Of all the holidays in this country, none may be as rich with tradition as Thanksgiving.
The turkey stars. Bit players include stuffing, potatoes and buckets of gravy. Everything is seasoned to taste, influenced by the flavorings and stuffings and side dishes served by your parents, their parents and your great-grandparents.
Perhaps this year you invite someone to share your family's Thanksgiving meal, a young couple overwhelmed by a new baby, a member of the armed services from a nearby base, an elderly neighbor.
Perhaps you take a second look at your menu. We're not suggesting the turkey step aside. We're only saying it may be time to consider adding another player to your meal's ingredient mix: pomegranates.
They're in season now through January, impart bright flavor wherever they appear and are lovely to look at. We also seem to have a growing appetite for them, eating the seeds (arils) in salads and side dishes as well as sipping the juice and flavoring everything from ice cream to gum with it. Total U.S. acreage grew from 4,737 acres in 1997 to 24,517 in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Cookbook author and TV celeb Alton Brown so enjoys them, they were the focus of a TV episode and are in his book, "Good Eats: The Later Years." Among the recipes: a tequila sunrise (with pomegranate syrup) and a Pomegranate Jel-Low (unflavored gelatin, fresh juice and crunchy arils).
Not ready for Jel-Low? Try welcoming pomegranates to your table with a glaze for the turkey or as the tart note in a wild rice side dish.
Roasted turkey with pomegranate-thyme glaze
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
Servings: 10 to 12, with leftovers
Note: Adapted from "The New Way to Cook Light" (Oxmoor House, $34.95). The original recipe uses a turkey breast and cooks it on a barbecue grill. We've used a whole bird, incorporated some preparation techniques and oven-roasted the turkey.
12 to 14 pound turkey, thawed, giblets, neck removed
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 small bunch thyme sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
3 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Season turkey cavity with 3 teaspoons salt and the pepper; fill with thyme sprigs and onion. Loosen skin from breast by pushing fingers gently between skin and meat. Combine 4 teaspoons chopped thyme and the garlic, mixing well. Rub mixture under loosened skin. Turn wing tips under; truss legs with kitchen string. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan. Roast turkey, about 2 1/2 hours; loosely cover with foil if skin browns too quickly.
2. Meanwhile, prepare glaze. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, shallots and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add juice and sugar; heat to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup, 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Set half of the glaze aside to serve with roasted bird.
3. Use remaining glaze to lightly baste turkey several times during the last half hour of roasting. Continue roasting turkey until an oven-safe or instant-read thermometer inserted deep in the thigh reads 165 degrees, another 30-45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven; let rest 15-20 minutes before carving. Serve with reserved glaze.
Per serving: 463 calories, 14 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 257 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 70 g protein, 726 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Wild rice with pomegranate seeds, hazelnuts
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: Adapted from "Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook" ($12.95). We subbed pomegranate seeds for the original dried cranberries.
1 1/2 cups wild rice, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 cup pomegranate seeds, about 1 medium pomegranate
1 cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1. Put wild rice in a large saucepan; cover with water by 1 inch. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and most grains have popped open, 40-60 minutes. (Add a little more water during cooking if rice gets dry.) Test for tenderness. Pour rice into a strainer; drain well.
2. In the same saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add green onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cooked rice, orange zest and juice, pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts; fluff with a fork to blend. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving (for 8 servings): 257 calories, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 296 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.