Sure, eating local may seem like the latest trend to hit the dining scene, but from farm fresh veggies to pasture-raised meats this is also an easy way to find what’s fresh for the season.
"It's not just chic, but it's about really getting nutritious food," says Chef Carrie Hegnauer, who has been an instructor at Johnson & Wales University for more than 18 years. "Farmers markets are growing—they're planting more and selling more. It's a trend, for sure, but not a fad."
And there’s no better time than the season of giving to jump on this tasty bandwagon. Born out of the eco-conscious movement, eating locally offers the chance to help both the environment and the local economy. Plus, indulging in local eats gives your Thanksgiving table a historical flavor. After all, before these tech-savvy times, food tended to come from the nearby land. In the holiday’s early days a Thanksgiving in New England might include cranberries, apples, Brussels sprouts and root vegetables, while one in the South featured cornmeal and pecans.
For this traditional twist on your Thanksgiving table, Hegnauer has plenty of practice. Having grown up traveling with her parents who ran a Polynesian dinner cruise business, the chef learned to cook from her mother who always used local, fresh ingredients. "It's just a way of life for me," says Hegnauer, who points out that it also helps small farmers and sellers break into the market. "It's good citizenship."
While eating local is simply defined as staying within 100 miles of your home and there are plenty of big providers in this region, Hegnauer seeks small and hyper-local markets. She recommends several local farmers markets including 7th Street Public Market in uptown, Atherton Market in South End and Concord Farmers Market. Charlotte Regional Farmers Market offers a large variety, but Hegnauer is quick to warn that with larger markets you can often find food that isn’t necessarily local. It's always good practice to be aware and ask questions.
And when you’re setting your holiday table, don’t leave out the locally sourced libations. This region is brimming with vineyards, as well as new Charlotte breweries like NoDa Brewing Company, Birdsong Brewing, and Heist Brewery.
Of course, any experienced holiday chef knows that ingredients are only half the battle. Hegnauer offers this piece of advice for the home cook preparing the big meal: technique is important. You need the basics to create. "There are a million recipes but only about 20 techniques,” she says. “If you master those, you can make anything.” Her website offers tutorial videos on many of these, including how to make bechamel, how to select a cut of meat, how to clarify butter and basic culinary knife skills.
Hegnauer has created an inspiring Thanksgiving feast with a local focus featuring smoked butternut squash soup with creme fraiche and candied bacon, bourbon-brined roast turkey with citrus-sage gravy on apple and leek smashed potatoes, classic green bean almandine and honey-butter cornbread muffins. And you can be certain that these dishes are a savory as they sound. Hegnauer’s policy is that she’s not happy as a chef "unless the flavors are stupid good."
Source Chef Carrie’s local ingredients for ThanksgivingHeritage Breed and Free-Range Turkeys Creekside Farms
Provides pasture-raised pork, beef and poultry. Sells through Piedmont Farmers Market. New Town Farms
4512 New Town Road
Waxhaw, NC 28173
Contact: Samuel Koenigsberg, 704-843-5182
hwww.localharvest.org/new-town-farms-M9529 Sea Lavender Farm
4205 Faith Church Road
Indian Trail, NC 28079
Contact: John Lee, 704-659-1831
http://sealavenderfarm.com Cheese/Dairy Bosky Acres Farm
P.O. Box 1001
Waxhaw, NC 28173
Provider of goat cheese products. See website for locations throughout Charlotte. Cackleberry Farm
7300 Untz Road
Concord, NC 28027
Contact: Randy Fisher, 704-783-6701
Fresh artisanal cow’s milk cheeses: feta, mozzarella, cheese curd for making mozzarella at home, queso fresco, butter, yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk and free-range eggs. Sells through Coldwater Creek Farm at Davidson Farmers Market and Atherton Market. Winter Squash/Other produce Barbee Farms
1000 Shelton Road
Concord, NC 28027
Available at Davidson Farmers Market and 7th St. Public Market.
Chef Carrie offers hands-on cooking workshops at The Kitch, 8305-D Magnolia Estates Dr., in Cornelius. Each 4-hour class is fully interactive.
Creating Appetizers & Hors d’oeuvres
Nov. 10, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Dec. 8, 5-9 p.m.
Please go to www.culinarycarrie.com for more information, registration and tutorials.
Apple-Leek Smashed PotatoesServes 10-12. Ingredients
10 Russet potatoes, peeled, quartered
4 apples, peeled, sliced
2 leeks, cleaned, sliced, white only
1 quart heavy cream
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and pepper In a saute pan on medium-low heat, combine 1 teaspoon of butter, the apples and leeks. Cook for 20 minutes but do not brown. Place potatoes in a stockpot of cold water. Begin with enough water to cover potatoes. Bring to a boil and allow to cook until fork-tender. Drain the potatoes, add cream and butter, and smash or whip to desired consistency. Taste, add salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, use a wooden spoon to smash apples and leeks. Add small amount of cream to aid in creaming. Taste and add salt, pepper and ginger. Add to potato mixture.
