Gathering family for holiday brings a mix of culinary traditions

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Popovers prepared by Michelle Palmer.

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Popovers prepared by Michelle Palmer.

I can vividly remember the Thanksgivings of my childhood, when we would rise early to the smell of roasting turkey because Mom was already well along in her preparations for the upcoming feast.

The feast was extra special because of the family that would converge and the culinary traditions they brought. Their contributions made a meal of epic proportions. My father's heritage was a combination of Pennsylvania Dutch, Blackfoot Indian and German.

Mom's family and upbringing were 100 percent French. Of course in those days, eating out (especially for a family with three children) was a rare treat, and most families cooked on a daily basis. We would never even consider going out for a holiday meal.

It's common knowledge that things have changed a lot since I was a child. Some foods that were once chic and cutting-edge are now not only passé, but almost silly. However, with just a little tweaking of the recipe, traditions can be refreshed and updated.

For instance, some of my family's Thanksgiving food traditions have passed into obscurity. like Ritz crackers with a square of cheddar cheese on top, baked just long enough to melt the cheese. In today's gastronomic world, that has evolved into toasted slices of baguette topped with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and a sprig of fresh basil, warmed until melted; ham and cheese pinwheels have now evolved into a rainbow of wraps, perhaps still filled with ham and cream cheese, but now with roasted sweet red peppers and fresh chives, wrapped in a colorful spinach or tomato tortilla before slicing.

One of our traditional items that is always requested, especially by my daughter, is popovers, so I have included this as this month's recipe. They are very easy to make. They can be used as an accompaniment or as dessert; add preserves or honey butter. Make a double batch as they go quickly and everyone always wants more. They can be in the oven baking as you eat dinner so they come out just in time for hot dessert.

The new dishes will inevitably be influenced by my recent foray to New York City's James Beard House with Chef Charlie Abowd and a lot of his regular crew from Adele's and Cousin Jerry. I've been serving as the dessert chef at Adele's for more than two years now and was highly honored to be included on the team. The trip included many phenomenal meals, and I only have enough room to touch upon a couple of the highlights.

A traditional Lebanese meal stands out in my mind, complete with outstanding Lebanese wines. Dinner at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station with the Adele's crew and friends (notably Tom and Linda Johnson on this particular day) who traveled to NYC in support of Charlie and Adele's and as unofficial ambassadors of Carson City will be forever burned into my memory. Tapas at Casa Mono (with Carson High graduate Ryan Adair tending bar whose brother Jed I sponsored in the Chefs Association years ago, who now has his bachelor's degree from Johnson & Wales and lives and works in New York as well. He also attended our dinner) was good enough to take me there for lunch one afternoon, followed by dinner there later that evening. The late night meals at the Blue Ribbon included Bone Marrow with Oxtail Marmalade, which was absolutely exquisite. Through it all, Charlie's and Karen's generosity and graciousness went way beyond the call of duty. The shared experiences with friends and coworkers epitomize what the holidays are all about.

Stop by some evening and live some of those moments vicariously through those of us who were honored by the opportunity. (Be sure to ask about Brother Dan's three-hour command performance as we were stranded on the tarmac at Chicago O'Hare, ask to see the "crime scene" photos, ask about the infamous pedicab ride, and get the contact info for the best tour guide in New York City, Charlie's school friend Jimmy.

Finally, this Thanksgiving, I challenge you to not only recreate old memories, but put a new spin on an old tradition, and try something new as well. Some of those new things are bound to become traditions in your future.

1 cup bread flour

1/2 tsp. fine salt

1 cup milk, warmed

2 T. unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

2-3 teaspoons vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. In another bowl whisk together the milk, butter and eggs. Make a well in the flour, pour in the milk mixture, and whisk to make a smooth batter.

Set aside for 10 minutes. Heat a non-stick or well-seasoned 6-cup popover pan or muffin pan in oven for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and brush with shortening. Ladle batter into the cups and bake 20 minutes, without opening door. Lower oven to 350 degrees and continue baking for 20 minutes.

After removing popovers from oven, poke each one with a paring knife to release steam. Remove popovers from pan, immediately serve with butter and preserves.

Recipe from Food Network

- Michelle Palmer is a consultant and "chef for hire." She owns Artisan Eats in Carson City, 884-FOOD and Absolutely Michelle's in Reno. Contact her at or 849-2333.


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