Quebec City Travel Guide: European Romance in North America

A view of Chateau Frontenac | Photo: iStockphoto

No need to take the time to trek overseas when Quebec City is so close: This charming city feels like a European capital, with narrow, winding streets, enchanting architecture, magnificent churches at every turn, famous landmarks (including the most photographed hotel in the world, Château Frontenac), and, of course, everyone speaking French (it’s bonjour before hello every time).  Read more »

Montreal Travel Guide: Old World Meets New World … Plus Bagels

Bar George at Le Mount Stephen | Photo: Cindy La/Le Mount Stephen

Montreal, believe it or not, shares a lot in common with Philly: It’s historic but modern, small as big cities go, and made up of neighborhoods with their own distinct personalities. Like Philadelphia, the place is also awash in amazing restaurants, bursting with culture, and full of young people and life — though in Montreal, you also get that famous French influence and (sorry, Philly) an unmistakably cosmopolitan vibe.  Read more »

Your Never-Bored Bucket List for Fun in Philly This Summer

Philadelphia Union field seats | Photograph by Jauhien Sasnou

 If you’re seeking adventure …

Whitewater Rafting: When the dam opens, this river runs fast. Brace yourself for serious rapids, and be ready to get wet. A riverside lunch and free time at the paintball range at headquarters make this a full day of fun. Valley to Summit, 288 North Stagecoach Road, Weatherly, 215-543-6171.  Read more »

A Very Philly Thanksgiving


Photography by Jason Varney
Click to jump: Entrées | Side Dishes and Appetizers | Desserts

» Entrées

Jose Garces’s Deep-Fried Turkey
Restaurateur and chef

OTO-thanksgiving-deep-fried-turkey-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “The brine is key here. When the bird is brined properly, the result is a perfectly crisp skin with a golden color that you just can’t achieve with roasting, and full-flavored, tender meat, since the meat takes on the flavor of the brine. It’s also quick in comparison with roasting, and adds an element of drama to the Thanksgiving experience. Submerging a bird into hot oil is always an exciting moment. For the past few years, I’ve added turkey-fat fries to my Thanksgiving celebration, utilizing the hot fryer oil from the turkey.”

Deep-Fried Turkey
(Makes 1 12-to-24-lb. bird)

1 fresh 12-to-24-lb. (about 1 lb. per person) bird
5 gallons peanut oil (or canola, if your prefer)
Turkey fryer (see note)

Turkey brine:
1 gallon apple cider
1 gallon water
2 c. salt
2 c. sugar
2 c. honey
½ c. whole black peppercorns
½ c. whole allspice
¼ c. whole cloves
1 t. red chili flakes

Before brining, remove turkey from packaging; remove giblets and neck from cavity and reserve for gravy. Place turkey breast-side down into your cooker, and cover completely with cold water, being sure that water level is 1 to 2 inches above turkey, and that water level does not exceed “max fill line” for your vessel, or come within 3 to 4 inches of the top of the pot. Remove turkey from cooker, and mark the level of the water on the outside of the pot with masking tape (remember to remove tape before cooking) — this will be your “fill line” when you’re ready to fill the pot with oil and cook. Remove the turkey and reserve for brine. Clean and dry your cooker and reserve for use.

Place brine ingredients in large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then cool. Place turkey in a large plastic container fitted with a lid. Cover with brine and refrigerate, covered, for 12 hours.

Remove turkey from brine. Thoroughly rinse turkey under cold running water, inside and out, and pat dry. Place turkey on baking sheet and allow to air-dry overnight in the refrigerator.

In turkey fryer, bring oil to 350°F. Place the turkey breast-side down on an upright stand designed for poultry frying. Wearing protective gloves or heavy oven mitts and using a hook or tong to hold the bird away from you, very slowly lower the turkey into hot oil. Be cautious of splattering oil. Maintain oil temperature between 325°F and 350°F. Cook for 2.5 minutes per pound. Slowly lift from oil and place on a metal sheet pan or tray. Use caution, as hot oil will drain from the bird. Check for doneness: Insert an instant-read thermometer in the center of the breast; it’s considered done when thermometer reads 170°F or above. Let rest for 15 minutes. Carefully carve with a sharp knife.

