Monday, November 21, 2011

This Side(s) of Paradise

There are certain truths about Thanksgiving that are, shall we say, self-evident: that all Rieslings were created to make time with family more enjoyable, and that certain side dishes are as important, if not more so, than whatever bird, Turducken, or Tofurkey graces the center of the table. Year-round at Restaurant Eugene we are as meticulous and impassioned about the background singers that support Ribeye rock stars and Sea Bass divas, so it should be no surprise that composing the perfect potato dish or dinner roll brings Chef Hopkins as much excitement as getting the turkey to that quintessence of golden brown.

Some of you might be surprised to learn that one of Chef’s favorite Thanksgiving sides features canned soup as one of its key ingredients. While most of the cooking at Restaurant Eugene is a symphony of time-intensive preparation that brings together notes from a slower South with the finesse of classical French cuisine, it is important to remember that one of the first, chief champions of French-American cooking, Julia Child, loved the convenience offered by canned cream of mushroom soup. Child was a tremendous influence on Chef Hopkins and his mother, and the question What Would Julia Do (WWJD?) continues to guide imaginations in kitchens everywhere. Thus, his recipe for Wild Rice Casserole With Mushrooms (which you can also find in the current issue of Garden & Gun is one part delicious nostalgia to two parts inventive seasonality.

Having grown up in Atlanta, Chef has had a long relationship with Coca-Cola, that heavenly addition to cakes and cocktails. It lends a little fun to that old stand-by, cranberry chutney. Turkey without cranberry chutney would be like Marvin without Tammi, and Chef’s chutney without Coca-Cola would be an aria without a soprano – that fizzy sugar is what makes the dish sing.

Wherever you spend your Thanksgiving, whatever sides you prepare, we hope you have time to savor the things that bring you joy. We are thankful for you, and offer a few of Chef Hopkin's recipes as a token of our gratitude.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Wild Rice Casserole with Mushrooms

1 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 tbsp. minced onion
2 tbsp. minced 
green pepper
8 oz. white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 can condensed cream 
of mushroom soup
1 cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. dried tarragon
½ tsp. curry powder
Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a heavy-bottomed ovenproof pot over moderate heat, melt butter until foamy and sauté onion, pepper, and mushrooms until softened and aromatic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in soup, cream, and spices. Add cooked rice, stirring to combine, and transfer to preheated oven. Bake until soup and cream are absorbed and the rice thickens, about 40 to 50 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cranberry Coca-Cola Chutney
(Serves 8)

6 oz. fresh cranberries
6 oz. dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 pinch kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often until berries
have burst and mixture has thickened, about 15 minutes.

Will keep in refrigerator for 3 weeks, serve slightly cool.

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