{Feast} A Modern Thanksgiving

photo by Yunhee Kim 

Throughout childhood, my mom's annual Thanksgiving was utterly classic-- a Butterball turkey, mashed potatoes, bagged stuffing, grandma's cranberry relish, turkey gravy, warm buttery dinner rolls, and two pies: pumpkin and pecan. The only discussion was whether to make mom's version of sweet potatoes (candied) or dad's (smashed with marshmallow topping), or both (the answer: both!).

The first Thanksgiving after I graduated from culinary school, my siblings put me up to making the whole meal. The mashed potatoes were riced (read: luxuriously lump free) and extra rich (yes, cream). The turkey was brined and the gravy herbed. The rolls were homemade, of course, and the stuffing a decadent, wild mushroom and sage number. My family said it was the best Thanksgiving meal they'd ever had. And then, agreed that they still wanted mom's henceforth. Ah, tradition. 

Truth? That's been a great deal for me--it's the one day of the year I usually don't cook. Plus, Thanksgiving cooking is epic. Super intense. You need a trunk full of ingredients. You need counter space, oven space. You need to wake up early to put in the turkey (deal breaker.). By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I've already cooked  my heart out all year long; I'm more than happy to just show up to the meal, hungry. 

But somehow I always get lured into making dinner the night before. That's when I cook the meal I really want to eat--the meal I'd be making if I were hosting thanksgiving. This meal would star fish, my favorite protein, and would be decidedly autumnal and centerpiece-worthy. 

It would also be epically easy, because my days of ricing potatoes, folks, were over long ago. These days, I'm more likely to put that effort into getting the family to agree on what movie we'll watch after we've cleaned up, which, by the way, will take just minutes, since this whole meal roasts on one cookie sheet, unlike our beloved pilgrim's feast. 

This, friends, is the modern Thanksgiving. 


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 organic acorn or delicata squash, seeded and thinly sliced
8 oz oyster mushrooms, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 small shallots, peeled and quartered
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1 ½ -pound skin-on side of wild salmon or arctic char
1 handful sorrel or arugula, chopped
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Serves 4 {easily doubled or tripled} 

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Toss together 2 tbsp of the olive oil with the squash, mushrooms, and shallots in a medium bowl. Place in the bottom of a large oven-to-table baking dish and spread out evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until squash is fork-tender and the mushrooms mostly roasted, with some golden and crispy parts, about 20 minutes.

Coat the salmon with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay the salmon on top of the vegetables and continue roasting until just cooked through, about 10 minutes more. The salmon should be pale pink on the outside, easily flaked with a fork and ever so translucent pink in the very center.

Meanwhile, stir together sorrel, parsley, pine nuts, and lemon zest and juice with the remaining 2 tbsp oil. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter the gremolata wildly all over the top. Bring the baking dish to the table still warm from the oven (or transfer the fish and mushrooms to your favorite platter before you add the gremolata) and serve portions of fish, squash and mushrooms with plenty of gremolata for each person. 


Heather Christo said...

That salmon is STUNNING!!! Pinned!

Kate Ramos said...

That fish is absolutely gorgeous!

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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.