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The following recipe is excerpted from the cookbook I prepared for our most recent “Fork in the Road” weekend getaway/cooking class series

I recently served this “slaw” for an amuse bouche alongside a butternut squash-filled profiterole.  At least one guest was taken with it enough to request the recipe for her own Thanksgiving menu. I thought I’d share it here as well, for those readers who may be looking to punch up their Turkey Day with something a little lighter and a little different.  The idea is infinitely adaptable; consider, for example, adding some macerated or dried/plumped cranberries for some sweetness and extra color. 

 Apple-Fennel “Slaw”

 Applying salt, sugar and acid to fennel in effect “cures” it – breaks down and tenderizes its texture, while also mellowing its essential astringency. The apple is added at the end to stay as bright, white and crunchy as can be. 

Having spent some years in The South, I am aware that there’s are plenty of folks who will find nothing even remotely slaw-like about this crunchy, mayo-free preparation.  Fair enough.  But Apple-Fennel “Health Salad” doesn’t have the same ring to it, though in the New York deli tradition, I’m told, “health salad” is the appropriate term for an oil-and-vinegar coleslaw.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized bulb fennel (white part only), shaved very fine perpendicular to its ribs
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • 3 T cider vinegar
  • 1 T grain mustard
  • 1 medium-sized shallot, shaved very fine into concentric rings
  • 2-4 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 5 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium-sized, sweet-tart apples, cored and julienne sliced (Cortland apples are nice for this, and quite resistant to oxidizing and turning brown.)

 Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the olive oil and apples and toss to coat well.
  2. Allow to rest 15-30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the fennel is slightly softened.
  3. Drain & reserve excess liquid.
  4. Add oil and apples to fennel and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasoning adding some of the reserved liquid if necessary.
  5. Serve immediately, garnishing, if desired with some finely chopped fennel greens.

 Finally, for those that may be curious or looking for ideas, I’ll post our planned Thanksgiving Day menu.  I always try to present Thanksgiving menus that offer a blend of traditional and non-traditional offerings, include as many local ingredients as the season permits, and, especially, give a nod, such as with oysters and venison, to some of the foods that were likely highlights of any early American feast.

Appetizers

Roasted Pumpkin Bisque: Lemon Oil, Espelette Pepper, Candied Sage

Beets Carpaccio: Goat Cheese Crouton, Tiny Greens, Cranberry-Orange Vinaigrette

Classic Shrimp Cocktail: Court Bullion-Poached Shrimp, Lemon Wedges, Our Own Cocktail Sauce

Twice-Baked Spinach Soufflé: Extra Old Grafton Village Cheddar, Delicately Curried Cream, Sweet-Tart Raisin Purée

Sweet Potato Gnocchi: Great Hill Blue Cheese, Vermont Smoke & Cure Bacon Lardons, Heirloom Apple & Herb Salad, Maple-Lemon Gastrique

Cape Cod Oysters on the Half Shell: Champagne Mignonette, Classic Cocktail Sauce, Lemon

Entrées

Classic Thanksgiving Dinner: Carved Turkey & Gravy, Sausage Dressing, Russet Potato Purée, Cranberry Relish, Baby Carrots

House-Smoked Turkey Breast: Glazed Seasonal Vegetables, Whipped Sweet Potato, Cranberry Gastrique

Lavender-Honey Duck Breast: Braised Cabbage, Roasted Baby Potatoes, Truffle Vinaigrette

Grilled Boneless Heritage Pork Chop: New Hampshire Maple-Baked Beans, Brown Bread, Greens, Cranberry-Mustard Sauce

Roasted Winter Squash: Many-Grain Pilaf, Mixed Mushrooms, Broccoli, Asiago Tuille, Pimentón Oil

Sautéed Bay of Fundy Salmon Fillet: Braised Fennel, Fingerling Potatoes, Citrus Beurre Blanc

Bacon-Wrapped Venison Medallions: Sweet Potato & Bell Pepper Hash, Creamed Onion “Soubise,” Brandied Peppercorn Jus

Desserts

Pumpkin Cheesecake: Roasted Pecans, Rum-Spiked Caramel, Whipped Cream

Double-Crusted Apple Pie: Extra Sharp Grafton Village Cheddar or French Vanilla Ice Cream

Seasonal Ice Creams & Sorbets: Apple-Cinnamon Sorbet, French Vanilla Ice Cream, Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Cherry-Chocolate Financier: Dark Chocolate & Almond Cake, Swiss Milk Chocolate Sauce, Vanilla-Bourbon Spiked Dark Cherries