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Recipes for a Maryland-inspired Thanksgiving

As Americans gather around their tables to give thanks over turkey and stuffing, Marylanders have an opportunity to honor their home state in all its culinary glory.

From dishes with deep historical roots to those made solely with ingredients harvested in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there are plenty of ways to help your Thanksgiving table shine with Free State pride.

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Harvest rose cocktail

 
Baltimore Whiskey Co.'s harvest rose cocktail is made with the smoky apple brandy Asimina Pumila, which is infused with pawpaws, persimmons and black walnuts, all foraged locally. Baltimore Whiskey Co. / HANDOUT

A recent uptick in locally-made spirits means it’s easier than ever to kick off Thanksgiving with a cocktail that has a Maryland twist.

Baltimore Whiskey Co.’s Asimina Pumila is the central ingredient in the aromatic harvest rose cocktail, a creation of the crew behind the smoky apple brandy. Asimina Pumila is infused with pawpaws, persimmons and black walnuts, all foraged locally.

Yields one drink

  • 1 ¼ ounces Baltimore Whiskey Co.’s Asimina Pumila brandy
  • 1 ¼ ounces fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ ounces honey
  • 3 shakes aromatic bitters
  • 1 ¼ ounces port
  • Cinnamon stick and lemon peel for garnish

Place brandy, lemon juice, honey and bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake together and strain into a coupe. Gently add port to the glass and garnish with cinnamon stick and lemon peel.

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Roasted oysters

Oysters have been a key ingredient in Maryland cuisine for centuries; they often find their way onto Thanksgiving tables in more than one form.

Dylan Salmon, owner of Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, likes to start the meal with a couple dozen bivalves. Here, he tops Skinny Dipper oysters, farm-raised in southern Maryland, with compound butter made with B’More Saucy Bayside Pepper Sauce, a spicy, tomato-based hot sauce available at local retailers including The Wine Source in Hampden. After a quick roast in the oven, the oysters are hot and ready to serve.

Yields 4-6 servings

  • 2 dozen medium to large Skinny Dipper oysters, freshly shucked
  • ¾ cup B’More Saucy Bayside Pepper Sauce or other hot sauce
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs (preferably homemade)
  • 2 lemons, cut into 6 wedges

Set the oven to broil with the rack about 3 inches from the flame.

In a food processor, blend the pepper sauce or hot sauce with the softened butter until smooth.

Spread the butter in an even coating to cover each oyster.

Lightly sprinkle each oyster with breadcrumbs. (At this point, the oysters can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to cook and eat.)

Broil the oysters for 4 to 6 minutes, until there is a nice char around the rim of the shell.

Serve with lemon wedges and cocktail forks.

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Root vegetable and goat cheese gratin with spiced pecans

 
Chef Jason Ambrose's gratin incorporates late fall vegetables you might find at the farmers' market, along with Maryland-made goat cheese. Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun

Chef Jason Ambrose, owner of Salt Tavern and 1157 bar + kitchen, roams the farmer’s market to find ingredients at their peak to use in this cheesy, savory dish. The combination of late fall vegetables, goat cheese from Cherry Glen Farm in Montgomery County, and fragrant spiced pecans is hearty and tangy all at once.

Yields 8 servings

For the spiced pecans:

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the nuts in a bowl and toss with the rest of the ingredients.

Spread the nuts on a sheet pan and bake in the oven until toasted, about 15 minutes.

Let the nuts cool then pulse in a food processor. Set aside.

For the gratin:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound turnips, peeled and cut in 1/16-inch dice
  • 1 pound celery root, peeled and cut in 1/16-inch dice
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut in 1/16-inch dice
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/16-inch dice
  • 1 ¼ cups Cherry Glen goat cheese
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, season the turnips, celery root, parsnips and potatoes with Kosher salt.

Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a thin layer of vegetables, then top with half the goat cheese, crumbled on top. Repeat with additional layers of vegetables and goat cheese until everything has been used. You should end up with about 12 layers.

Heat the cream and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture starts simmering, pour it over the vegetables and cheese.

Cover the baking dish and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes.

Before serving, sprinkle the pecan mixture on top.

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Albright Farms roast turkey

At Albright Farms in Monkton, Tom Albright has been taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys since July. But even if you haven’t planned that far ahead, you still have a chance to score a local turkey for the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table.