NOTE: DO NOT FRY TURKEY INSIDE YOUR HOUSE! Turkey fryers can be bought at Lowes or Home Depot. Please take precautions when frying a turkey. Make sure there are no young children or pets running around. Also, wear protective goggles, gloves and old clothes.

Ajay Raju’s Lamb Biryani
CEO and executive chairman, Dilworth Paxson

OTO-thanksgiving-lamb-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “A Raju Thanksgiving is a collision of cuisines. There’ll be a turkey with the usual trimmings, but my folks are always with us for the holiday, so we’ll also have big pots of curry and biryani. The ritual of the occasion is important, but we don’t do the Norman Rockwell thing where my father stands at the head of the table carving up the bird. For us, Thanksgiving dinner is basically an all-day cycle of production and consumption, and I spend most of it off to the side, pouting about my diet.”

Lamb Biryani
(Serves 2 to 4)

2 lb. 4 oz. boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into 1‎.25 inch cubes
3 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 T. garam masala
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. ground turmeric
4 green chilies, finely chopped
20 g. chopped cilantro
1/4 c. chopped mint
500 g. basmati rice
4 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. oil
125 g. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. thick plain yogurt
1/2 t. saffron strands, soaked in 2 T. hot milk
3 T. lemon juice

Sealing dough:
200 g. whole-wheat flour
1 t. salt

Mix the lamb cubes in a bowl with the herbs and spices. Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.

Wash the rice in a sieve under cold running water until the water from the rice runs clear. Put the sliced onion in a sieve, sprinkle with salt, and leave for 10 minutes to drain off any liquid that oozes out. Rinse and pat dry.

Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan, add the onion, and fry for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain through a sieve, reserving the onion and the oil mixture separately.

Remove the lamb from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and fry in batches in a little of the oil and butter until the lamb is well browned all over. Transfer to a thick-based pot or heavy casserole and add the browned onion, any remaining marinade and the yogurt, then cook everything over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the lamb is tender.

In a separate saucepan, boil enough water to cover the rice. Add the rice to the pan. Return to boil and cook the rice for 5 minutes, then drain well and spread the rice evenly over the meat. Pour 2 tablespoons of the leftover oil and butter over the rice and drizzle with the saffron and milk mixture.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Make a dough by mixing the flour and salt with a little water. Roll the dough into a sausage shape and use to seal the lid onto the rim of the pot or casserole, pressing it along the rim where the lid meets the pot. Put the pot over high heat for 5 minutes to bring the contents to the boil, then transfer to the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the pot, break the seal of dough, and serve.

Note: This is a rice and lamb dish in which both ingredients are cooked together in a sealed container. You can cook the lamb without browning it first — in fact, this is the traditional method. However, browning the meat adds extra flavor.

Kevin Sbraga’s Rigatoni with Turkey Meatballs, Pork Sausage and Melted Cabbage
Restaurateur and chef

OTO-thanksgiving-rigatoni-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “My Thanksgiving is really a melting pot of cultures. Thanksgiving at my mom’s house was Italian-American-influenced, so it wasn’t uncommon to have meatballs, sausage and gravy right next to our turkey dinner. My father’s house was quite different, with his African-American influence prevalent on the table. There was the traditional turkey, but it was always the side dishes that stole the show — candied yams, collard greens, cabbage, green beans, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cornbread, cranberry sauce and salad. The end result of this culinary upbringing is that my home-cooked dish is a hybrid — rigatoni with ground turkey meatballs, pork sausage and melted cabbage.”

Rigatoni with Turkey Meatballs, Pork Sausage and Melted Cabbage
(Serves 4 to 6)

2 T. butter
1 c. green cabbage, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
1 pint tomato gravy (recipe follows)
8 turkey meatballs (recipe follows)
2 links hot Italian sausage, cooked and sliced
2 lb. dried rigatoni

Fill stockpot about 3/4 of the way up with water and place on stovetop on high heat. Cover.

