Thanksgiving at Home With Capitol Cuisine

Roast turkey with the trimmings forms the usual centerpiece for our Thanksgiving feast. Photo: Celeste McCall

During our half-century on Capitol Hill, husband Peter and I have developed holiday traditions, including for Thanksgiving. We often host dinner, and don’t have to leave Capitol Hill for ingredients. (Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 25 this year.)

To begin, we plan our menu: hors d’oeuvres, first course, entree, sides, wines, dessert, decor. Before sitting down to dinner, our guests might sip Mumm Napa brut rose, Lamarca prosecco or sparkling apple-cranberry cider from Safeway, while nibbling smoked salmon, pates and dips from Eastern Market Grocery (Eastern Market).

Once seated, we light candles (Groovy DC) and launch our feast with curried pumpkin soup. I hate throwing away our Halloween jack-o-lantern, but with Thanksgiving coming up, I found a solution: pumpkin soup. Here is a recipe similar to a soup we savored at the long-gone Yellow Brick Bank restaurant in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. We buy our pumpkin ‒ and other produce ‒ from Eastern Market’s weekend farmers’ line.

1½ pounds pumpkin or 1 (27-ounce) can unseasoned pumpkin
Olive oil as needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 tablespoons curry powder
½ pint half-and-half (or coconut milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of paprika and turmeric (for added color)
Fresh parsley or chives, snipped (for garnish), optional

If using fresh pumpkin, cut in half and scoop out seeds and insides. Cut into small chunks. Place in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer about 15 minutes until pumpkin is soft. (Or microwave until pumpkin is soft.) When pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove skin.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet and saute onions and garlic until soft; do not burn. Add curry powder and other seasonings. Transfer to a soup pot and add chicken stock; simmer 20 to 30 minutes or until pumpkin is soft. Add half-and-half. Pour mixture into blender and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into individual bowls and sprinkle with chives or parsley if desired. Serves about six as a first course.

Eastern Market’s weekend farmers’ line offers pumpkins in all sizes and colors. Photo: Celeste McCall

Main Event
Our usual centerpiece is roast turkey. My favorite recipe comes from my dear friend Clotilde Benitez, who was born in Puerto Rico and has lived in Washington for decades. It’s best to start with a fresh, rather than frozen, bird, available at Capitol Hill Poultry and Market Poultry (Eastern Market), and Groff’s Content Farm (Tuesdays, outside Eastern Market), Kip Kelley’s Full Cellar Farms (Farmfresh Market and Safeway). Markets are now accepting turkey orders for pickup a day or so before Thanksgiving. (Safeway and Frager’s Hardware carry roasting pans.)

To drink: A to Z Oregon pinot noir (Safeway) or a Chateau Ste. Michel Riesling, or a Cote du Rhone (red) from Classy Wine Corks & Spirits. Classy Wine also carries Ariel (non-alcoholic) wines. Chat’s Liquor offers a six-pack of assorted wines (pinot gris, pinot noir, sparkling, Riesling, Rioja, cabernet). DCanter has a “good juice wall” of various wines under $15; Schneider’s also offers turkey-happy vintages.

1 (10-12-pound) turkey
12 garlic cloves
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 or more tablespoons olive oil
2 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Remove giblets from turkey cavity and reserve. Rinse bird inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Combine marinade ingredients and make a paste with mortar and pestle. Rub mixture into bird, inside and out. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Eastern Market’s poultry vendors are taking orders for your Thanksgiving turkey. Photo: Celeste McCall

Next day, make stuffing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
Turkey giblets (heart, gizzard, liver, optional)
⅓ cup chopped onion
2 cups seedless raisins
2 tablespoons capers, drained
8 to 10 pimento-stuffed olives, whole
1 (7-ounce) jar pimentos, with liquid
18 seedless prunes
4 hardboiled eggs, chopped
1 (1-pound) jar applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat olive oil in large skillet (cast iron is best) and brown the ground meat, along with chopped innards, if using. Add brown chopped onions. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stuff turkey loosely (do not pack) and truss with strong thread (I use unflavored dental floss). Place on rack over pan, breast side down, so juices will flow to the white meat, keeping it moist. Cover bird loosely with foil, leaving vents to prevent steaming rather than baking.

