Two Southern Dames Dishing on the BEST Parts of Thanksgiving…
Where did 2022 go? Now, I for one am glad to see this crap fest of a year hit the curb (never thought I’d say that after 2020, but here we are. Elections, war, supply chain and economic woes…bleh, good riddance.) Here’s hoping 2023 brings better times for all of us.
However, while I am constantly giving 2022 a “bless your heart” as I nod my head to the latest calamity befalling my personal life or the world at large, I would be remiss in not casting my gaze upon the upcoming holiday season. It is a time for family (and after 2020’s, and for some, 2021’s, social distancing, canceled family get togethers, masked faces (which at least helped me stop shoving one more cookie in my pie hole) and renewal. It is time to gather once again and enjoy smiles, laughter, good stories, weird family traditions, and of course, FOOD AND WINE! Well, if you aren’t into wine, your beverages of choice. But Thanksgiving, in my mind, naturally begs for the ideal pairing when it comes to beverages to cut through the carbs, tryptophan, and football. Wine is what I first think of when I start planning out my holiday menu.
Since Mandy isn’t the turkey enthusiast that Chuck is, we will be sticking to side dishes, and in our southern upbringing, that means CASSEROLES! More on what we will be tasting later…let’s first dish on the wines we’ll be enjoying.
Up first is one of two entrants from Colorado. Coming in from the West Elk AVA (Hotchkiss, Colorado) is a bright and poppingly (yes, I just made up a word, don’t tell Charles) acidic Grüner Veltliner from The Storm Cellar. It is a beautiful place right now and winemakers, sommeliers, farmers, dog and cat wranglers (plus a whole mess of chickens, tomato plants, and other farm to table fun), Jayme Henderson and Steve Steese put their entire hearts and souls into every vine and it shows in the GORGEOUS wines they are making. I have had the privilege to taste their wines as they are developing and then at an amazing wine dinner last May overlooking gorgeous valleys and mesas (and woo boy, the after party was equally fun!) My recent issues resulted in me having to cancel all of my wine club memberships…The Storm Cellar is the only wine club I have renewed because I believe in their vision and their wines.
Okay, enough of my girl crush on Jayme and Steve, let’s get back to their wine. It just so happens that Grüner was their favorite grape to work with back in 2020 (the vintage of this wine) and is one of their favorite food pairing wines. (Remember when I said it was poppingly acidic? Oh yeah, that acidity sings with food!) This wine is a great veg wine, especially for summer favorites like artichoke or asparagus (which is a challenging veg to pair with wine IYKYK.) So, while I didn’t make Mandy’ favorite oyster stuffing, this wine just screams at me that it would be perfection with that side dish delight.
But today, we’ll be trying it with a cornbread green chili sausage casserole thanks to the cozy apple notes and leesy tones (they stirred the fine lees, aka expended yeast cells post fermentation, during this wine’s journey, giving it that brioche note.) And did I mention the acid?
I also happen to love a good, leesy, dry Riesling, and the Koehler Ruprecht DOES NOT DISAPPOINT! This wine has a soft texture that at first coats the pallet with its substantial weight and then the acid kicks in…allowing the citrus, apples, and Marcona almonds to really balance out the usual suspects you find at Thanksgiving…country ham, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, your crazy Uncle Leland, who has had too many sips of Fat Tire while watching the Lions lose. This wine has undergone barrel aging on the lees and a natural malolactic fermentation, giving it an almost creamy note.
Both the Grüner and Riesling will range between $25 and $35, respectively, making them both affordable yet slightly more special options for your holiday table. Neither will disappoint…and both will likely make even Dallas Cowboys foosball fun to watch (yes, I meant foosball.)
Now, it wouldn’t be my holiday table without some red wines to enjoy as well. I have selected three reds that you could even pair with turkey! Yes, you can enjoy red wines with white meat such as chicken or turkey…what you look to pair is the sauce or gravy…and giblet gravy is an absolute gem of a pairing with medium bodied red wines like we will be tasting on air.
Up first is our homage to Beaujolais Nouveau release day (which is today, Thursday, Nov 17th)…Les Petits Fers is Gamay Noir from Oregon and has all the lovely attributes of traditional Beaujolais: candy apple, red fruit such as cranberry and currant, but this one has hints of chai tea and I can’t wait for Mandy to do a sniff test to see if she can pick up those notes. This wine will be perfect with the ham and French Kitchen inspired green bean casserole we will be having, along with the pumpkin and sage gnocchi, tying together all the umami and spice notes this wine brings to the table with balanced and smooth acidity.
No, that isn’t a selfie of me next to the Les Petits Fers…that is a Bobal we will conclude with so first I want to discuss a wine that not only is a great wine to have for your bigger red wine drinkers but has the PERFECT label for the holidays (and is in that very affordable $12 price range.) I give you Finca San Blas Vino Tinto!
