There’s something about the onslaught of Thanksgiving recipes every fall that makes me never want to reach inside a turkey or frizzle my own onions for green bean casserole ever again. Holiday kitchen hacks and foodie culture have advanced the average home cook’s repertoire so much in recent years, your grandma probably dry brined and spatchcocked her bird like a pro this year.
What interests me more is how we nourish ourselves (and enjoy ourselves) with food and drink around the holidays — when everyone is rushing around with work, school, and travel, in addition to holiday preparations and celebrations at the end of the year.
It’s counterintuitive to me that we don’t put more emphasis on everyday recipes for this bustling season, when cooler temperatures and seasonal changes prompt us to switch up our eating and drinking. Balanced meals that are also easy to prepare and utilize fall ingredients make me much more thankful for a Thanksgiving feast or holiday cheese plate than for a week or two of thoughtless takeout orders or grilled cheese sandwiches before and after big celebratory meals.
My drink preferences change this time of year, too: I know I’ll be sipping on bold reds and bubbly for the next month and a half — so I’m on the hunt for other fall flavors to add into the holiday mix.
This year, with the Thanksgiving meal behind us, I’m already looking ahead to the kind of post-binge, recalibrated eating and drinking we normally see in magazines and blogs in January for inspiration. I’m talking simply dressed salads, quick-cooking cuts of lean meat, hearty starches and whole grains that aren’t dressed up with too much cheese or cream (of course, a dollop of butter is okay).
To drink, I’m looking for bright, crisp flavors, with maybe a little of that farmhouse funk. Even though it’s alcohol, which some choose to avoid at the start of a new year, a tangy, yeasty sour appeals to me. Maybe because it’s got that “kombucha-esque, healthy-ish vibe”?
So, in between the holiday blowouts, I’m sticking with quick-cooking cuts of meat, crisp greens, and simple starches. Sear some pastured pork sirloin steaks. Toss together a citrusy vinaigrette (clementines, which just came into season are clutch for quick salad dressings this time of year). Add the last of fall’s fresh veggies. Cook up some potatoes, whole grains, like farro or brown rice, or even a mix of savory mushrooms, like maitake and king trumpet. Prep is minimal, the ingredient list is short, and your body will thank you for taking care of it between rich holiday plates.
Serve a simple meal, like the one described, with a fruity, citrusy cider like Big Hill Cider’s Marmalade. It’s a sour, part of its Small Batch Series, a wild-fermented, skin-contact cider fermented with peaches, orange zest and honey. The peaches come through in the aroma, underscored by a tanginess from the wild yeast on the skin of the fruit. The flavor is crisp, bright and citrusy. It cuts through the richness of the pork and buttered potatoes beautifully, and the fresh citrus juice in the vinaigrette brings out the orange zest in the cider.
So, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the richness of holiday cuisine through the end of the year, consider a preemptive reset with this pairing — and know that great food and drink should comfort your body, as well as your holiday spirit!
Interested in more food and cider pairings? Check out our Thanksgiving pairing guide (useful for other winter holidays, too!) and Alex’s other pairing columns about spicy okra tomato stew and Vermont cheeses.
- Feature photo: Alex Jones