Smoked Butternut Squash SoupServes 12. Ingredients
I large butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
3 strips bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 apple, diced
1 cup apple juice
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream In a grill or smoker, place the squash open side down in a roasting pan with 1 cup water. Cook for 45 minutes on medium-high grill with smoker box or 30 minutes in smoker then transfer to oven to finish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes more. Scoop all the squash pulp into a bowl and set aside. Discard skin. Saute bacon, add onions and apples. Saute all until translucent. Add apple juice and white vinegar and reduce until almost dry. Add chicken stock, squash pulp and thyme. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add heavy cream and strain through a fine sieve. You may choose to blend the strained pulp and strain it again. Return soup to the pot and bring it up to serving temperature prior to garnishing and serving. Do not boil. Ladle soup into bowls just before serving. Garnish with creme fraiche and candied bacon. Creme Fraiche Ingredients
Heavy Cream Mix two parts sour cream to one part heavy cream and whisk by hand until well blended. Use a squeeze bottle to garnish the soup with designs, or simply add a dollop. Candied Bacon Ingredients
1/2 pound bacon
Cinnamon Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lay strips of bacon flat on a baking rack. Place the baking rack on a cookie sheet to catch drippings. Dust bacon with sugar, black pepper, cayenne pepper and cinnamon. Press the spices into bacon and bake until crispy. Cut while still warm to avoid crumbling.
Honey Butter Cornbread MuffinsServes 12. Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line 12 muffin cups. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, honey, eggs and salt. Mix in flour, cornmeal and baking powder; blend thoroughly. Stir in milk and corn. Pour or spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
Green Beans AlmandineServes 10-12. Ingredients
1 pound green beans (I like haricots vert, French slender beans, trimmed and left long)
1 teaspoon butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 lemon, to be squeezed for juice to finish beans
Sliced almonds, toasted briefly on flat pan in oven Bring about 2 quarts water to a boil in stock pot. Add beans and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from water, drain and shock in ice water. Remove from ice water and hold in the refrigerator for finishing soon before serving. Heat a saute pan to medium-high. Add butter and beans, toss to coat. Add garlic, but do not let garlic brown (2 minutes). Taste and add salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice over beans and toss again. Place green beans on a platter and top with toasted almonds.
Bourbon-Brined Roasted Turkey with Citrus Sage GravyServes 8-10. Bourbon Brine Ingredients
1 medium fresh turkey
3 lemons, sliced
3 oranges, sliced
1/2 cup Wild Turkey bourbon
1/2 bunch fresh sage, torn
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, torn
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 gallon cold water, just enough to cover turkey. Squeeze (do not juice) the lemons and oranges until softened and place into a tall, narrow container that can hold the turkey immersed. Add all other ingredients, stir to dissolve. Rinse the turkey and place in the brine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Herb Butter Rub for Turkey
4 ounces butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 onions
1 sweet onion
2-3 stalks celery
2-3 carrots Twine, to truss legs together (promotes even cooking.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove turkey from brine, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Use a soft edged silicone spatula (or fingers) to loosen skin of turkey breast all the way to the wings. Start at the tail end and gently slide spatula between the skin and the meat, being careful not to tear through the skin. Insert herb butter under the skin of the turkey, pat down to even out. Insert 1/2 onion into cavity and truss the legs with twine. Make a mirepoix for the roasting base (a mirepoix is a rough cut of the onions, carrots and celery). Place mirepoix in bottom of large roasting pan and place turkey on top, breast side up. Place uncovered roasting pan in preheated oven. Do not baste turkey for the first hour. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue roasting for 2-3 more hours (until internal temp of inside thigh reaches 165 degrees). When turkey has a nice brown top, place a foil tent over breast. No need to baste. When internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, remove it from the oven. Allow turkey to rest for at least 10 minutes before trying to move or carve (baste now). Remove turkey from roasting pan. Do not clean the roasting pan – it’s gravy time.
Turkey Stock for Gravy In a stockpot, combine 1 quart of water with turkey neck, heart and gizzard – discard liver. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer until reduced to 1 cup of stock. Remove from heat and retain for later use.
Citrus Sage Gravy
1/4 cup flour
1/2 orange, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 ounces Wild Turkey bourbon1 teaspoon rubbed sage
Salt and pepper to taste Scoop the mirepoix out of the roasting pan and discard. Pour off most of the fat from the roasting pan, leaving about 1/4 cup of fat and all the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle in as much flour as you have fat – about 1/4 cup flour, whisking continuously until you reach a silky texture. Add 2 ounces of Wild Turkey bourbon, the orange and lemon juice and 1 the rubbed sage, stirring for 1 minute. Add turkey stock and chicken stock while whisking continuously. Put roasting pan on stovetop and turn heat up to simmer for 10 minutes; gravy will thicken as it stands. Add salt and pepper to taste.