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 Thanksgiving
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 PotatoesIngredients
Smoked Butternut Squash SoupIngredients Creme Fraiche Ingredients Candied Bacon Ingredients
Honey Butter Cornbread MuffinsIngredients
Green Beans AlmandineIngredients
Bourbon-Brined Roasted Turkey with Citrus Sage GravyBourbon Brine Ingredients
Herb Butter Rub for TurkeyIngredients
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 carrotsTwine, 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 GravyIn 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 GravyIngredients
1/4 cup flour
1/2 orange, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 ounces Wild Turkey bourbon1 teaspoon rubbed sage
Salt and pepper to tasteScoop 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.