Albright will be at the Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar on Sunday, Nov. 19, with fresh turkeys for sale. They range from 10 to 50 pounds and are $3.29 per pound.

Chef Jerry Pellegrino, owner of the cooking school Schola in Midtown-Belvedere, lets his turkey sit, uncovered, in a refrigerator for a day before cooking; he says this results in crispier, crunchier skin. Before cooking, Pellegrino seasons his turkey with a compound butter made with sage and thyme, then roasts it in a 350-degree oven.

Yields 8-10 servings (with some leftovers)

  • 1 fresh (or thawed) 12- to 14-pound turkey
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage, plus 1 tablespoon chopped leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 tablespoon chopped leaves
  • 4 shallots, cut in half
  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks
  • 1 leek, cut into chunks
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

One day before the meal, place the turkey, uncovered, in the refrigerator to dry out the skin.

The day of the meal, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and place in a large roasting pan with a wire rack in the bottom. Let the turkey sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Place an oven rack in the lowest position (removing the other racks) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

While the turkey is coming to room temperature, place the butter, chopped sage, chopped thyme and a pinch or two of salt and pepper in a bowl. Using the back of a spoon, cream the ingredients together into a compound butter.

Carefully lift the skin from the breast of the turkey and spread the butter all over the meat underneath the skin.

Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and set aside (reserve if making a gravy).

Stuff the cavity with the shallots, carrots, leeks, bay leaves, and sage and thyme sprigs.

Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and put the turkey on the rack of the large roasting pan. Tuck the wings under the body.

Brush the turkey skin with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the turkey in the oven.

After the turkey has roasted for one hour, baste with the drippings. Continue roasting, basting every 30 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165 degrees, about two more hours.

Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 30 minutes before roasting. If you’re making gravy, reserve the drippings.

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Cornbread and oyster stuffing

 
This cornbread and oyster stuffing dish from Conrad’s Crabs in Parkville sells for $8.99 per pound during the holiday season. Conrad's Crabs / HANDOUT

Oyster stuffing is a Maryland Thanksgiving staple, and the version created at Conrad’s Crabs in Parkville is a classic take on the dish. The stuffing, which Conrad’s sells for $8.99 per pound during the holiday season, is moist and briny, thanks to the addition of a quart of Chesapeake Bay oysters, added, along with their liquor, to sweet, crumbly cornbread.

Yields about 7 servings

For the cornbread:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Grease a 9x9 baking pan.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly, until all clumps have been incorporated.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

For the stuffing:

  • 1-quart shucked oysters in their liquor
  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sage
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a 13x9 baking pan.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, render the bacon until crisp. Set aside and reserve drippings in a separate pan.

In the pan used for the bacon, saute the onions and celery, over medium heat, until tender.

Add the sage, thyme, salt and pepper and turn the heat down to low. Continue to cook, stirring frequently.

Place the oysters in their liquor and wine in a separate pan over medium-high heat and cook until the liquid reduces by about half.

In a large bowl, crumble the cornbread.

In the microwave or on the stove, melt the butter.

Slowly add the melted butter, vegetable mixture and oyster-wine mixture to the cornbread, tossing to evenly coat and distribute the ingredients.

Add the stuffing to the greased pan and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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Sauerkraut

 
Sauerkraut has long been a staple of Maryland Thanksgiving tables. Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun

Though it’s not considered traditional Thanksgiving food in most parts of the country, sauerkraut has long had a revered place next to the turkey on Baltimore tables.

Its roots as part of the local menu are somewhat unclear. It might be thanks to the prominence of German immigration in the city during the 19th century, or the tradition may have trickled down from Pennsylvania Dutch visitors.

Either way, the sharp flavor of fermented cabbage provides a welcome contrast to turkey.

At Das Bier Haus, Chef Chad Novak ferments his cabbage in five-gallon batches. Here, he shares his recipe, scaled down for smaller groups.

Making sauerkraut, like any fermented food, takes time. If you want to use this scratch recipe for your Thanksgiving table, get started today.

Yields about 8 servings

  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 ounce pickling spice
  • 1 medium head of cabbage (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

In a small pan, bring the water, vinegar and pickling spice to a boil. When the liquid starts to boil, remove it from the heat to cool.

Remove the outer bruised or wilted leaves from the cabbage, cut it into quarters and remove the core. Slice or shred the cabbage into pieces about 1/8-inch thick.

