and divide among the plates. Arrange the beets, oranges, avocado and onions over the arugula and sprinkle more dressing on top. Garnish with the merlot-roasted walnuts and goat cheese. Makes 8 servings.

Note: To make the merlot-roasted nuts, reduce 1 cup of merlot wine to 1/4 cup in a small pot on top of the stove. Combine the merlot syrup with 1 cup walnuts, 2teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of red pepper flakes. Place the nuts on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Cool completely before using.

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TURKEY GRAVY

1 tablespoon canola oil

Turkey neck

Turkey wing tips

Turkey giblets

1 quart low-sodium canned chicken broth

1 leek, washed and trimmed

8 sprigs parsley

3 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

Turkey drippings and vegetables from roasting pan

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup flour

Salt

Ground black pepper

1. While turkey is cooking, heat a saute pan over medium heat and add canola oil. Add turkey neck, wing tips and giblets. Cook until rich brown but not burnt. Add them to a large saucepan and cover with cold water.

2. Deglaze the saute pan with 1 cup water and add the liquid and browned bits to the pot with the turkey parts. Add another cup of water and the chicken broth to the pot. Tie up the leek, parsley, thyme and bay leaf with kitchen twine and add to pot. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, over low heat, simmering, while turkey is cooking, about 2 hours.

3. When turkey is cooked, remove it from the oven and place on a clean sheet pan, tenting with foil to keep warm. Pour pan drippings and cooked vegetables into pot with turkey parts. Deglaze roasting pan with 1 cup water, adding it to pot. Continue to simmer while making gravy.

4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in flour. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Whisk into broth and bring to a boil. Strain gravy through a sieve. Skim fat from surface and season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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SAGE AND CHESTNUT STUFFING

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2 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock

1 loaf French bread, cut into cubes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

12 sage leaves

1 onion, chopped

2 cups chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

8 ounces cooked and peeled chestnuts, chopped

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat broth to a simmer. Place bread in a large bowl and pour warm broth over bread.

2. Melt butter in a large saute pan. Add sage leaves and cook. As they turn crisp, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate.

3. When sage leaves are cooked, add onion, celery, parsley, thyme and chestnuts to pan and stir. Scrape into bowl with bread. Season with pepper and salt to taste.

4. Place mixture in a casserole dish and bake, uncovered, until heated through and crisp on top, about 45 minutes. Scatter sage leaves over stuffing and serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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SLICED AND SAUTEED BRUSSELS SPROUTS

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

Salt

Ground black pepper

1. Whisk together maple syrup, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic and mustard.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Add Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

3. Transfer to a bowl, toss with dressing, add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

You can use one large head of cauliflower or substitute smaller heads in different colors. Purple, red and yellow are a pretty mix.

1 large head cauliflower, cut into fairly large florets

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Salt

Ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

2. Toss cauliflower with butter and salt and pepper on sheet. Roast until soft, about 25 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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ROASTED PARSNIPS, CARROTS AND TURNIPS

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch sticks

4 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3-inch sticks

1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into lengthwise quarters

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

Salt

Ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

2. Toss carrots, parsnips, turnips, butter, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper on sheet. Roast until soft, about 25 minutes. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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MASHED POTATOES AND RUTABAGAS

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt

Ground black pepper

1. Combine potatoes and rutabaga in a large pot; cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.

2. Drain potatoes and rutabaga, return to pot and use a potato masher to mash with butter, milk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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CRANBERRY CHUTNEY

3 cups fresh cranberries

1 cup dried cranberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup chopped shallots

1 tart apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Combine fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, cloves in 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, about 10 minutes, or until berries begin to pop.

2. Stir in the shallots, apple, celery and walnuts. Simmer another 10 minutes and remove from heat. Serve warm or refrigerate for up to 1 week and serve cold. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIES

4 cups peeled and cubed fresh cheese pumpkin

2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin

1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

6 large eggs, separated

1 cup whole milk

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups heavy cream, plus more if desired

2 single-crust pie shells with high fluted edges, prebaked until golden brown

1. Place pumpkin in a steamer basket and steam over boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher.

2. In a saucepan, combine the gelatin, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Add the mashed pumpkin to pan. Whisk in egg yolks, milk and ginger. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until chilled.

3. Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. With the mixer turned on, pour the granulated sugar into the bowl in a slow, steady stream, beating until the whites hold stiff peaks.

4. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks. Chill for 30 to 45 minutes.

5. Fold the egg whites and whipped cream into the cooled pumpkin mixture and chill for 30 to 45 minutes. Scrape filling into baked pie shells. Chill until firm, slice and serve with more whipped cream, if desired. Makes 2 pies.

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SINGLE-CRUST PIE SHELLS

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening, cut into bits and chilled

1/2 cup ice water

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, salt and shortening in a large mixing bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut shortening into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Sprinkle water over flour mixture and stir with a fork until dough just comes together. Divide into 2 portions, flatten each portion into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Roll out dough disks, one at a time, on a lightly floured countertop. Transfer to pie plate, trim and crimp edges. Prick dough all over with a fork and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before filling. Makes 2 pie shells.

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