Local chefs share their show-stopping (and fairly foolproof!) Thanksgiving recipes

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Get a little experimental with Saint Dinette chef Adam Eaton's squash gnudi -- a crowd-pleaser for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Saint Dinette

“Despite cooking almost every day, I love spending time cooking for Thanksgiving at home,” says Saint Dinette chef Adam Eaton. “It just feels festive this time of year."

He's right, of course; there's just something about this season that -- whether you're behind the burners constantly or only don your apron but once a year -- makes brining the bird, firing up the oven, and setting the table seem almost magical. 

The only thing that could make it more magical is if you had, say, a trio of recipes from notable local chefs with which to utterly wow friends and family this Thanksgiving. 

Oh wait, you like, totally do -- you clicked this headline, you get it. Below, Alma's Carrie Riggs, Meritage's Russell Klein, and Saint Dinette's Adam Eaton have shared their go-to Thanksgiving dishes, with step-by-step instructions so easy any turkey could pull 'em off. 

Peppermint Meringues
Executive pastry chef Carrie Riggs, Restaurant and Cafe Alma

½ cup egg whites
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
Food coloring, if desired

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with pan spray and lining with parchment paper. No need to spray the top of the parchment -- it’s nonstick already!

Set a pot of hot water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a heat-resistant bowl. Place that bowl over the boiling water and whisk constantly until all the sugar is dissolved. (The best way to tell is just to get in there and touch it. If you can't feel any sugar crystals, it’s ready.)

Transfer egg whites and sugar to a mixer and whisk on high speed. Add the peppermint extract and food coloring (if using), and whisk until the egg whites are very thick and glossy. They should hold their shape when you remove the whisk. Think marshmallow fluff: thick, shiny, and beautiful. At this point, you can either drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the parchment-lined sheet tray or use a piping bag to pipe little hershey kiss-sized meringues.

Bake in the 250-degree oven until they are dry on the outside but still slightly soft on the inside. This will take forever, about an hour and a half, maybe longer depending on the size of your cookies. The best way to tell if they are done is to take one meringue out, let it cool for a couple minutes, then break it open. It should be soft but not juicy (it shouldn't look like raw egg whites). Then: Eat it. If it doesn't stick to your teeth, it’s done! If it does, leave it in for 10 more minutes and try again.

Harvest Pumpkin Soup
Chef Russell Klein, Meritage

“I like the simple, traditional Thanksgiving recipes,” says Meritage chef Russell Klein. “The Thanksgiving meal is not one that needs any interpreting from a chef, but like all cooking, it does benefit from good technique. This pumpkin soup recipe is part of my mother’s Thanksgiving table every year. I love the recipe so much that I’ve added it to the fall menu at Meritage each year, too. In addition to being delicious, this brings up lots of memories for me.”

4 ea. sugar pumpkins
5 ea. shallots, thinly sliced
½ onion, thinly sliced 
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
3 garlic cloves
1 cup sherry wine
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon mace
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
½ pound melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, and brush with half of the butter and half of the spices and sugar. Place on a cookie sheet and roast in a 350-degree oven until tender. Allow to cool slightly and remove the skin.

In a large stock pot, add the remaining butter over medium heat and cook the vegetables until tender, but not brown. Add the sherry and reduce by half.

Add the roasted pumpkin and all the remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes.

Place the soup in a blender or food processor (a blender will yield a smoother consistency) and carefully puree.

You can garnish the soup with nuts, whipped cream or crème frâiche.

(Oh, and one last hosting tip from Russell: “If you want to get fancy, you can carve out a mini pumpkin and fill it with the soup -- it looks great on the table.")

Squash Gnudi with Brown Butter and Sage
Chef Adam Eaton, Saint Dinette

“These gnudi are simple and a crowd pleaser -- plus, they’re vegetarian, so they’re bound to please everyone around the table,” says Saint Dinette’s Adam Eaton. “It’s nice to have a mix of traditional foods and some experimental ones to keep things interesting.”

Squash Puree
1 large butternut squash
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut squash in half, length-wise.
3. Drizzle flesh with olive oil and place on baking sheet flesh-side down.
4. Roast in oven until tender; let cool.
5. Scoop out seeds and discard.
6. Remove flesh from skin and puree in a food processor until smooth. Set aside until needed.
You can easily make this ahead and store until ready.

Hung Ricotta -- this step is is worth the wait for consistency

3 cups fresh ricotta

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and use to allow the ricotta to drain for 2 hours in the
refrigerator. Make sure to place strainer in larger bowl that can collect the whey (to be
discarded). Store curd in the refrigerator until needed.

Gnudi

2 cups squash puree
2 cups hung ricotta
½ cup fresh pecorino
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons salt
Pinch of Semolina flour

For sauce:
1/4 butter
fresh sage

1. Mix all ingredients except for flour and butter together in a large bowl.
2. Fold flour in gently, making sure not to work the dough too much. If the dough seems too wet,
add more flour until no longer tacky.
3. Use a one-ounce scoop or large spoon to create even balls. Toss lightly in semolina.
4. Let set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (Can store for up to two days in a sealed container.)
5. Bring salted water to a boil. Drop gnudi in and remove once they start to float.
6. Slowly cook stick of butter over medium heat, until it starts to brown. Add fresh sage leaves to
taste.


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