Most of us have already resigned ourselves to the fact that we won’t be hosting hordes or gathering at grandma’s this Thanksgiving. We won’t miss irascible Uncle Irving and his insistence on green bean casserole. But we will surely miss the camaraderie, whether family or friends.
For some, this might mean simply subbing in a feeds-four turkey breast for the traditional, fifteen-pound behemoth. But here’s another thought: go off the boob-jobbed turkey track entirely. And while we’re at it, why not make sure that your food also travels as little as possible by looking for products that are as local as you can reasonably make them.
Let’s call it TexGiving, meaning the friends and food are all from close to home.
Starting with the centerpiece, a locally sourced splurge option might be a Wagyu ribeye or strip steak from family-owned and South Texas-located Peeler Farms. Yes, the ribeye will set you back $50 on the Peeler website, but, as the owners suggest, “simply season and grill.” For what it’s worth, I like to start both cuts in a cast iron pan, then finish cooking in the oven. No leftovers, but also no regrets.
A more modest but equally flavorful option comes from a new, local enterprise that calls itself Wholesome Meats. The business touts “regenerative farming,” a concept that involves moving the 100% grass-fed and finished cows regularly to new pasture so that ecosystems can heal. The only product currently available is ground beef, but Wholesome Meats grinds the whole cow, so you get all the flavor and complexity that implies. From actual experience, it makes a mean meatloaf, and as a straight burger, it needs only salt and pepper. There’s free delivery on a seven-pound box of individually frozen portions every Tuesday from getwholesome.com.
But if this doesn’t seem indulgent enough, here’s a thought: gild the patty with foie gras. Yes, it’s a pricy move, but a whole foie gras lobe is available in several forms from local and family-run specialty source Food Related. A slab of that placed atop a burger while it’s finishing should satisfy the sybarite in any of us. Food Related delivers and offers curbside pickup.
Locally raised pork provides yet another option, especially since farm-to-table pig products are now available at Hackberry Market’s The Farmers Butcher. Owned and operated by farmers Kelley and Marc Escobedo, the small shop offers its own pork and made-on-premises sausages, plus local beef, chicken and turkeys — should you really need to serve the latter. A pork roast can be a grand thing, but I’m thinking that tenderloin comes closest to the turkey experience — no carving skills required. Plus, you can actually stuff it. (A good recipe for stuffed pork loins with bacon and apple Riesling sauce is at foodandwine.com.) Kelley Escobedo says the shop won’t always have tenderloin, so best call ahead at (210) 757-3620.
To get even more local — and closer to the original Thanksgiving, for that matter — you may also look to hunting and gathering.
The folks at Kerrville’s Broken Arrow Ranch can help you there. They won’t have wild turkey, but they do offer an array of other game products such as wild venison from South Texas Antelope, Axis Deer and Fallow Deer. Think backstrap with a rich, red wine and juniper berry sauce. Wild boar is another option, and a whole leg would be impressive indeed. See the ranch’s website for recipes and suggestions.
If fowl still beckon, Bandera Quail from Diamond H Ranch fit the bill nicely. Four of these per person would more than make up for a missing big bird, and there’s no reason separately cooked dressing can’t come along for the ride.
There’s also no reason you can’t do your favorite feastly sides — even that infamous casserole. But in keeping with the locavore theme, why not plan your secondary dishes around what’s seasonal at the Pearl Farmers Market. Arugula, fennel, cauliflower and broccoli are all available now, along with goat cheeses and condiments from regional suppliers.
And as you’ll likely want wine to go with your chosen centerpiece, check out another vendor, Bending Branch Winery.
There are many worthy Texas wine to choose from, including pioneering Fall Creek and Becker Vineyards. But as Bending Branch just won Best of Herd Texas Winery at the recent San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition, now may be a good time to pay attention.
Knowing that the Tempranillo is likely the lightest, any of the 2017 reds, including Malbec, Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon or the double-gold Petit Sirah — which they hope to release in time for Thanksgiving — would be good with meatier entrées. The winery’s Jennifer McGinnis Fadel recommends trying the 2019 Picpoul Blanc with bird.
And dessert? Stick with the nut that San Antonio made famous, of course. The New York Times just published a recipe for food writer Melissa Clark’s Maple-Pecan Galette with Fresh Ginger. Seems like a solid option.
Finally, since you may want to toast your nearest and dearest, a more important cohort than ever before, a cider margarita would fit the occasion. To make it strictly local, try substituting Dripping Springs’ Desert Door Sotol for the tequila.
2 oz. reposado tequila
2 oz. apple cider
1 tsp agave nectar
1 oz. lime juice
Cinnamon, sugar and salt for the rim
Whisk the agave in a mixing tin with the tequila, cider and lime, then add ice and shake. Rub rim of glass with a cut lime then dip into mixed coating spread on a plate.
Strain into the rimmed glass filled with fresh ice and enjoy along with the rest of your Texas feast.
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