An All-American Kosher Thanksgiving

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I’ve always loved Thanksgiving because of its inclusive nature. Every American is invited to the table of this homey harvest celebration.

And it’s a holiday that’s particularly friendly to the laws of kashrut. Think of turkey, cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, stuffing and fall vegetables. They can readily be made without dairy products, which kosher observers do not eat with turkey, Thanksgiving’s traditional main course.

But there are several delicacies often included on Thanksgiving menus — and almost always photographed on glossy pages of November issues of food magazines — that pose challenges to kosher cooks.

Mashed potatoes are the first thing that comes to mind. My husband David cannot enjoy Thanksgiving dinner without a hearty helping of mashed potatoes. My usual recipe is loaded with butter and whole milk, which gives them their fluffy texture. Margarine, the go-to fix, isn’t rich enough to produce creamy results. However, onions and garlic sautéed in a generous amount of olive oil create light and tasty mashed potatoes that are cholesterol free.

There are other Thanksgiving favorites that are equally challenging — recipes that require creativity and finesse to achieve sensational results. I’m thinking of cornbread dressing and pecan pie. With some refined tweaking here and there, no one’s taste buds will miss cream, butter or cheese. As a matter of fact, these perky pareve Thanksgiving foods are as palette pleasing as their dairy-laden counterparts, so stunningly pictured in gourmet magazines.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes | Pareve

Serves four

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Yukon Gold potatoes are mandatory in this recipe because of their soft texture. Their yellow color looks like butter was added.

  • 4 medium size Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 medium-large onion
  • ¼ cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • White pepper to taste

Fit a food processor with a metal blade. Reserve.

Peel the potatoes, rinse them under cold water and cut them into eight chunks apiece. Place them in a medium-sized pot and cover them with water. Move to the stovetop and heat the pot over a medium-high flame. Once the water comes to a boil, continue boiling until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes.

As the potatoes cook, dice the onion and then chop it fine. In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Move the onion to the skillet and sprinkle it with salt. Reduce the flame to low. Sauté, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, press the garlic cloves through a garlic press. Add that to the onions and stir to combine.

When the potatoes are well softened, use a soup ladle to remove a ladle of potato broth. Pour it into a heatproof bowl. Reserve.

Drain the potatoes in a colander. Spoon them into a food processor. Using a spatula, scrape the onion-garlic mixture, including the oil, into the food processor with the potatoes. Add a tablespoon of potato water and some white pepper. Process the potatoes until pureed. Pulse on and off, making sure there are no lumps and the consistency is creamy. Add more salt, if needed. If the potatoes need to be loosened slightly, add a little more potato water, a teaspoon at a time. Serve immediately.

Cornbread | Pareve

Yield: 16 squares

This popular American recipe can be served as a side dish or it can become the main ingredient in cornbread dressing (below).

  • Nonstick vegetable spray

    pamela_d_mcadams/Thinkstock
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 3½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • ⅓ cup corn oil
  • 1 egg

Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With a spoon utensil, stir these dry ingredients until well combined.

Pour in the apple cider. Using an electric beater, mix briefly until moistened. Pour in the corn oil and beat on a low speed until combined. Using a spatula, scrape down the bowl. Add the egg and beat again on low until incorporated. Scrape the bowl with a spatula and move the dough to the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top turns golden and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Cool to warm and cut into squares. It is preferable to serve cornbread warm, although it is fine to serve it at room temperature. The recipe freezes well.

Cornbread Dressing | Meat or Pareve

Yield: 15 squares

Prepare the cornbread for this recipe from the recipe above or, if you are pressed for time, you can buy cornbread instead of making it from scratch.

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 1 (9-inch square) baking pan of cornbread, about 7-8 cups
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Using your fingers, crumble the cornbread and reserve. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, such as Pyrex, with nonstick spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the oil on a low flame. Sauté the onion for 2 minutes. Add the red pepper and celery. Sauté until they are wilting, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, black pepper, chili and cumin. Stir until the garlic and spices are fragrant. Remove the skillet from the flame.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg until beaten. Add the broth and whisk again. Fold in the cornbread and stir until moistened. Spoon in the sautéed vegetables and parsley. Stir until combined. Move the cornbread mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread dressing is sizzling and the edges are turning brown. Serve immediately. Recipe can be cooled to room temperature, refrigerated and reheated. Serve cut into squares.

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Pecan Pie | Pareve

Yield: eight to 10 slices

It’s not Thanksgiving without pecan pie on the sideboard. Here is a pareve version, which actually tastes better the day after it’s baked.

Crust:

  • 7 tablespoons refrigerated non-dairy margarine
  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the counter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • Nonstick vegetable spray

Cut the margarine into seven slices, each a tablespoon in size. Cut each slice into quarters. Spread these cubes in one layer on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Place the margarine in the freezer until frozen solid, about 1½ hours.

Fit a food processor with a metal blade. Measure out the flour, salt and sugar. Stir them with a spoon until combined. Pour this mixture into the food processor bowl. Add the margarine and pulse on and off for 45 seconds. The dough will be crumbly. Drizzle in the water a teaspoon at a time as you pulse the food processor on and off until the flour mixture sticks together, appearing like dough. Lift the dough from the food processor and form it into a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

(During this 30 minutes, prepare the pecan pie filling recipe below.)

Once the dough is ready, spray a regular 9-inch pie pan (not deep-dish in size) with non- stick spray. Toss a couple of tablespoons of flour on the counter and spread the flour around. Use some of it to flour the rolling pin.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. With your hands, flatten it into a disk. Dust the top and bottom of the disk with some flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle a little larger than the pie pan. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil and cover half of the surface of the dough circle with foil. Fold the dough over the foil. Lift the dough from the counter and place it over half of the pie pan. Remove the foil and arrange the dough evenly over the pie pan. The ends will be scraggily. With your fingers, create a nice-looking ridge around the edge of the pie pan. If there’s too much dough in places, you can cut it off using sharp scissors. Reserve.

Pecan Pie Filling:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) of non-dairy margarine at room temperature for 10 minutes
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider
  • 2 cups of chopped pecans, which equals an 8-ounce bag

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the margarine into eight slices and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the flour and cider and beat until well combined. Add the pecans and mix on low speed for 30 seconds or so. Turn off the mixer. Using a spatula, continue mixing in the pecans until they are evenly incorporated.

Spoon the pie filling into the prepared pie pan and spread around evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. The filling will not appear congealed. It will solidify as it cools. Let the pie cool to room temperature before slicing it.

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