One of the Charleston Academy's tenets is that Thanksgiving is one long weekend, not just one big dinner.
Thanksgiving foods are a tool to create a loving space where family and friends connect; the beauty of the holiday is that it stretches for four days. Putting your entire effort on Thursdayâ€™s meal is akin to concentrating on the wedding celebration and not the long marriage ahead. The Academy wants you covered for the whole weekend -- more memories, more fun, not necessarily more work.
OYSTERS, GUMBO, FRIED CHICKEN & BEER
Serve these crowd pleasers all at once on Friday or Saturday night, or make each one a standout at three separate meals over the long weekend.
Oysters are in high season this very moment, and the Lowcountry is home to some of the worldâ€™s best. Raw, steamed or fried; all preparation are delicious, but Oyster Stew is the most scrumptious. Serve cocktails in the kitchen and prepare the stew in front of your guests. To gild the lily, ladle the stew in silver cups. Repurpose your ladles (and silver cups for that matter) for more than Thanksgiving gravy.
Gumbo is a complex elegant stew, but one that can be easily prepared the weekend before and frozen. The Academy has tested over 50 versions, and not surprisingly ours is in a class by itself. Paired with cornbread and Carolina Gold Rice, nothing could be finer.
I refuse to fry chicken at home because 1.) it makes a royal mess, and 2.) Robert Stehlingâ€™s fried chicken at Chickâ€™s Fry House is AMAZING. Let 2008 James Beard Award winner Robert do the work. Thanksgiving cooks and cleaners deserve an R&R, so go ahead and order a bucket of the tastiest fried chicken anywhere, biscuits and all the sides.
The Cicerones at the Beer Exchange paired beers for our gumbo and fried chicken night, and I never doubt the men at the Beer Exchange. Here are their suggestions:
Gumbo - Stillwater Autumnal is a beer that hybridizes two unique styles, a brown ale & a farmhouse ale. This beer is reminiscent of the flavors and aromas you may be used to in the fall. A little heavier in body than most brown ales, this robust beer can handle heavier dishes. The rustic flavors pair well with gumbo and many other dishes.
Fried Chicken - Palm is one of the classic representatives of the Belgian Pale Ale style. Slight hints of biscuit with a bubbly medium body, with just the right amount of dryness and malt sweetness, keep this very food-friendly. Fairly crisp on the finish, this beer wonâ€™t overwhelm any seasoning in the fried chicken batter but has enough flavor to stand up on its own.
Finally, regardless of what you serve or whom you share it with, enjoy the holiday! In this season of thanks, we are most grateful for YOU, our dear students & faithful readers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
XO Dean Pollak