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat and add cabbage and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very soft. Add tomato gravy and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs and sausage and warm through. Set aside.

Meanwhile, season boiling stockpot water with salt and cook rigatoni to package instructions. Drain. To serve, toss the cooked pasta together with the tomato sauce, meatballs, sausage and cabbage.

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 t. red chili flakes
1 lb. ground turkey
1 egg
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/4 c. locatelli cheese, grated
2 T. fresh oregano, chopped
1 ½ T. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Saute onion and chili flakes until soft and translucent. Remove from pan and cool down. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, cheese, oregano and salt. Add onion mixture once it’s cooled down and mix thoroughly with your hands. Form into 1 to 1 1/2 oz. balls using your hands or a small ice-cream scoop. Arrange balls on a large baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until done.

Tomato Gravy:
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 t. red chili flakes
2 28 oz. cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
1 T. fresh oregano, chopped
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in large saucepot over low heat. Sauté garlic, onion, oregano and chili flakes until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Crush the tomatoes into large chunks using your hands and add to saucepot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Emilio Mignucci’s Fennel Risotto with Prosecco and Parmigiano
Co-owner, Di Bruno Bros.

OTO-thanksgiving-risotto-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “This is a staple at our holidays because there’s lots of cooking throughout the day, and all you have to do here is prepare in advance and finish it on the day of. Roasted fennel is so seasonal at this time. The aroma alone … I mean, the house smells … incredible.”

Risotto with Prosecco and Parmigiano
(Serves 18 as a side dish or 6 as a main course)

3 fennel bulbs, bottoms trimmed
1 500g can Acquerello Carnaroli Rice
2 qts. chicken stock
Extra-virgin olive oil, divided
8 to 10 oz. prosecco
Half a large yellow onion, peeled
2 to 3 medium shallots, peeled
4 to 5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste

The day the dish is to be served, roast fennel: Cut green stems off the bulbs. (Reserve fronds to garnish the risotto.) If you have extra fennel bulbs, slice them and eat raw, dipped in olive oil and sprinkled with fresh-ground salt and pepper, while you cook (see note). Slice each bulb into 3 thick pieces and place on a sheet tray. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until caramelized. Remove sheet tray from oven, let cool, and roughly chop the roasted bulbs. Put in bowl and let it sit.

Start the risotto (this can be done days in advance): Finely mince the onion, mince the shallots, and crack and mash the garlic cloves (on a paper plate, so you keep that juice). Coat a sauté pan with high sides in olive oil and put on low heat. Let onion, shallot and garlic sweat in pan until they’re translucent, about 12 minutes. Then throw the Carnarolli rice into the pan and stir and toast the rice in the oil, onion and garlic mixture until rice sticks slightly to the pan. When it starts to stick, add prosecco just to cover the rice, and keep stirring on medium heat until all prosecco is absorbed by the rice.

Ladle simmering chicken stock into risotto just enough to cover it. Cook down until liquid is absorbed and rice again starts to stick to the pan. Continue this process of adding broth until the rice has absorbed enough to be al dente. You are feeding the rice to absorb what it can. Add 2 to 3 ladles about 3 to 5 times, to taste. The rice will break down; the creaminess comes from the breakdown of the starch.

If cooking prior to Thanksgiving Day, put in refrigerator on a sheet pan covered with plastic wrap.

To serve, throw risotto in a cold sauté pan and add 6 to 8 ounces of chicken stock to loosen it up. Add chopped roasted fennel and stir around until hot. Grate parmigiano reggiano and add by the handful. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use fresh chopped parsley, then add the chopped fennel fronds.

Note: If you’re interested in using fennel stems in a mirepoix — the base for a roasted turkey — cut them into 2-inch pieces and mix with the rest of your root vegetables: potatoes, yams, onion, whatever you have.

» Side Dishes and Appetizers

Allison Vulgamore’s Cranberry Orange Relish
President and CEO, the Philadelphia Orchestra

OTO-thanksgiving-orange-cran-relish-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Our family has been making this cranberry orange relish for years. We’re addicted to the stuff. After Thanksgiving is over, we use it as a condiment on leftovers, like turkey sandwiches and fried mashed-potato patties.”

