Today in Food we bring you Thanksgiving, Part I, and a bountiful spread it is, beginning with Bonnie S. Benwick’s story about the family behind the “Farm Kings” TV show. Matriarch Lisa King effortlessly puts together dinners for a crowd as a matter of course, and because you might be trying to do the same thing in a week or so, we tell you how she pulls it off, and we share five of her holiday recipes.
Food editor and Weeknight Vegetarian columnist Joe Yonan has planned a meat-free holiday meal from soup to dessert that celebrates vegetables and fruit. And pastry chef Paula Shoyer gets into the spirit of Thanksgivukkah, a harmonic convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that won’t happen again in your lifetime, unless you plan to live another 75,000 years.
As is our tradition, we’ll publish Thanksgiving, Part II this coming Sunday; it will take the place of the usual section next Wednesday. Regular publication resumes Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Though there’ll be no print section next Wednesday, we’ll be on hand that day for the usual Free Range chat, to help handle all your pre-holiday questions. But you don’t have to wait until then; we chat today, as usual, at noon, when we’ll be honored to have guests Lisa King and daughter Elizabeth. You come, too, and bring your culinary questions, whether they’re Thanksgiving related or not. If we can’t get to yours today, I might answer it here next week. For example, here’s a leftover from last week’s chat:
I brought back a bottle of truffle oil from Italy in 2010. It’s unopened and has been kept in a cupboard since then. Two questions: One, is it still good after all this time? Two, if it is, what would be a good way to use it besides as a dipping oil for bread? Could I use it as part of a holiday hors d’oeuvre?
Is it still good? Well, some people will tell you that it was never good. But I’ll get into that after I answer your question.
So, then. Three years is a long time in the world of truffle oil. I give it less than 50-50 odds, but you never know. (Had you kept it in the refrigerator, I’d feel more optimistic.)
But here, as with all foods, your best guides are your own senses: sight, smell and taste. Pour some out and see if it looks clear; smell it to see if you can pick up any hint of truffle (it’s a volatile aroma, so it might have dissipated by now); and finally, if all looks good, give it a taste and see if you can still pick up truffle-y notes.
If it doesn’t seem to have deteriorated beyond usefulness, there are plenty of things to do with it. You can drizzle it into soups just before serving, or over/into: potatoes, squash, greens, cauliflower, asparagus, celery root, corn, mushrooms, popcorn, eggs, cheese, pasta, gnocchi, polenta, pizza, risotto, chicken, beef, fish,more. Experiment! A little goes a long way.
Some ideas from our Recipe Finder database: Steak Tartare, which could certainly be a holiday hors d’oeuvre; Truffled Popcorn, served at the Inn at Little Washington; Stella’s Truffle Mussels, which won last year’s Belgian Restaurant Week Mussel Throwdown; Smoky Slow-Cooked Roman Beans, a healthful side dish; Savory Limas With Leeks and Walnuts, another side dish that would go nicely with most foods on a Thanksgiving table; Open-Faced Avocado Cheese Melt, a decadent sandwich; and Beet Tzatziki, a condiment.
I might as well tell you that although truffle oil was somewhat of a culinary darling a decade or so ago, it is now approaching the status of has-been. There are two main reasons for that. The first is that it has been overused in restaurants, which for a while were drizzling it over everything except the menu. The second is the perception that much of it is, basically, a fraud: created in laboratories from chemicals and tweaked to approximate the taste of the prized fungus. An article in the New York Times talked about its artificial provenance; some well-known culinary figures have trashed it on national TV.
Yours is from Italy, so who knows: It might not be chemically enhanced. But if it turns out that it has lost its character during three years in the pantry and is now just plain oil, you can ease the pain by telling yourself that it was probably just a bottle of 2,4-dithiapentane.