Listen: it’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (in America; Canadians, I realize this is just an average Tuesday for you.) Many of you have made your shopping lists, discussed where to get the best of everything, and are now getting ready to go out and procure all the food necessary to make your Thanksgiving dinner. If my markets are any indication, today is the day when things get nuts, so get out there early, use the buddy system, and don’t lose it on the multitudes of people gathered in the baking aisle standing, inevitably, right in front of what you need. It will all be okay: you’ll make it out of the store with everything you need, eventually, and you’ll probably only need to head back out 5 times for things you managed to forget. Like celery and pepper. And yams, oddly enough, because one of your best blog friends decided to pull out this amazing pumpkin pie which looks so perfect that you’ve filled out the necessary forms and submitted them to your family in the hopes that it will be allowed on the table this year.
While you’re out, and if you feel like adding a few things to your list, think about this salad as a leftover possibility for your turkey. I made it the other day as I was working on some leftover ideas, and it was one of those recipes you see and think “well, that could be good.” What you don’t expect it to do is completely blow your mind with its flavor. This was incredible, so much so that I almost hate to present it to you in a “leftover” context, because I’d make this as a hearty main-dish or side-dish salad any day of the week. Something about this satisfied every craving I had – the crunch from the cabbage, the mellowed tang of the marinated onion, the slight heat of the red chile – it all works, and it works wonderfully. And don’t worry, Canada (and everywhere else that Thanksgiving leftovers are a moot point): this works equally well with chicken breasts if you don’t want to roast a turkey.
I wish I could better describe the flavor. It’s not necessarily Asian, although there’s fish sauce in there (and fear not; I actually have it to a level which works perfectly and there will be no overpowering, icky taste), but it hints at something Far East. If Asian food isn’t your thing, you’ll still like this salad. It’s astringent and sweet at the same time, which I find lovely. The way you make it is extremely relaxing as well: you whisk a vinaigrette in a bowl, add a few things, let them sit. then a few minutes later, you swirl in your meat, once again letting it soak in all that flavor for a few minutes. Lastly, you add your crunch, which remains crunchy even for a second round later in the day. Making it this way not only takes the pressure off you, but it also allows all those potentially sharp flavors (like the chile and red onion) to mellow into the dressing, taking the edge off but distributing their flavor out to the rest of the salad. It’s a cool technique, and one I’m going to apply to other things in the future.
So be careful out there shopping. Canadians, enjoy your day knowing that down here in America, it’s safe to say there will be head-on shopping cart collisions, ridiculously full parking lots, and bad attitudes. I did my shopping yesterday, and true to form, I forgot pie crusts and a few other things. it’s a busy morning: the Wee one and I have a little tumbling class, then out to pick up our pre-ordered Whole Foods brined turkey (a new must-have) and after that, it’s off to the airport to retrieve Sister Table, who is flying in from Nashville. All before 11 am. So I need to get moving.
Have a happy, happy Thanksgiving. I wish for you delightfully un-crowded stores and zero food mistakes. I’ll see you again Thursday evening with a little pictorial Turkey Day wrap-up, if you’re interested/in a coma/have nothing to do.
Adapted from Feast: Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson. I’m thankful for this cookbook, because its existence makes me perpetually happy. Everyone should own it.
Red Seasonal Salad
- 2 red Fresno chilies, seeded and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 red onion, if it’s a large one (if it’s a small one, you can use the whole thing) peeled and finely sliced
- fresh ground black pepper
- 4 cups cold cooked turkey, shredded or rough chopped
- 4 cups shredded red cabbage
- 8 ounces radishes
- 6 tablespoons fresh cilantro, rough chopped (or more, if you wish)
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, for serving
In a large bowl, whisk together your sugar, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, honey, and vegetable oil. Add your chopped chiles, minced garlic, and red onion, tossing about until coated. Season with a little fresh ground red pepper and let steep for 15-20 minutes, making sure everything is covered in the liquid.
While you’re steeping, chunk up your turkey meat (if you haven’t already), shred your cabbage into thin strands, and cut your radishes into wedges like you would segment an orange, 8 per radish. Chop your cilantro. After your onions and chiles are steeped, add your turkey and toss until coated with the liquid, allowing it to steep for about 15 more minutes.
After your 15 minutes is up, add the cabbage, radishes, and half of your chopped cilantro. Toss to coat for several minutes to be sure the liquid has coated all your ingredients. It started to smell amazing when you added the turkey, but it should smell irresistible by now. Season with a little sea salt and more fresh ground pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.
This makes quite a bit of salad, so if you’re just making it for a few, cut the recipe in half, which is easily done. You don’t want this to sit for more than a few hours, so make it for lunch, eat the rest for dinner, and then make more the next day, if you want.