The Easy Appetizer and Versatile Wines You Need This Thanksgiving

Let’s face it. Thanksgiving is a mess this year.

With COVID-19 roaring back like Glenn Close in the bathtub in Fatal Attraction, most of us are slinking back into the stationary state that helped flatten the curve months ago. We’re not traveling, we’re not gathering. If you’re accustomed to cooking a Turkey Day smorgasbord that could feed an army, you’re now confronting the reality of planning dinner for a couple of people huddled in a trench, or maybe just a lone soldier: yourself.

A turkey is a large bird. A pie is meant to be sliced. What’s the point of whipping up five pounds of mashed potatoes when you can’t set the table for visiting relatives? Even if you despise cooking and your extended family usually prefers to tumble into a restaurant on the last Thursday in November, well, sorry. You can’t do that, either.

Accept it. The only remedy is to untether yourself from traditional expectations. There is no shame in roasting a chicken. There is nothing wrong with ordering takeout. The whole point of the holiday is to express gratitude, and as we approach the twelfth month of the grotesque carnival shitshow that has been 2020, you deserve a pat on the back simply for making it this far.

What do you like to eat? What do you want to eat? Cheeseburgers? Go for it. A heaping, steaming mountain of fried rice? Sign us up. Let desire guide you.

chefowner erik bruner yang and executive chef armani johnson of abc pony in washington dc
Chef/owner Erik Bruner-Yang and executive chef Armani Johnson of ABC Pony in Washington D.C.

Jeff Gordinier

I know that ever since I tried it over the summer, I have been dreaming about the crab dip that’s served at ABC Pony in Washington D.C. The chef behind it is Armani Johnson, Esquire’s Rising Star of the Year in our recent Best New Restaurants list. From the moment I first plunged a spoon into it, I envisioned this crab dip — with biscuit dough piped right on top and baked into the creamy, cheesy base — as the showstopper at countless winter parties: a shared appetizer on Thanksgiving, a wait-give-me-more-of-that centerpiece during Christmas and New Year’s Eve benders, the pièce de résistance of a Super Bowl spread. We can’t celebrate in unison this season, no, but there’s nothing stopping you from cooking the crab dip — we’ve got the recipe right here — and letting it carry you safely through the holidays like a raft.

Hell, Armani Johnson’s dip, a bag of potato chips, and a good bottle of wine would make for an unforgettable Thanksgiving, particularly if you’re on your own. As for the pours, we’ve turned to Esquire’s Beverage Director of the Year, Madeline “Maddy” Maldonado of Da Toscano in downtown Manhattan. Take a look at her picks, below, and savor every sip. In the end there is no wrong way to do Thanksgiving 2020. The only mistake would be to feel guilty about it.

abc pony crab dip
The ABC Pony crab dip.

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Recipe: ABC Pony Crab Dip

By Armani Johnson of ABC Pony, Washington, D.C.

Ingredients for dip

1 lb crab meat
6 oz block cream cheese
8 oz heavy cream
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz dijon mustard
1 tbsp Old Bay
4 oz caramelized onion
1 tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Instructions (part 1)

  1. Melt cream cheese and heavy cream in pot . Heat and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once cooled, add remaining ingredients and mix. (Use fresh thyme leaves, if possible, although dried will work. Johnson uses Maryland blue crab, but any crab meat will work.)
  3. Fill your baking vessel with crab dip and set aside (cast iron would be ideal for a home oven, as it holds heat very well, but an aluminum tray will work too.)

Ingredients for biscuit

16 oz all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 lb butter, melted
2 1/2 cups buttermilk, chilled
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions (part 2)

  1. Melt your butter and allow it to cool at room temperature.
  2. Measure your dry ingredients and shredded cheddar cheese and refrigerate until you are ready to mix.
  3. Mix the cooled melted butter and chilled buttermilk together.
  4. Add to your dry ingredients and mix by hand until there are no more dry spots.
  5. Pipe or spoon your biscuit mixture on top of your crab mixture and bake at 350 for twenty minutes. Serve.
abc pony crab dip
Piping the biscuit mixture onto the crab dip.

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5 Versatile and Fun Thanksgiving Wines

As selected by Madeline Maldonado of Da Toscano, New York

canaiuolo

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Montenidoli Canaiuolo Rosato 2018 Tuscany, Italy

Rosé can be some of the most food-friendly wine to drink all year round because it doesn’t fatigue the palate, which means that the Thanksgiving table is the perfect place to showcase its versatility. This rosé hails from San Gimignano in Tuscany and is made from the native variety Canaiuolo, which is more commonly seen as a supporting role and rarely the main character. The wine has a subtle perfume of red fruits, blood orange, and flowers. The palate and structure present more like a red wine with minerality, spice, and a saline edge.

Chan de Rosas, Rias Biaxas Albariño ‘Cuvée Especial’ 2018 Galicia, Spain

When albariño is mentioned we think of a wine to wash down lighter summer fare or quench our thirst in the warmer weather—not a Thanksgiving wine. This one has spent some time in French oak, giving it a bit more weight and roundness. It’ll hold up to appetizers and the main courses. The delicate and pretty aromas of pear, baking spice, and flowers will appeal to the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay drinker at the table.

ruche

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Montalbera , Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato ‘La Tradizione” 2018 Piedmont, Italy

Piedmontese wine can be synonymous with Nebbiolo, mainly from Barolo and Barbaresco. But there are some lesser-known and ancient varieties that can stand up to food at a fraction of the price. Ruché is one of those varieties. Montalbera happens to specialize in this variety, ‘La Tradizione’ being one of their younger and stainless steel cuvées. On the nose, it presents a bouquet of violets, raspberries, and damp earth. The surprise factor of this wine is the persistence, juiciness, and firm yet subtle tannins that will hold up to the Thanksgiving turkey, while still pairing with all the sides and vegetables, especially mushrooms and truffles. Drink it with a slight chill.

Le Grange de L’ Oncle Charles Gewürztraminer Orange 2019 Alsace, France

A fun, all-natural wild card for the off-the-beaten path Thanksgiving dinner. A 100% Gewürztraminer orange wine that pours an amber-like hue in the glass. The nose is reminiscent of a flower garden, hydrangea, rose petal, violets, etc but the time the wine spends on its skins not only gives it the color, but tea-like tannins, earthiness, and an apple cider- esque and bergamot finish. It can complement meats, offal, and umami-rich flavors and sauces.

optical illusion

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Welcome Stranger “Optical Illusion” 2019 Mendocino, California

A project borne out of a good time amongst friends, this wine is the product of a winemaker and distributor breaking down traditional barriers and challenging expectations. Hand-harvested and organically farmed, it is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Merlot, that is super bright with cranberry and pomegranate fruits on the nose. Its freshness and atypicality will make for a good conversation at the table. Best served with a chill.

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Source : Esquire