Thanksgiving’s in the Air

America's favorite holiday is just around the corner...

Thanksgiving is around the corner and, if you're like me, you're already thinking about what to make for the big feast. Turkey is probably on your menu, long a holiday staple and most likely on the menu of the first Thanksgiving, a harvest celebration shared by the Wampanaogs and the pilgrims at Plymouth Colony in 1621.

The wild turkey at that feast may well have been stuffed with onion chunks and herbs—ingredients the Wampanoags grew, along along with pumpkins, turnips, garlic and carrots. The menu's centerpiece, however, probably was waterfowl—goose or duc—as well as venison. Sweet potatoes did not make it to that table, as they hadn't yet reached America from the Caribbean, nor did cranberry sauce, because the English didn't boil cranberries with sugar until half a century later.

This rich Thanksgiving history comes from a wonderful article by Megan Gambino, who cites two primary sources for what we know about the meal, Colony Governor William Bradford's manuscript, Of Plimouth Plantation, and a letter written by an English leader, Edward Winslow, who attended the feast and wrote about it to a friend.

Gamibno explains that today's Thanksgiving feast is rooted in the mid-19th century, a time of nostalgia about the colonies when both documents were rediscovered and published. Much of America was already celebrating Thanksgiving when Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863, hoping to bring the country together during the Civil War. But the idea for the holiday belonged to Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the trend-setting women's magazine Godey's Lady's Book, who published Thanksgiving recipes and menu ideas in the magazine. She had already pitched the idea to a dozen presidents before Lincoln finally took action.

Prepped by Hale's articles and cookbooks, women readers across the country stood ready and armed to make their first official American Thanksgiving feast, featuring roast turkey and sage dressed, mashed turnips and potatoes, creamed onions and more. And thus was born one of the country's most beloved traditions.

Today, preparing the Thanksgiving feast can require hours, if not days, of labor and with our busy lives, taking shortcuts is permissible. You can skip the appetizers, for example, and buy fresh bread, fine cheeses and meats from Rancho Viejo Village Market, which also offers a grand selection of wines to pair with your meal. And when you pick up your Amish all natural, free range turkey form Kaune's Neighborhood Market, grab a few of the French Apple Pies made famous by the Pink Adobe's founder Rosalea Murphy. All you have to do is heat them up and add the ice cream, if you're planning apple pie à la mode.

If you'd rather just avoid the kitchen altogether, there are plenty of wonderful restaurants in Santa Fe serving creative fare inspired by traditional holiday foods. Best of all you, you won't have to do any dishes. Here's a short list to whet your Thanksgiving appetite, but be sure to check with your favorit spot to see if a holiday menu is offered.

Louis Moskow at 315 Restaurant & Wine Bar offers an elegant three-course prix-fixe Thanksgiving menu, starting with appetizers that include a savory Winter Squash Soup with chestnuts, nutmeg, pepita crepe and sage creme or Exotic Mushroom Ravioli with tomato confit and house-made mascarpone. Turkey's on the menu, too, as an All Natural Wood-Heritage Turkey entrée, or you could opt for Seared Wild Salmon. 315's sumptuous side dishes include sweet potato gratin with Madagascar vanilla, sourdough bread dressing, Amontillado sherry gravy and asparagus with lemon butter. End your feast on a sweet note with poached pears and figs with praline mousse or flourless chocolate torte with coconut ice cream and fresh berries.

Mark Kiffin at The Compound has put together a delectable pre-fix menu with a choice of starters that includes a Fall Carrot Soup with yellow curry, orange and cider, pork belly croquette and an apple salad. Or, try the Roasted Fall Squash Salad, featuring carrots, turnips and golden beets, and a watercress and horseradish dressing. There's also Sweetbreads & Foie Gras with cepes, cayenne and Spanish sherry, along with other apps. Turkey's on the main course menu, in this case Roasted Embudo Farms Organic Turkey with Spanish chorizo stuffing, autumn root vegetables, cranberry-orange relish and caramelized onion-giblet gravy. But there's also local cider-brined pork tenderloin with sweet potato gratin, moroccan date mustardo, smoked ham hock reduction. Or, feast on Grilled Harris Ranch Beef Tenderloin, served with crispy yukon potatoes "al forno" tossed with sweet herbs, Parmesan and French butter, chanterelles, green beans & demi glace; and other options. For dessert, the traditional pumpkin pie is re-booted with a chocolate crust and Chantilly cream and instead of apple pie, there's Caramel Cheesecake with local apple pearls and apple cider glaze.

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