Cranberry Orange Relish
(Makes 2 cups)

2 c. fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1/4 c. diced red onion
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 blood oranges or navel oranges, peeled, sectioned, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces, juices reserved
2 stalks celery, peeled to remove strings, cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 T. fresh lime juice
2 t. freshly grated ginger
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. pecans, toasted, broken in pieces

Place cranberries in food processor and pulse to chop coarsely, about five pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add onion, jalapeño, orange sections and juice, celery, lime juice, ginger and sugar; mix gently. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. Just before serving, add mint and pecans and toss to combine.

Nina Tinari’s Sautéed Peas
President, T2 Consultants

OTO-thanksgiving-peas-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Sautéed peas were always on the table for Thanksgiving. This is my grandmother’s recipe on my mom’s side. It was the first thing gone no matter how much she made. It’s now re-created on Thanksgiving at my parents’ house and always brings back memories of when my grandmother used to prepare it.”

Sautéed Peas
(Serves 4 to 6)

Olive oil
2 to 3 cans Le Sueur peas (see note)

Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil until you can smell the garlic and some onions are translucent. Add 2 to 3 cans of peas and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Note: I don’t have exact measurements. “Italians don’t measure” is what my grandmother would say!

Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s Mollejas en Escabeche (Chicken Gizzard and Green Banana Salad)
City Councilwoman

OTO-thanksgiving-chicken-gizzard-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Escabeche is a traditional side dish for many celebrations, particularly the holidays. It’s great to nibble on when you’re drinking, and it tastes even better as a leftover for days after the celebration. An added bonus: I’ll make it and eat it for a week to lose weight if I’m trying to fit in a special dress or outfit.”

Mollejas en Escabeche (Chicken Gizzard and Green Banana Salad)
(Serves about 30)

7 lbs. chicken gizzards
10 lbs. green bananas
2 large white onions, peeled and sliced into rounds, then halved
20 oz. cut olives (alcaparrado)
12 bay leaves (do not crush)
Half a green pepper and half a red pepper, diced very small
2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 c. white vinegar

Wash and clean the gizzards well. Boil in large pot without lid for 90 minutes (120 minutes if you want them soft). Let cool for 15 minutes, then cut in half.

Cut off the ends of the green bananas, make a small slice along the back, and boil in large pot without lid for 20 minutes. If you add a half cup of milk, it helps keep banana peels from staining the pot and makes it easier to clean.

Use a large tray to stir together the bananas cut in one-inch pieces, gizzards, onions, olives, bay leaves and peppers. Add olive oil and vinegar and mix very well; add salt and pepper to taste. Allow time to cool, or set in refrigerator for two hours. Serve cold. This is a great dish on day two or three for leftover snacks.

Jim Kenney’s String Bean Casserole

OTO-thanksgiving-greenbean-casserole-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “What I love about this dish is the distinct taste of canned vegetables and mushroom soup. We really only make it around Thanksgiving, so the smell is very distinctive for that time of year: It smells like home.”

String Bean Casserole
(Serves 6)

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. milk
1 t. soy sauce
1 dash black pepper
4 c. cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 c. fried onions

Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir, then sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes more, or until the onions are golden brown.

Patti LaBelle’s Over the Top-Top-Top Macaroni and Cheese

OTO-thanksgiving-mac-cheese-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “I’ve been making my macaroni-and-cheese dish for more years than I can remember, and more recently I gave it a twist by adding the lobster and shrimp. Either way, everyone loves it. There’s nothing like it in the world.”