Place the cabbage in a medium or large mixing bowl and sprinkle the salt on top. Knead the cabbage with the salt to help “sweat” out some of the moisture. Let it sit for about 30 minutes.

Transfer the cabbage and juice that has sweated out of it to an airtight container or containers, such as Mason jars.

Using a wooden spoon (or anything that fits into the container), pack down the cabbage and its juice to remove as many air pockets as possible, while leaving about 1 or 2 inches from the top of the container.

Strain the pickling spice from the cooled liquid. Add the liquid to the cabbage.

Seal the container(s) and store in a space that is between 50 and 70 degrees for between 1 and 4 weeks (preferably at least 2 weeks).

Open the jar about once a day to “burp” the sauerkraut, letting the gases escape. After the first week or two, taste daily until you’ve reached your preferred level of tenderness and acidity.

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Goat cheese mac and cheese

 
Chef Sean Guy incorporates goat cheese into his version of this Thanksgiving staple. Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun

When Sean Guy, the chef and owner of Water for Chocolate in Upper Fells Point, visits family in Brooklyn, N.Y., for Thanksgiving, he plans to make a big vat of baked macaroni and cheese. He calls it a staple at gatherings held by his Jamaican-American family; mac and cheese is a traditional find on plenty of Maryland tables, too.

Yields 10-15 servings

  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 4 pounds elbow macaroni
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced finely
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup white cooking wine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable base (Guy uses Minor’s brand)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup Monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound goat cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup Romano cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Bring 1 ½ gallons of water, plus sea salt, to a rolling boil in a large sauce pan.

Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions, about 8 minutes.

Drain the pasta and shock by rinsing with cold water. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then saute the onion until translucent.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan, then add the vegetable base and flour, whisking to combine.

Lower the heat and add the whipping cream, Monterey jack and cheddar, whisking until the cheese melts and the mixture is smooth.

Add the pasta to the pan and use half-and-half to adjust consistency. At this point, the pasta should be loose, with sauce still coating the back of the spoon.

Turn off the heat and crumble in the goat cheese.

Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Garnish with grated Romano and chopped parsley before serving.

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White sweet potato pie with oat cookie crust

 
White potato pie is a traditional Maryland dessert. Chef David Thomas's take, using white sweet potatoes, is texturally similar but tastes more like Southern sweet potato pie. Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun

David Thomas, executive chef and partner at Ida B’s Table, combines Maryland’s traditional white potato pie with the Southern staple sweet potato pie to create this sweet treat using white sweet potatoes from Baugher’s Orchards and Farms in Westminster.

Texturally, Thomas’s version of the pie is similar to white potato pie; in both versions, the potatoes are cooked and mashed until smooth. But Thomas’s white sweet potato pie, with its mixture of fragrant spices and brown sugar, tastes more like a sweet potato pie than like its white potato cousin, which relies primarily on white sugar and, sometimes, nutmeg and lemon peel or extract for flavor.

The pie will be available for purchase from Ida B’s, along with a full catering menu of Thanksgiving soul food this Thanksgiving, on Nov. 22.

Yields 1 pie

For the filling and to make the pie:

  • 1 pound white sweet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

For the oat cookie crust:

  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened to room temperature, divided
  • 5 ½ tablespoons packed golden brown sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • A generous ¼ teaspoon salt

Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover them with water, then bring to a boil on the stove. Boil for 45-50 minutes, until very soft.

Place all crust ingredients in a bowl and mix until evenly combined.

Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick oil. Press the oat cookie mixture evenly into the plate to create a crust. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the boiling water and run the potatoes under very cold water. The skin should peel off easily at this point; peel the potatoes under the water.

Allow the potatoes to cool until they are easy to handle. Slice the potatoes into a few large chunks, then place into a mixing bowl.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the potatoes on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the remaining filling ingredients and beat on high until smooth and combined.

Spread the filling into the prepared oat cookie pie crust. Bake for 55 or 60 minutes or until the center of the pie is only slightly jiggly. A toothpick inserted into the center of the pie should come out mostly clean. If desired, after 30 minutes of cooking, place a pie crust shield on top of the pie to prevent the edges from over-browning.

After removing from the oven, place the pie on a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 1 hour at room temperature before serving. The pie will deflate slightly as it cools; this is normal.

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