In the farmers’ line, RavenHook Bakehouse carries fresh-baked breads, pies and pastries. Photo: Celeste McCall

Bake at 350 F for about four hours, basting occasionally. About an hour before it’s done, flip bird right side up (it takes two people to do this) and remove foil. Return to oven and finish baking, allowing breast to brown. If necessary, cover wing tips with foil so they won’t burn. Remove turkey from oven and allow to rest at room temperature for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, make gravy:
Turkey juices
All-purpose flour, as needed
Turkey or chicken stock
Splash of Madeira or port wine

Pour juices off turkey, skimming off fat. Combine de-fatted juices gradually with flour, then with stock (good quality canned will do). Add vermouth and heat thoroughly. At the last minute add Madeira or port. Serve with turkey and stuffing; serves 8 to 10.

I usually serve Clotilde’s turkey with cranberry sauce:

Capitol Hill’s Safeway carries moderately priced produce and other holiday ingredients. Photo: Celeste McCall

3 cups fresh cranberries
¾ cup half water and half orange juice
1 cup sugar (or to taste; orange juice adds sweetness)
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
Splash of orange liqueur (optional)

Place first three ingredients in large pot and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer until berries are soft but not totally mushy. Remove from heat, drain if necessary and stir in marmalade and liqueur if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: About two cups

Hill’s Kitchen displays festive serving items, decorations, napkins, candles and other party essentials. Photo: Celeste McCall

For a side dish, we prepare something green, like Brussels sprouts, string beans or broccoli. And spaghetti squash. This simple recipe combines the internet and my own invention:

1 (2-pound) spaghetti squash
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
Butter or olive oil as needed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced parsley (optional)

With a sharp knife, stab squash several times to allow steam to escape. Microwave on HIGH or until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut squash in half. Scoop out pulp and seeds, then use a fork to scrape out “spaghetti” strands. Meanwhile, melt butter (or oil) in a skillet, add minced garlic. Cook briefly and add squash strands. Heat through, season with salt and pepper and add Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with parsley if desired. Serves six.

Our feast usually includes cheese. Bowers Fancy Dairy Products (Eastern Market) carries a wide array of artisan cheeses. For the sweet finale, I ask a guest to bring dessert. Or ‒ I might visit RavenHook Bakehouse or Pie Shop for apple or pecan pies, Eastern Market’s Fine Sweet Shoppe for sweet potato or pumpkin pies or red velvet cupcakes. We might sip Fonseca tawney port from Classy Corks or Amontillado sherry (Schneider’s).

Chat’s Liquor proprietor Burnie Williams displays a variety of holiday wines. Photo: Celeste McCall

Ambience is essential. Groovy DC carries taper candles, napkins and centerpieces, including a sparkly foam pumpkin. Blue Iris (Eastern Market) offers lovely floral arrangements. Hill’s Kitchen provides such festive supplies as cookware, tableware, napkins, towels, aprons and more. Patrick’s Fine Linens & Home Decor (District Wharf) offers china, glassware, napkins and elaborate butter dishes. To sharpen your carving knife, visit Union Market’s District Cutlery. If your guest list gets too big, you can rent chairs and other essentials from Frager’s Hardware (Hello Rentals).

Blue Iris Flowers
Eastern Market South Hall

Chat’s Liquor
508 Eighth St. SE

Classy Corks Wine & Spirits
801 Virginia Ave. SE (south end of Barracks Row)

DCanter Wine Boutique
545 Eighth St. SE

Eastern Market

  • Bowers Fancy Dairy Products
  • Capitol Hill Poultry
  • Eastern Market Grocery
  • Fine Sweet Shoppe
  • Market Poultry
  • RavenHook Bakehouse (Tuesdays, outside)
  • Southern Maryland Seafood
  • Groff’s Content Farm (farmers’ line, weekends)

Frager’s Hardware ‒ Hello Rentals
1115 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (lower level)

Freshfarms Farmers Market
1300 H St. NE

Kip Kelley (Full Cellar Farm) brings produce and turkeys to Freshfarms, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Groff’s Content Farm
Tuesdays, outside Eastern Market

Groovy DC
321 Seventh St. SE

Hill’s Kitchen
713 D St. SE

Pie Shop
1339 H St. NE

415 14th St. SE

300 Massachusetts Ave. NE

Union Market, 1309 Fifth St. NE

  • District Cutlery
  • District Fishwife
  • Harvey’s Market
  • Neopol Savory Smokery
  • RavenHook Bakehouse