Over the Top-Top-Top Macaroni and Cheese
(Serves 6 to 8)

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
2 large eggs, beaten
8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 c. shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. shredded provolone cheese
2 t. paprika, plus more to taste
1 t. LaBelle Organic Blended Seasoned Sea Salt, plus more to taste
½ t. LaBelle Organic Blended Seasoned Pepper, plus more to taste
½ lb. chopped, cooked shrimp
½ lb. chopped, cooked lobster meat
½ c. melted butter
2 c. half-and-half
3 T. Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the interior of a 2.5-quart casserole dish. Place the cooked macaroni and eggs in a mixing bowl and stir to coat well. Add the Velveeta, cheddar cheeses, mozzarella and provolone to the macaroni, stirring to blend well. Season with 2 t. paprika, 1 t. seasoning salt and ½ t. seasoning pepper, stirring to blend. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Top with a layer of shrimp followed by a layer of lobster. Pour the melted butter over all and season the top with paprika, salt and pepper. Pour the half-and-half over the top and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Using a paper towel, clean off the interior of the casserole dish so it doesn’t burn. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

Erin O’Shea’s Jell-O Mold
Chef and co-owner, Percy Street Barbecue

OTO-thanksgiving-jello-mold-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “We have many traditional Thanksgiving dishes, but there are a few that absolutely have to happen. One is orange Jell-O mold with canned mandarin oranges. We grew up in the ’70s, when Jell-O was king! The kids’ table had plates with heaping piles of canned fried onions with a sprinkling of green beans, spoonfuls of shimmering orange Jell-o, and of course Grandmom’s creamy, buttery mashed potatoes. Now put a little of each on your fork at once … and you have the most delicious Thanksgiving bite ever.”

Jell-O Mold

6 oz. orange gelatin (2 packets)
2 c. boiling water
1 pint orange sherbet
1 10 oz. can mandarin orange slices, drained

Whisk the gelatin into the boiling water until dissolved. Let cool for 10 minutes, then stir in sherbet until it’s melted. Once gelatin starts to thicken, stir in mandarin orange slices. Pour into a gelatin mold or casserole dish and chill until set, about 6 hours. If using mold, unmold onto plate. Serve.

Blondell Reynolds Brown’s Cornbread
City Councilwoman

OTO-thanksgiving-cornbread-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “The Reynolds family has a Thanksgiving tradition where each sister brings one dish taught by our mom. This cornbread recipe is passed from our late grandmother, Estelle Toney, to our mother and now to my sister Angelina. It’s a moist, light, sweet muffin that departs from traditional dinner rolls, and the smell of it simply reminds ‘Mommie’ of growing up on the family farm in South Carolina. … Angelina has perfected the cornbread; Yvonne has perfected the Southern dressing; Pandora has perfected the mac-and-cheese; and Alesia has perfected the yams. I’m not the chef of the family, so I specialize in the perfect Philadelphia dessert: The recipe involves calling Brown’s ShopRite of Parkside to reserve 10 of their amazing sweet-potato pies!”

(Makes 12 muffins)

1/4 c. melted butter
1 ¼ c. cornmeal
1 ½ c. buttermilk
1 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 ½ t. baking powder
1 egg
3 T. agave (or any) honey

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix cornmeal with buttermilk. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, melted butter and honey. To that bowl, add cornmeal and buttermilk and mix. Add flour mixture and mix well. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes.

Mary Dougherty’s Gobble-Gobble-Tini
Owner, Nicole Miller Philadelphia

OTO-thanksgiving-gobble-gobbletini-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Like most American families, we enjoy a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day. However, Thanksgiving Eve in the Dougherty-Neumann home is anything but traditional. I open my barn doors to family and friends for a night of ‘giving thanks’ while enjoying endless gobble-gobble-tinis — cranberry juice, prosecco and vodka, garnished with orange zest and frozen cranberries to chill. The open-house-style party brings fond memories and always a few surprise guests.”

(Serves 1)

Cranberry juice
Orange zest and frozen cranberries for garnish

Mix as desired. Served in stemless champagne flute garnished with orange zest and frozen cranberries to chill.

Nick Stuccio’s Stuffing
President, FringeArts

OTO-thanksgiving-stuffing-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Stuffing is the soul of our Thanksgiving meal. I try to re-create the flavors of my mom’s dish, a combo of celery, chestnuts and sage sausage. Growing up, we’d come home from a half day of school — so fun — to absolutely amazing smells, and help my mom prepare the Thanksgiving dishes. Today, making stuffing starts with a ritual trip to Esposito’s for ground pork, then home to cook. It’s an experience that I look forward to every year with my kids. Phones down and cook together!”

