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.
Yet there comes a time when even the most resilient traditions deserve a second look.
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 television celebrity 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
1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey, thawed, giblets and neck removed
4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 small bunch thyme sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh thyme
1 onion, quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
3 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
Heat oven to 325 F. Season turkey cavity with 3 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper; fill with the 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.
Meanwhile, prepare glaze. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil; swirl to coat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, shallots and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the 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 glaze aside to serve with roasted bird.
Use remaining glaze to lightly baste turkey several times during last half-hour of roasting. Continue roasting turkey until an oven-safe or instant-read thermometer inserted deep into thigh reads 165 F, another 30 to 45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven; let rest 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Serve with reserved glaze.
Makes 10 to 12 servings (with leftovers).
WILD RICE WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS, HAZELNUTS
1 1/2 cups wild rice, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt, divided
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 (from about 1 medium pomegranate; may substitute dried cranberries)
1 cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Put the wild rice in a large saucepan; cover with water by 1 inch. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and most grains have popped open, 40 to 60 minutes. (Add a little more water during cooking if rice gets dry.) Test for tenderness. Pour rice into a strainer; drain well.
In same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the green onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cooked rice, the 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.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.