What we know about the food at that first harvest celebration (Thanksgiving) comes from the pen of colonist Edward Winslow, who wrote that the Wampanoag Indians "went out and killed five deer" and that the governor sent "four men fowling."
They definitively had venison, and the fowl also could have been wild turkey, but if so, it was a very distant relative of that bird in the supermarket case today. Today's turkeys have had most of the wildness bred out of them. In the quest for more white meat, they have been "genetically improved" with abnormally large breasts. They are so top heavy and so fat they can't get off the ground.
Domestic Heritage turkeys are much like the wild turkeys and are able to run and fly so they're quite lean. The wild birds are firmer, and have a rich, intense flavor with more dark meat. They are expensive and slightly less meaty than commercial birds, but they are delicious.
If you decide to go wild here, why not add the produce of the forest floor to the Thanksgiving table? Foragers have been out gathering wild mushrooms and the flavors are perfect for your Thanksgiving Feast.
Thanksgiving Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 pounds mixed fresh wild mushrooms, stems removed, mushrooms cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 medium shallots, finely chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 large celery ribs, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 5 cups chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- One 1-pound loaf of bread (peasant or other type), cut into 1/2-inch dice and toasted until dry
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- In a large skillet, melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned. Stir in the shallots, garlic, celery, onion and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the thyme. Cook until all the vegetables are softened slightly. Stir in the wine and simmer until almost evaporated. Add 2 cups of the Chicken Stock and simmer over moderate heat until the liquid reduces and thickens, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Add the toasted bread to the bowl along with the remaining 3 cups stock and 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme. Stir in the cream and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the eggs and mix well. Spoon the stuffing into a buttered glass or ceramic baking dish and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Cover the stuffing with foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for about 30 minutes longer, or until the top is golden and crisp and the stuffing is firm. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Sauteed Wild Mushrooms
- 2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms
- 1/2 cup good olive oil
- 1 cup chopped shallots (4 large)
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (6 cloves)
- 1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- Brush mushroom caps with a clean sponge. Remove and discard the stems. Slice the small mushrooms thickly and cut the large ones in a large dice.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the butter, mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, until they are tender and begin to release their juices, stirring often. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Toss in the parsley, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.
Wild Mushroom Layered With Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- 1 large garlic head
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 5 pounds potatoes, Yukon Gold or Russet
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 3/4-1 cup half-and-half or milk
- 1/2 cup chopped basil
- 2 leeks, well-washed and thinly sliced
- 1 pound mixed wild mushrooms
- 2 cups grated Asiago cheese
- Preheat oven to 400˚.
- Cut off pointed end of garlic head and drizzle exposed cut cloves with olive oil.
- Arrange garlic in on a double thickness of foil, cover with foil and seal edges tightly. Roast garlic on the middle rack of oven for about 40 minutes or until very soft. Cool, then squeeze garlic from skins. Reduce oven temperature to 350˚.
- While garlic is roasting, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Boil for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Drain.
- Mash potatoes, roasted garlic, butter, sour cream and half-and-half or milk until smooth. Add more half-and-half or milk, if necessary, to make a creamy mixture. Stir in basil and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Reserve.
- Over medium-low heat, melt butter in a large sauté pan. Sauté leeks with a pinch of kosher salt for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove woody ends from mushrooms, wipe clean, slice and stir into leeks. Sauté an additional minute or until just beginning to sweat. (Do not overcook mushrooms or they will lose flavor; they will continue cooking in the casserole.)
- In a 9X12-inch baking dish, evenly spoon 1/2 of mashed potatoes, spreading evenly with a spatula. Evenly layer leek and mushroom mixture over potatoes and top with remaining potatoes, smoothing with spatula. Sprinkle casserole with 1-2 cups grated cheese, according to taste.
- Cover casserole with lightly greased foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.
Wild Mushrooms and Beans (The Classic Thanksgiving Casserole)
For the topping:
For beans and sauce:
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
- Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.
- While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.