(Serves 10 to 12)

2 medium onions, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
½ bulb fennel, diced
1 qt. shelled, roasted chestnuts
1 1/2 lb. 40-percent-fat ground pork
3 cloves garlic
1 c. parsley, chopped
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 qt. Italian bread, cut into small cubes
6 eggs
1 c. milk

Sauté onion, celery and fennel. Sauté pork. Roughly chop chestnuts. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place in a buttered casserole dish and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bring to room temperature, then bake in preheated 350ºF oven until top is crusty and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Amy Gutmann’s Oysters
President, the University of Pennsylvania

OTO-thanksgiving-oysters-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Our Thanksgiving tradition for 40 years — which we enjoy at our home with friends and family — begins with the best big bucket of oysters available anywhere in the region. The guys are each supplied with a shucker and an equally essential good glass of white wine. They open the oysters, and we arrange them, with cocktail sauce and lemon slices, on large platters. We begin each meal with a white-wine-and-oyster tasting — and we inevitably are moved to toast the best oysters and the best year ever!”

Steve Duross’s Celery Appetizer
Co-founder, Duross & Langel

OTO-thanksgiving-celery-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Every year my mom used to lay the perfect table: china, crystal, silver, linens, flowers. It was breathtaking for a five-year-old — or perhaps the gay gene just evidenced itself early. She would always put out an oval crystal dish of celery stuffed with cream cheese, sprinkled with sea salt on top — and she would always make a couple extra for just us. Nobody else living in the house liked them, so we would sit, just us two, before everyone arrived, and share the moment. She made them for our guests, but she would say it was our treat. Just us two.”

» Desserts

Beka Rendell’s Kentucky Derby Pie
Founder and creative director, Styled Creative

OTO-thanksgiving-kentucky-derby-pie-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Kentucky Derby Pie, otherwise known in our family as Aunt Jennifer’s Pie. My Aunt Jennifer has been making it for as long as I can remember, and any holiday dinner wouldn’t be the same without it. Chocolate, pecans and melted butter — what could be better? Our Thanksgiving is crazy with kids running amok and football on TV, but one thing we’ve started doing is at dessert time, we grab a slice of pie and everyone has to sit at the table and say what they’re thankful for. It’s the nicest time of the meal.”

Kentucky Derby Pie
(Makes 1 9-inch pie)

1 stick butter or margarine (see note)
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. self-rising flour
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped pecans
1 pie shell (I use frozen)

Melt butter and add sugar. Stir. Add eggs. Stir. Add self-rising flour and mix well. Add rest of ingredients and stir until blended. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350°F about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool.

Note: Southern girls prefer butter!

Carli Lloyd’s Apple Crisp Pie
Midfielder, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team

OTO-thanksgiving-apple-crisp-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “My grandmother used to bake this pie all the time. I would always request it at Thanksgiving, and it’s become our family tradition. I now love to cook and bake, so I make sure to take that responsibility and bake it myself for Thanksgiving. I usually double the topping. It’s delicious!”

Apple Crisp Pie
(Makes 1 9-inch pie)

3 lbs. Macintosh apples
1 t. cinnamon (to your liking)
1/2 c. sugar
Unbaked pie shell

Topping (see note):
6 T. salted butter at room temperature
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar

Peel and core apples and slice thinly. Mix apples, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. (You can add more or less cinnamon and/or sugar if you like.) Dump apples into unbaked piecrust. Mix butter and flour into a firm ball with your hands; break off crumbs and sprinkle on the top of the pie. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes, until golden brown.

Note: I usually double the topping. Make sure the butter is room-temperature.