This red blend from Valencia, Spain is made from Syrah, Cab Sauv, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Bobal. It is a medium body wine with lovely dark fruit, balanced tannins and acidity with hints of vanilla, green herbs, and light smoke. This wine would be an amazing wine with ham, sausage balls, mashed potatoes and gravy, and dressing. Today we will also try it with the pumpkin and sage gnocchis, hashbrown casserole, and green bean casserole. This is a great veggie wine but also a FANTASTIC game meat wine, so if elk, venison, or even lamb are on your menu, then this would make a perfect option. AND JUST LOOK AT THAT LABEL!!!
We will conclude with a straight Bobal, also from Spain, at a $12 price point. Madame Bobalu is also from Valencia and is comparable to the Finca in terms of body. This one has sexy fruit notes on the nose and palate with hints of toasted baking spices thanks to six months this wine spends in French oak. It also has a lovely creaminess to it thanks to the malolactic fermentation in steel vats, which leaves a smooth and silky finish. Another great wine for ham or game meat, this is also a great red wine alternative for seafood as well.
Let’s take a moment and discuss the food we are going to be enjoying. I am all about streamlining my cooking and baking during the holidays so some of these recipes are here because they are fast, easy, and delicious.
Our hashbrown casserole is a knock off of Cracker Barrels and a favorite go to for me because it is super easy to throw together, freezes well, and can be assembled ahead of time and baked just before serving. There are plenty of copycat recipes out there but this is my favorite from Spend with Pennies. I like to use this a springboard for my own versions of this and have been known to add in roasted Pueblo chilies, diced ham, bacon lardon, and at the beach, I have even added in shrimp for a play on shrimp and grits. Top it with some hot sauce and it is a meal in of itself! A great option for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, brunch, or as a side dish for your official meal, make sure to snag this recipe for your collection.
For the vegetarians, consider this delicious fall alternative (easily can be made vegan if you opt for vegan butter or use olive oil…I used sage butter, btw…and cream and also GF if you pick up GF gnocchi.) I like this one as well because it is quick and can be made at the last minute with ease if someone shows up to your table requesting a vegetarian option. From a great vegetarian food blogger, if you know you will have vegetarians or are one yourself, be sure to check out this recipe and her others here at The Herbeevore. You could make your own gnocchi but for speed and efficiency, the store-bought kind that you find in the pasta aisle work perfectly!
Our next casserole, which I offer as a stuffing/dressing option, is another great breakfast/brunch/side dish casserole and that is Cornbread Sausage Casserole. I received this when I first came home after giving birth to my son and it was a perfect comfort food. It reheats extremely well and also freezes well. It is another recipe that can be altered and made your own and, in this case, I sautéed green chilies in with my onions and added in green chili breakfast sausage. This is a great basic recipe with a Mexican flavor profile at Flavor Mosaic but play around with and make it your own…I also like to bake these in muffin tins so that I can freeze them to enjoy as a quick breakfast or instant side dish when my corn-allergic husband is out of town (don’t tell him I cheat on him with this dish.) This is another great food blog if you are looking for more Southern or Instant Pot recipes that I reference frequently.
Our last two recipes I cannot actually share because they are from The French Kitchen but I encourage you to take a look at their website and sign up for their cooking classes (and in case you are wondering, their Black Friday sale will include 20% off all classes. These classes book out so please take a look and have several options ready to go!) The Green Bean Casserole we are having today is fresh and brighter version of the Campbell’s Soup classic. Using French style green beans, portobello (their recipe calls for white button) mushrooms, and made from scratch sauce, this is another great make ahead recipe. I made it my own again by adding crispy jalapenos instead of fried onions for the topping but I am so enthused by this Thanksgiving Class, I will be taking it with my mom on Friday afternoon after my chat with Mandy. Next Saturday, in fact, I am celebrating my mama’s birthday by taking her to an Instant Pot class, too. These experiences make great Christmas/birthday gifts for the chef in your life and you leave not only with the experience of making these recipes, but the recipes and food as well.
If you can’t make it for classes, consider allowing The French Kitchen to help you with those staples you need. From the best dinner rolls to side dishes to individual Yule Logs (new this year), they have a wide range of excellent options to make your Thanksgiving even easier.
And while Mandy won’t be joining me in trying Chef Janon’s cranberry sauce, I am hoping Chuck will. Be sure to give Chef Janon a follow on Instagram…she is always delighting the eyes with amazing food creations (but it is also a great way to keep up with her local television spots and classes.)
I hope this blog post finds you settling in to winter with ease (I am still complaining about it getting dark at 4:30) and that your holiday season is one of joy, gratitude, warmth, family, friends, and peace.
Cheers and namaste,