TRAVERSE CITY — The pilgrims and Indians did it and they didn't even have stores.
Local seasonal food was the heart of the first Thanksgiving, but nowadays it's often an afterthought.
It doesn't have to be, of course. Delicious locally grown and prepared foods are abundant, even though there may be frost on the ground. We asked a few area chefs to share their Thanksgiving-inspired recipes for a dinner that would make the pilgrims proud.
Look no further than Leelanau Cheese with its spreadable raclette, available at the source, the creamery at Black Star Farms, 10844 E. Revold Road, south of Suttons Bay, and at most local stores. The milk is from cows at Garvin farm near Cedar. The fromage blanc (in herb, peppercorn and garlic) makes a cracker happy, but can also be gussied up atop a toasted baguette round or in a dip; www.leelanaucheese.com.
There are as many ways to cook a turkey as there are people on the planet, it seems. An apple cider reduction, with apples in the stuffing, is a great way to bring the area's orchards to your Thanksgiving table. The recipe is from Record-Eagle wire services.
The goal here was a deliciously moist roasted Thanksgiving turkey with tons of autumnal flavor.
So we started with that most classic of fall beverages — apple cider. But to get the greatest flavor from it, we decided to boil it down until we had reduced 8 cups to just 4, thereby concentrating the sweet-tart flavors. That reduction is used as both a glaze for the turkey as well as to flavor the stuffing and gravy.
And therein lies an important Thanksgiving turkey lesson. It's always good to have at least one common element between the turkey and the stuffing and gravy. While the seasonings between the three items don't need to be identical (in fact, it would be boring if they were), a commonality helps tie the meal together.
While this recipe is written to cook the stuffing in a casserole dish alongside the turkey, you can cook it in the cavity of the bird if you prefer. If so, you'll need to adjust the cooking time and closely monitor the internal temperature. Stuffed birds take longer to cook. For safety, the center of the stuffing should reach an internal temperature of 165°.
Alternatively, if you like the appearance and presentation of a stuffed bird, you can cook the stuffing separately, then stuff it on the serving platter just before bringing it to the table.