Friday, December 4, 2015

How about a carrot?

I'm the kind of Thanksgiving celebrant who's all about the side dishes--you can brine, dry, spatchcock, and deep-fry your bird all you like, but I'll be over in the corner defrosting my stuffing and my green beans, unpacking my pies and my ice cream.  At mealtime, I'll load up my plate clockwise with every available casserole and mashed vegetable, then drop a small slice of dark meat in the center and call it a day.  Strangely enough, I do like having leftover turkey around the house:  I folded the last of this year's model into a nice tortilla soup just last night.  My plan for next year is to 1) stay up for four nights making sides; 2) roast a 36-pound turkey; 3) put it in the fridge; 4) just make everyone eat the sides instead.

So, this year, finding ourselves invited to a small potluck, of course I signed us up to bring every side dish imaginable.  Over the years that Jeff and I have been hosting or contributing to Thanksgiving in some capacity, I've developed a respectable repetoire of recipes.  Out of all of them, I think I've received the most positive feedback about this carrot and wild rice stuffing, which I've been making for three years straight.  Honestly, this shouldn't come as a huge surprise, because it's an unashamed knockoff of a recipe from the much-lauded Eleven Madison Park in New York, a restaurant whose downscale cousin The Nomad served me my favorite meal of 2015.  I don't call for you to submerge the carrots in a full pint of rendered duck fat, like they do in their recipe, and I don't charge $225 to taste it, like they do in their restaurant.  Still, the final result, with deeply rooty carrots playing against warm cumin and sweet dates, is worth the effort.


Wild rice stuffing with carrots, duck fat, and cumin
Serves 8+ as a side dish

Although the main element of this dish is carrots roasted in duck fat, it could easily be made vegetarian by substituting brown butter, or vegan by using coconut oil.  Another option that's on my list for next time is to make it with olive oil and then actually stuff it into a duck as it's roasting.

3 pounds colorful carrots, sliced into assorted 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp duck fat
1 1/2 cups wild rice
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp cumin seeds, or more to taste
zest of one small meyer lemon
a bay leaf
a branch of thyme
kosher salt

Roast the carrots:  Preheat the oven to 400 °F.  Toss the carrots with 2 tbsp duck fat, 1 tbsp ground cumin, and a few large pinches of salt.  Roast the carrots, shaking the pan every 5-10 minutes, until they are tender and sweet but still retain some texture, about 20-30 minutes total.

Cook the wild rice:  Melt 1 tbsp duck fat over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Add the wild rice and toast for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add 3 cups of water, a few large pinches of salt, the bay leaf, and the thyme.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer until cooked, anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on the variety of rice used.  Add more water if the rice runs dry.

Assemble the stuffing:  Toss together the roasted carrots, the cooked wild rice, the chopped dates, and the lemon zest.  Turn into a casserole dish and sprinkle the cumin seeds over top.  The casserole can be stored, covered, in the fridge for a day or two.  When ready to serve, heat the casserole through, about 20 minutes in a 350 °F oven.

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