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Thanksgiving for the Hard-to-Please

A Thanksgiving feast—hold the dairy, wheat, and (barring the turkey) meat.

The full Thanksgiving spread

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Mixology by the bowl

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Serious stuffing and not a breadcrumb in sight

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Brussels sprouts to love, sans bacon

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Pillowy, butter-free puree

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Bourbon-spiked sauce

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Gluten-free bread that actually tastes good

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The road to pie nirvana is paved with coconut butter

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A bird that lived well

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With all the gluten-, dairy-, and meat-free types infiltrating Thanksgiving tables across the Bay Area, crafting a holiday feast is getting harder. Add the social pressure of scoring a humanely raised, locally farmed bird, and the stress could spur you to drink. But hold on to your baster. Here, local chefs share recipes engineered for the finicky crowd. They’re so delicious that allergy-free omnivores won’t even notice what’s missing: butter, cream, wheat, and—barring the turkey—meat.

San Francisco Wintergin Punch

“To get the effect of a professionally made cocktail, I use a food processor instead of a muddler to bash sugar into lemon peel. A little effort up front leads to a great conversation starter.” —Alex Smith, Bar Manager, Novela

For this cranberry red, spiced punch, Novela bar manager Alex Smith likes using St. George Spirits dry rye because it lends a complex earthiness. For the tea used in the recipe, any chai blend will do. Serves 6 to 8

12 lemons
1 cup sugar
6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup maple syrup
1 740-ml bottle St. George Spirits dry rye
1⁄2 liter masala chai tea
1⁄2 liter water
1 large hunk of ice
Garnish: Freshly grated nutmeg

Zest lemons and place zest in a food processor with sugar. Blend until mixture is wet-looking and zest is chopped into confetti-size pieces. Remove sugar blend and set aside. In the food processor, blend cranberries until all of them are broken up. Then squeeze lemons, collecting the juice in a medium-size pot. Add sugared zest and maple syrup to the pot. Heat gently, stirring until sugar solids are dissolved. Combine liquor, sweetened lemon juice, broken cranberries, tea, and water. Stir and strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove solids. Chill. When ready to serve, fill a punch bowl with one large chunk of ice and pour the liquid over it. Serve with a ladle. Garnish each serving with freshly grated nutmeg, or grate garnish directly over the bowl.

 

Rice Stuffing with Chanterelles, Pistachios, and Pickled Currants

"To be honest, my partner [Foreign Cinema co-owner John Clark] and I are not big on Thanksgiving, but we love stuffing."  —Gayle Pirie, Chef and Co-Owner, Foreign Cinema

Should you be trying to please a table of both carnivores and vegetarians, you can divide this delicious, Persian-esque stuffing from chef Gayle Pirie of Foreign Cinema, heating half inside the turkey and half as the recipe instructs. If you can’t find chanterelles, any meaty wild mushroom will work. Roughly chopped, whole roasted almonds may be substituted for the pistachios. Serves 6 to 8

2 cups basmati rice
1 2-inch knob fresh ginger, unpeeled
4 Tbsp. olive oil (or more to taste)
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups golden chanterelles, cleaned, rough-chopped
1⁄2 cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄2 cup dried Zante currants
1 cup fresh unsalted, shelled pistachios
1 Tbsp. whole cumin seeds, lightly toasted
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest
1⁄2 cup chopped Italian parsley
Sea salt to taste

Add rice and 3 cups of water to a pot. Drop in ginger. Bring rice to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until done. Discard ginger, fluff rice with a fork, and set aside. In a sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add carrot, celery, and onion. Add mushrooms and sauté for another couple of minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Season everything with salt and set aside. In a small pot over low heat, bring vinegar to a simmer. Add currants and let them cook for 10 minutes, until plumped. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350°. Place pistachios on a sheet pan and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, until slightly golden. In a large bowl, toss rice with everything, including remaining ingredients. Add a little olive oil and salt to taste. Place stuffing in a casserole dish in a 350° oven, covered with foil, for 15 minutes or until completely warmed through, and serve.

 

Brussels Sprouts with Mint and Chili

“We tested brussels sprouts recipes for an entire season before we landed on this one. The lemon and mint play off the slightly mustardy flavor of the sprouts.” —Brandon Wells, Executive Chef, Pizzeria Delfina

Chef Brandon Wells of Pizzeria Delfina knows the secret to brussels sprout success: Sauté until the cruciferous veggies turn a mix of green and golden. After washing, make sure the brussels are patted good and dry, then stand back. There will be spatter. Serves 6 to 8

3⁄4 cup olive oil
2 pounds small brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. chili flakes Maldon sea salt to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
Handful of wild arugula

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat half of olive oil. Add half of brussels sprouts to the pan, using tongs to place them cut side down. Sauté for about 2 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Give them a stir and allow them to cook for a couple of minutes more, or until just tender. Use a slotted spoon to move them to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining olive oil to the same pan and repeat the process with remaining brussels sprouts. Once the two batches are combined in the bowl, toss with mint, chili flakes, and salt and lemon juice to taste. Toss with wild arugula. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl.

Page two: vegetable puree, cranberry sauce, and bread.