Jonathan Adams’s Shoo-Fly Pie
Co-founder, Rival Bros. Coffee

OTO-thanksgiving-shoofly-pie-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “I’d rather have two helpings of the main course and skip dessert — unless shoo-fly pie is offered. I grew up eating this every Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s in Bucks County. It’s a classic Pennsylvania Dutch pie made from molasses, brown sugar and butter. Imagine a piecrust filled with a thick, sticky fudge-like pudding that can stand on its own. Amazing. Her recipe was handed down from her grandmother. It’s one of those foods that I associate with early childhood memories, an uncomplicated life, and having all of my family around.”

Shoo-Fly Pie
(Makes 1 9-inch pie)

2 c. unbleached flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 t. cinnamon

1 c. warm water
1 t. baking soda
1 c. dark Karo syrup or molasses

1 unbaked pie shell

Combine ingredients for crumbs. Combine ingredients for liquid. Pour liquid into crust, reserving four tablespoons. Sprinkle crumb mixture over liquid, being sure to fill around edge of crust. Drip remaining liquid over top. Bake 45 minutes in 350°F oven.

Marcie Turney’s Apple-Cranberry Slab Pie
Restaurateur and chef

OTO-thanksgiving-slab-pie-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “My best memories of Thanksgiving are from my childhood in Wisconsin, and although I work a lot of holidays now, we’ll always have some version of slab pie whenever we get around to celebrating. My grandpop, Bud Briese, always made it at home and often at his restaurant, the Spot, in Ripon, Wisconsin. It’s just a long slab of fruit pie topped with ice cream — simple but great. We now serve it at Bud & Marilyn’s, our new spot at 13th and Locust, so I get a little piece of Thanksgiving every day I go to work!”

Apple-Cranberry Slab Pie
(Serves 8 to 10)

11 oz. all-purpose flour
5 oz. cake flour
1 oz. granulated sugar
1 oz. kosher salt
4 oz. cold butter, cut into quarter-inch pieces
4 oz. cold shortening
1 large egg
3 oz. cold water
1 t. vinegar

1 lemon
8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into quarter-inch wedges.
6 c. fresh cranberries
¼ c. cornstarch
¼ c. sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
½ t. fresh-ground nutmeg
½ c. apple schnapps
¼ t. kosher salt

For egg wash:
1 egg
2 T. milk
Raw sugar for sprinkling

Butter and flour a 9×13-inch sheet tray. Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. Cut butter and shortening into dry mixture until pea-sized lumps remain. Gently mix in wet ingredients until the dough comes together. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and put into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, unwrap the pie dough. Form into a rectangle and cut in half. With floured rolling pin, roll each piece into an 11×15-inch rectangle, 1/8-inch thick.

For top crust, use a small circular cutter or back of a pastry tip to cut out dough in desired design. Place in fridge until ready to use. Roll bottom dough loosely around floured rolling pin and gently place over prepared sheet pan. Use a knife to cut the crust flush at the top of the pan. With fork, prick crust on bottom and sides. Place a piece of parchment inside the crust and weigh it down with dried beans or pie weights. Par-bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Cool.

While bottom crust is par-baking, make filling: Zest lemon with a microplane, then add zest to the apples and squeeze lemon juice over them to keep them from browning. Combine all ingredients. Spoon into cooled prebaked piecrust. (Take out the beans or weights and parchment, naturally.) Lay top crust over filling and crimp together with bottom crust. Brush egg wash over pie and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until top crust is golden.

Norrinda Brown Hayat’s Sweet-Potato Pudding
Co-owner, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique

OTO-thanksgiving-sweet-potato-pudding-400x400-jason-varney-400x400WHY THIS DISH IS SPECIAL “We love sweet potatoes, and we are even crazier for them on Thanksgiving. That means we have at least three sweet-potato dishes on our table every year. My grandmom, Betty, made this sweet-potato pudding for my grandpop, Leon, every week when I was growing up, until she stopped cooking. It was probably his favorite thing that she made. We sell this in our Brown Betty shop now.”

Sweet-Potato Pudding
(Serves 12)

5 lbs. sweet potatoes, scrubbed
3 T. vegetable oil
One 8-oz. package Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 c. evaporated milk
1 T. fresh orange juice
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
Vegetable shortening
1 t. ground cinnamon

Place oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Rub potatoes with vegetable oil and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake on lower rack of oven until fork-tender, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool until you can handle. Peel the potatoes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy. Add potatoes and beat until smooth. Use a spoon to push the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and into a medium bowl.

