Chef-owner, BLT restaurants
Laurent Tourondel, the French chef behind the ever-expanding BLT empire (BLT Steak, BLT Fish, et al.), first celebrated Thanksgiving when he arrived in America thirteen years ago. “I didn’t understand it then, but now I enjoy it more than Christmas,” he says. “It’s inclusive and nonreligious. I always have a big party at my house.” For the main course of his Thanksgiving dinner, Tourondel re-creates a family tradition of his own from rural France. Instead of turkey, he roasts guinea hens. “They remind me of my grandmother; her guinea hens tasted of the wood-fired oven she roasted them in.” In keeping with the French-countryside theme, Tourondel stuffs the hens with fall chestnuts and pork sausage, roasting them on a bed of fingerling potatoes, celery root, and carrots. For his side dish, Tourondel serves sautéed Swiss chard with bacon, and stirs in butter at the last moment—a Gallic touch that makes the chard silky. “It’s a little tweak on creamed spinach,” he says. For dessert, Tourondel makes an apple cake that’s based on his grandmother’s flognarde, the French baked dessert. “People love that I serve apple cake instead of traditional pie,” says Tourondel. Perhaps we know why: He drowns the finished product in a Calvados sauce.
Chestnut-Stuffed Guinea Hens With Rosemary-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Celery Root
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound pork sausage, casings removed
4 tablespoons butter
1 small white onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 1/2 cups country-style bread, crusts removed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
4 ounces roasted chestnuts, peeled and sliced
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and pepper
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage meat and sauté, breaking it up with a fork until cooked through.
In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat until foaming, and add the onion and celery. Cover and cook until soft—do not allow it to brown—about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and add the bread, herbs, chestnuts, egg, and stock. With a slotted spoon, add the sausage to the bowl, and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper, and allow to cool before stuffing the birds.
GUINEA HENS AND VEGETABLES
1/2 cup olive oil
3 pounds fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onion, cut into a large dice
4 medium shallots, cut into a large dice
8 large garlic cloves
2 celery roots, peeled and cut into a large dice
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into a large dice
10 large fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
Kosher salt and pepper
3 guinea hens (available at dartagnan.com)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a large roasting pan.
In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, onion, shallots, garlic, celery root, carrots, sage, rosemary, and bay leaves with the oil. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the vegetables to the roasting pan.
Stuff each hen with 1 cup stuffing and close the opening with skewers. Brush the hens with 3 tablespoons melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Set the hens on top of the vegetables. Roast, basting occasionally, for 1 hour or until the skin on the hens is golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when a hen is pierced with a knife at the joint of the leg (165–170 degrees). Transfer them to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm.
Turn the broiler to high. Toss the vegetables, and cook until they are well browned and tender, 5 to 10 minutes more, stirring and turning once or twice. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to the platter with the hens and keep warm.
Remove any excess fat from the juices in the roasting pan. Heat the pan over medium heat, add the wine, and reduce by half. Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, and reduce liquid to 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, add remaining butter, and whisk until melted and well blended. Pour into a pitcher and keep warm.
Carve the hens into quarters, and serve on top of the vegetables with the jus on the side.
Braised Swiss Chard
Fine sea salt
4 large bunches Swiss chard, leaves only
1/2 cup diced bacon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, add the chard, and blanch for 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, half-fill a large bowl with ice water. Drain the greens, and transfer to the ice water. Drain again and squeeze out any excess liquid. Roughly chop the greens.
Sauté the bacon in a saucepan over medium heat until golden brown. Add the garlic, and sauté for 1 minute, then pour off the fat, add the chard, and stir to reheat. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly, keeping the chard warm, taking care to not let the butter separate. Serve immediately.
Gâteau Aux Pommes With Calvados-Caramel Sauce
4 McIntosh apples
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups shredded McIntosh apple
1/2 cup canned unsweetened crushed pineapple
1/4 cup Sugar in the Raw
1 cups dark-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons Calvados
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Apples: Peel the apples, cut in half, and remove the cores. Heat the butter in a large sauté pan, add the sugar, cinnamon, and apple halves. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-high heat, turning the apples often until they are tender crisp. Remove from the pan, and set aside to cool. Slice the apples into 1/8-inch slices.
Cake: Sift together the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir in the shredded apples and drained pineapple until well blended.
Butter a 9-inch cake pan, and coat the bottom and sides of the pan with the Sugar in the Raw. Fan the sautéed apple slices over the bottom of the pan and pour the batter on top. Bake for about 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place the cake pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, and invert onto a serving plate.
Sauce: Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently until the sauce is smooth. Pour over the warm cake and serve with crème fraîche.