Off-Ramp for November 21, 2009

Off-Ramp Web Special: Foodies on Thanksgiving

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Michael Conway

The Rabe-Bermudez-Walsh-DeBoever-Kurtz Family - Thanksgiving, 2007. L-R: James, Mike (with Donnie the dog), Patty, John (with Drinkie the drink), Julian, Bill, Karl, Joan, Jay, Clare, Larry (the Lobster).

UPDATE 11-20-2010: Thanksgiving comes every year, so we're serving the most delicious MEMORY leftovers, from Off-Ramp 2009.

The great chefs of Los Angeles tell us what's on their Thanksgiving menu this year, plus Pigtails & Sauerkraut, a Wiley Family tradition.

Get people talking about Thanksgiving and even folks who spend every day with food get a little mist in their eye. For Thanksgiving this year, Off-Ramp host John Rabe (above, with his family) is talking with a bunch of foodies. Here are the first few with more to come...


1. Michael Cimarusti (above, in the pink shirt, with friends) runs the two-Michelin star Providence restaurant in Los Angeles. The food there is very fancy, but at Thanksgiving, he looks forward to his sister-in-law’s broccoli casserole.


2. Russ Parsons, Food editor at the LA Times and frequent Off-Ramp guest (Off-Ramp is thankful that he never bills us!) says Thanksgiving is special because it’s America’s only ritual meal … and by the way, learn to carve a turkey before going to your in-laws at Thanksgiving.


3. Mark Peel, owner/chef of Campanile, remembers a Thanksgiving water-balloon fight from his childhood that proves that Thanksgiving is not really about the food – although the food can be very tasty. Like the sinfully creamy mashed potatoes that are featured in his new cookbook, New Classic Family Dinners, which you can buy, with part of the proceeds benefitting KPCC.


4. With due respect to Linda, Julian, Sian, Jay, and many other damn fine cooks, Marcie Page (who hails from Paris, Tennessee) is probably the best civilian cook I know. Not many people make cassoulet in LA, for just one example, let alone make their own duck confit for the cassoulet. Marcie is a typical Southern Californian -- she's a Tennessee transplant, in a mixed household, and she borrows from all their traditions and adds her own.


5. Rico Gagliano and Brendan Newnam (above, approximately 10% life-size) have gained a national rep for spotting new food trends on their show Dinner Party Download. For their Thanksgiving memories and recipes, click on the last audio item up at the top.

-- PIGTAILS&SAUERKRAUT - A WILEY FAMILY HOLIDAY TRADITION --

This summer, I met Malcolm Wiley, who works back East with my cousin Megan. (Above, after a delicious Tuesday night dinner at Little Dom's.) Over dinner, we started talking about holiday meals and he mentioned a dish that MUST be at every Thanksgiving, Pigtails and Sauerkraut.

He writes, "My family is from Baltimore, Maryland, though I grew up in Washington, D.C. It was always thought that this recipe combined the influences of the African-American and German influences there. I’ve been eating this as part of the Thanksgiving meal since I was a child. As a matter of fact, it’s not the holidays without it. I’m one of the few in the family who still makes it every year, so I’ve got a REALLY BIG POT."

I hadn't heard of this dish before, but he assured me it's very real and very tasty, and to prove it, he sent the recipe.

Ingredients:

-- Pigtails. Preferably corned or smoked - if you can't find them, fresh will have to do. Hint - the farmer's market where black folk shop during the holidays will always have them. The number of tails you buy will depend on how many people you want to feed. Three or four is a good starting point.
-- Salt
-- Black Pepper
-- Season All
-- A big sweet onion, like a Vidalia
-- Sauerkraut in a bag - Hebrew National is one brand.

Recipe:

Wash off the pigtails. You don't have to scrub them like chitterlings or anything, just wash 'em off.

Cut the onion into big chunks.

Throw everything in a big pot.

Cover with water to an inch or two above the pigtails.

Season with salt, black pepper, and Season All. Don't go really crazy with the salt. The Season All has salt in it too and will help with the flavor.

Mix everything with a big 'ole spoon.

Cover the pot.

Bring it to a rolling boil and allow it to boil for 5-10 minutes.

Stir.

Turn the heat down low and let the pot simmer (covered). It takes a long time for the tails to break down to the consistency you want. It could be four to six hours or longer. Every half hour, stir the pot. Toward the end of the process, break apart any tails that are hanging on for dear life.

When the tails have completely broken down and all you see in the pot is bone, pulled pork, and bits of skin, you've simmered long enough.

Cut the corner off a bag of kraut. Let the liquid drain out. You don't have to squeeze every drop of liquid out, just let most of it go.

Dump the kraut in the pot.

Cook the whole thing another 30 minutes or so on medium-low heat. You just don't want the kraut to be crunchy when you eat it.

Once everything is all mixed up and smellin' good, it's time to eat.

(Courtesy of the Wiley Family of Baltimore, Md.)


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