Transfer potato mixture to the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add butter and salt and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat until blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add milk, orange juice, vanilla and nutmeg and beat until pudding batter is smooth.

Place rack in center of oven. Coat bottom and sides of a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with vegetable shortening and set the pan on a baking sheet. Pour pudding batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in middle of oven until pudding is set in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pudding to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Haven’t even started your holiday prep yet? Foobooz comes to the rescue with its Procrastinator’s Guide to Thanksgiving.

Published as “A Very Philly Thanksgiving” in the November 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Honeymoon Destination: Aruba!

The multi-level pool complex at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino. All photos courtesy of the Hyatt.

The multi-level pools at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino. All photos courtesy of the Hyatt.

They call Aruba, a 70-square-mile strip of Caribbean paradise, “one happy island”—and not just because of its lively spirit and friendly, welcoming people. This Dutch island’s spectacular white-sand beaches, shimmering teal water and opportunities for fun and adventure will make you and your to-be very, very happy.

It’s no exaggeration to say the sun is always shining in Aruba. The island’s immaculate weather, with an average temperature of 82 degrees, heavenly cooling trade winds and virtually no rainy days, is the perfect backdrop for your post-nuptial bliss. The most popular strip is Palm Beach, on the western side of the island—and that’s where you’ll find the beachfront Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino. The Hyatt sits on 12 magnificent acres, an oasis where you can be a beach bum or an explorer, depending on your mood.

They say that once you visit Aruba, you always return. Why not start that tradition with the most romantic trip of your life—your honeymoon?

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The List: The 5 Most Entertaining Philadelphia Public Officials

Last night DJ BRB (that’s Blondell Reynolds Brown, as in Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown) was tearing it up at a rooftop happy hour, ahem, “professional after work event.” No, we are not joking. Inspired by her newly revealed talent, we’ve compiled a list of other Philadelphia officials’ entertaining sides.
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On Slutbags: The 8 Most Embarrassing Off-the-Record and Hot-Mic Moments

Yesterday, Anthony Weiner’s chief spokesperson Barbara Morgan had herself a moment (in what has surely been a trying week for her) when she — in remarks she later explained she thought were off the record — called campaign intern Olivia Nuzzi a “slutbag.” But hey, politics is full of unintended slips of the tongue that were never meant for public consumption:

1.) Barack Obama: Jackass

“The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person. She’s getting her award. What’s he doing up there? He’s a jackass.”
When asked to respond to Kanye West’s infamous “I’m gonna let you finish” Taylor Swift fiasco, the President called West “a jackass.” This off-the-record moment was tweeted by an ABC news coorespondent in 2009. Then in 2012, the president went on the record calling West a jackass again. Preach.

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The List: 6 Controversial Philadelphia Covers

1. Philadelphia Daily News, “The Cowardly Penguin,” April 18, 2012

While this cover was strange and turned a lot of heads, Sidney Crosby himself reportedly said, “That’s probably one of the nicer things they’ve said about me here.”  And Flyers fans were certainly not opposed.

Level of Controversy: 1 (out of 5)
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Kate Taylor Is (Mostly) Right About Penn’s Hook-Up Culture

Kate Taylor clearly did not speak to me during her year at Penn. Maybe that’s because we never crossed paths. Or maybe that’s because her New York Times piece on Penn’s hook-up culture had no room for me.

I am a woman who maintained a committed relationship for three out of four years at Penn. Taylor’s exposé doesn’t just omit my relationship. It misses a wide spectrum of nuanced relationships that exist on campus, and in doing so, seriously mischaracterizes Penn’s hookup culture.

To be fair, “Sex on Campus — She Can Play That Game, Too” gets a lot right about Penn’s general culture. As a 2013 graduate fresh off of campus, I know that many of Taylor’s descriptions of my school’s career-centric mindset are almost eerily (and perhaps, sadly) accurate.
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