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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


Wild Turkey
from John James Audubon's
Birds of America


Read about Chef John Sharpe's quest for native ingredients to serve at The Turquoise Room, his restaurant in Winslow, Ariz. 






A Native American Thanksgiving Feast

Smoked Turkey
Native Sweet Corn Stuffing
Braised Wild Greens
Native Bean Salad
Bread Pudding with Pumpkin and Cranberries

Since 2000, John Sharpe has owned and operated The Turquoise Room, a restaurant in the historic La Posada Hotel, in Winslow, where he makes use of  an array of unusual indigenous ingredients supplied by a network of farmers, shepherds and foragers on the nearby Navajo, Hopi and Tohono O'odham Indian reservations. But Sharpe's interest in Native American cuisine predates his arrival in Indian Country. For more than two decades before he relocated to Winslow, Sharpe ran a succession of restaurants in southern California, including the Topaz Cafe, at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, which has an extensive collection of Native American art and artifacts. These recipes are from an annual Native American-style Thanksgiving Day feast that Sharpe served for the Bowers Museum.

Smoked Turkey

11⁄4 cups sugar
11⁄4 cups kosher salt (use only half this amount if you are on a salt-reduced diet)
1 gallon water
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons red chili powder
1 bunch fresh thyme, chopped
1 bunch fresh sage, chopped
1 bunch fresh oregano, chopped
1 turkey, 12-14 pounds, gizards removed, washed with cold water and patted dry
Wood chips for smoking, mesquite or any fruitwood

1. Mix all ingredients, except turkey and wood chips, in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add turkey.

2. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 8 hours) in the refrigerator, turning turkey a couple of times to ensure all areas have been submerged. Remove bird from marinade and allow to drain for 30 minutes.

3. Prepare smoker on the lowest temperature possible. If you are using a gas barbecue: Turn it on low and place wet wood chips in the bottom. When the smoke starts, turn the barbecue off or on very low. Place turkey on grill and cover for 30 minutes. You may have to turn the barbecue on a couple of times during the process to create more smoke. If you are using a kettle-style barbecue that isnít equipped with gas: Donít get it very hot; only use 2 cups of charcoal. Once the charcoal heats and has had a chance to burn down a little, put wet wood chips in aluminum foil (or foil pie tin) on top of coals. You may need to remove some of the charcoal with a shovel, if the barbecue gets hot. What you are trying to do is create smoke, without making the barbecue hot. Cover and smoke for 30 minutes.

4. After using either of the above smoking methods, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Roast 3-4 hours or until thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh (without touching bone) registers 180 degrees. Allow turkey to rest 15 minutes before carving.

NOTES:  To get a head start on your Thanksgiving feast, you can marinate the turkey in the refrigerator two days before Thanksgiving, then smoke it the next day and refrigerate, then roast it in the oven on Thanksgiving Day. This style of turkey is best if it is cooked unstuffed.

Native Sweet Corn Stuffing

1 cup room-temperature egg whites
3 cups ground fresh corn (frozen may be substituted); see cookís note
1⁄2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup yellow cornmeal
(1⁄2 cup sugar may be added if corn isnít sweet)
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced green squash, such as zucchini or summer squash
1 cup diced yellow crookneck squash
1 cup diced (cored and seeded) red bell peppers
1 cup diced (cored and seeded) fresh pasilla or poblano chilies (See note, below)

1. Grease a 3-quart baking dish with butter; choose a dish that will fit into a steamer or double boiler. Set aside.

2. Either by hand or in an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff and glossy.

3. Place corn kernels in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until coarsely ground.

4. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Gently fold in egg whites. Place in prepared dish. Cover and steam for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and turn over the mixture by stirring. Cover and steam 15 minutes.

5. Heat in a 350-degree oven until heated through. If desired, lightly brown top by placing 6-8 inches below broiler element. Watch carefully to prevent burning.

NOTES:  This stuffing can be prepared a day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.  If you canít find pasilla chilies (glossy, dark green chilies about the size of bell peppers), you can substitute Anaheim chilies. If serving children, you can even use green bell peppers.

Braised Wild Greens

1 bunch mustard greens
1 bunch collard greens
1 bunch red Swiss chard
1⁄2 cup chopped bacon
1⁄4 cup diced onion
1⁄2 teaspoon chopped garlic
Ground black pepper to taste

1. Wash greens well in cold water; drain. Remove stems and chop leaves. Set aside.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, cook bacon on medium-high heat until it is halfway cooked. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is softened and bacon is light brown. Drain off fat, if desired. Reduce heat to medium.

3. Add greens and cook until tender, 10 to 30 minutes.

NOTES: You can clean and chop ingredients one day in advance and store in plastic bags or airtight containers in the refrigerator. The greens can be cooked 30 minutes before serving or cooked several hours in advance, refrigerated and reheated, covered, in the microwave.

Native Bean Salad

1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup olive oil, extra-virgin preferred
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped shallots or red onion
1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
salt to taste

1 cup cooked beans, such as pinto, black (rinsed), appaloosa, scarlet runner, or Christmas limas; see cookís note
1 cup green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces and cooked in boiling water until tender-crisp, drained
1 cup yellow wax beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces and cooked in boiling water until tender-crisp, drained
1 cup jicama, peeled and cut into 1-inch sticks, drizzled with lime juice
1 cup fresh corn cut off the cob
2 cups sunflower sprouts or daikon sprouts
1 cup seeded, cored and diced red bell pepper

1. Place mustard and vinegar in bowl. Whisk in oil and all remaining dressing ingredients. If making ahead, store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.

2. Place salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss in about1⁄2 cup of dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.

NOTES: You can make the dressing up to one week ahead and refrigerate. Prepare salad ingredients and store, individually sealed in plastic containers or bags, in refrigerator up to 1 day in advance. Toss ingredients together about 1 hour before serving. Many health food markets carry a variety of dried heirloom beans, such as appaloosa, scarlet runner or Christmas limas. 

Bread Pudding with Pumpkin and Cranberries

11⁄2 pounds of egg bread, raisin bread or brioche
1 pint whipping cream
1 pint milk
5 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin puree
Optional: 1 cup fresh or dried cranberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 4-quart baking dish with butter.

2. Cut bread into 2-inch cubes and place in prepared 4-quart baking dish.

3. Place cream and milk in a saucepan; bring to boil. Remove from heat.

4. Place all remaining ingredients in large bowl; stir to blend. Stir in milk mixture and pour over bread.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until top is golden brown and custard is firm. Serve with whipped cream or a fruit sauce such as raspberry.

NOTES: The bread pudding can be baked one day in advance, but make sure you donít overcook it. Cook it just until eggs are set. Before reheating, combine 1⁄2 cup milk and1⁄2 cup cream in a bowl and stir. Drizzle it over the pudding; break up the mixture gently with a spoon so the milk mixture will run through the bread. Bake 25-30 minutes in a 300-degree oven. Serve warm. 

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef