Chef Erin O'Shea conjures everything Texas at her Percy Street Barbecue, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, she gravitates to the flavors she recalls from the turkey and trimmings of her childhood on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
"There was always coleslaw and green beans with Durkee onions," O'Shea says. There was also sausage stuffing and an orange Jell-O mold with mandarin oranges. Her mother's Southern-leaning family was nice enough to oblige her New England-raised father with oyster stuffing, too. And to not give him too much of a hard time for pronouncing it pecan (pee-can), not the proper Southern pee-kahn pie.
For the second year, Percy Street is offering a to-go Thanksgiving dinner package that reimagines those food memories with a deft hand: a smoked turkey with corn bread and sausage stuffing, a version of the sweet-potato-with-marshmallow casserole, and O'Shea's best-in-the-city pecan pie.
This year, the chef gets a rare break. All of the to-go orders will be picked up by Wednesday, the restaurant will stay dark, and O'Shea will head home to Maryland for the holiday. And she'll stay out of the kitchen.
"It's a treat not to cook. I get there and poop out on the couch."
If O'Shea is tired, it's no wonder. Percy Street recently opened a stand in the swanky food court at the Comcast Center. She had been spending her mornings there, setting up the line, training staff, and creating a menu of sandwiches using the fragrant and tender meats she smokes at the restaurant.
After the long mornings, she would head back to the South Street flagship to gear up for dinner service, and plan for the Thanksgiving orders that keep rolling in.
Southern cuisine is having a fashionable food moment, and has been creeping into local restaurant menus for a while. But for O'Shea, it's not about catching the latest wave.
"Southern food was always trendy for me," she says. "It's kind of the core of our American food traditions. It's comforting in that sense."
Which is why it can be seamlessly integrated into any Thanksgiving meal, no matter what your family traditions are.
"It's easy," says the chef, in her usual sweet, calming cadence. "You don't need infused oils or high-end ingredients. It's stuff you can find anywhere."
As she keeps talking, she concedes she may not be able to help herself from pitching in, at least with the mashed potatoes. "Making those mashed potatoes with my grandma was some of the first cooking I ever did," she recalls. "I always looked forward to that."
Her grandmother would make them on the stovetop, with an electric hand mixer, cream, and butter, right in the pot.
O'Shea, who shared her recipes with us, makes her version the same way, but in a lipstick-red KitchenAid mixer, outfitted with the paddle attachment. "Add a lot of salt . . . do not hold back on the salt," says the chef as the machine whirls.
For her twist on a Southern stuffing, she uses corn bread as the base. The corn bread should be as fresh as possible, which helps keep the stuffing moist. (Store-bought is fine, freshness is the key.) Bell's Seasoning and sausage are her other must-have ingredients.
Collards are another staple, and a nice Dixie alternative to overcooked green beans. O'Shea slowly simmers hers with ham hock, which she says is easy to find at most grocery stores these days. (Bacon is a fine alternative.) They get hit with hot sauce for spice.
For the to-go packages at Percy Street, the showstopper turkey is smoked. The accompanying gravy is rich and meaty, thanks to smoked brisket trimmings. But her family always ate the traditional roasted bird. When she makes it now, she brines it for 12 hours (for a 15-pounder). "The brine keeps everything moist and seasons it throughout."
She's looking to the day after Thanksgiving as much as the day of. "My mom is a huge mincemeat fan, and she always has the mincemeat pie for breakfast the next day." Southern or Northern, gorging on leftovers is pure American.
Non-cooks, there's no need to settle for instant mashed potatoes, thanks to these area eateries that offer impressive takeout Thanksgiving spreads.
Percy Street Barbecue
A down-home feast. You'll get a 15-pound smoked turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce, a gaggle of sides, and pecan pie. Feeds 6 to 8 people. $225 for the whole meal; $65 for turkey only. Order by Saturday 11/19.
900 South St., 215-625-8510, percystreet.com.
Put together an elegant event with appetizers such as crab cakes and green salads to the traditional eats - mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts with bacon, and turkey that's local and organic. All items are priced a la carte. The 12- to 18-pound turkeys are $80. Order by Friday 11/18.
308 Market St., 215-625-9425, forkrestaurant.com.
Di Bruno Bros.
There are shrimp cocktail platters, butternut squash dip, and the traditional Thanksgiving spread, for $35 a person. Order by Friday 11/18.
1730 Chestnut St., 215-665-9220, dibruno.com.
You'll find sweet treats, tarts, turkey, stuffing, and such Italian dishes as pumpkin risotto and sweet potato gnocchi. A 13- to 18-pound turkey costs $59.99. Order by Friday 11/18.
2616 E. County Line Rd., Ardmore, 610-649-4046 and 128 W. Market St., 610-696-3788, West Chester, carlinosmarket.com.
Order an all-natural turkey to cook yourself, and while you are there, pick up some sides such as apple-walnut salad, gravy, and stuffing. Order turkeys by Sunday 11/20; no preorder on sides necessary.
341 Dartmouth Ave., Swarthmore, 610-543-9805, swarthmore.coop.
Weavers Way Co-Op
You'll have to order your pies early, but get sides such as ginger pumpkin soup and green beans almondine the day before.
559 Carpenter Lane, 215-843-2350 and 8424 Germantown Ave., 215-866-9150, weaversway.coop.
This retro restaurant serves Thanksgiving dinner all year, and offers it in large portions for the holiday. Get the whole dinner (turkey, potatoes, stuffing, etc.) for $95 for 5 people or $190 for 10, or pick up a la carte items such as Caesar salad, creamed spinach, and carrot cake.
700 Chestnut St., 215-223-5663, jones-restaurant.com.
Makes 8 servings
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 gallons water
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon allspice berries
4 whole bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
For the turkey:
Kosher salt and black pepper
1. Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Remove from heat and chill. Place the turkey in a large pot or container. Cover turkey with brine and place in fridge for 12 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, and remove all racks except bottom one. Remove turkey from brine and rinse in cold water. Place in roasting pan, and generously coat with vegetable oil. Season generously with salt and pepper (you should see a light layer of salt). Stuff the cavity with apples or whatever you like and place in oven.
3. Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Most 15-pound birds will take about 2½ to 3 hours. Remove from oven when a thermometer, placed in the thickest part of the turkey, reads 160 degrees. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving.
Per serving: 578 calories, 83 grams protein, trace carbohydrates, 21 grams fat, 215 milligrams cholesterol, 780 milligrams sodium.
Makes 12-14 servings
5 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 pound unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Peel potatoes and cut into cubes that are roughly the same size for even cooking. Place them in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.
2. If using a hand mixer, place potatoes in a bowl. If using a stand mixer, place in bowl and use paddle attachment. Start beating or mixing spuds. Add butter and cream. Don't overmix or potatoes will get gummy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving (based on 14): 326 calories, 5 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 20 grams fat, 58 milligrams cholesterol, 197 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.
Makes 10-12 servings
For the corn bread:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup, plus 3 tablespoons, yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons, sugar
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, baking powder
1 1/4 teaspooons kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
For the stuffing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup small-diced celery
1/2 cup small-diced sweet onion
1/2 pound sausage (your favorite)
5 cups corn bread, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon Bell's Seasoning
1/4 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper
1. For corn bread, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a small saucepan and set aside. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, combine eggs, corn syrup, and buttermilk and mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well. Carefully stir melted butter into the batter. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray. Add batter and bake for about 30 minutes. Cool on cooking rack.
2. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Sweat onions and celery. Season with salt and then set aside. Cut or crumble sausage into small cubes. Saute in a pan over medium-high heat until cooked through. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine corn bread, celery, onions, sausage (including the fat), Bell's Seasoning, stock, and egg. Mix well. Place in a 9-inch pie plate or glass dish. (Cook any extra in a separate smaller dish.) Cook on the middle oven rack for about 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.
Per serving: 437 calories, 11 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams sugar, 25 grams fat, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 785 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.
Makes 6-8 servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or pork fat
1½ pounds ham hock
1 red onion, medium dice
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 pounds collards, stems removed, rinsed
Salt and pepper
1½ quarts pork or chicken stock
2 tablespoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1. Heat oil or pork fat in a large pot over medium heat. Sweat ham hocks, red onions, garlic, and pepper flakes. Add greens, stirring frequently, until they begin to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until just tender. Remove collards from pot, add hot sauce and vinegar. Feel free to make ahead, as the flavor develops with time.
Per serving (based on 8): 324 calories, 30 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 18 grams fat, 82 milligrams cholesterol, 759 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.
Makes 8-10 servings
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
4 tablespoons Crisco, also in small pieces and chilled
5-6 tablespoons ice water
1¼ cups pecans (whole or halves)
1/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, melted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup dark corn syrup
½ cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. To make the crust, whisk together flour, salt, and sugar. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add butter and Crisco. Using a pastry cutter or butter knife, cut the fats into the flour, until crumbly with some larger pieces. Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, while gently kneading the dough. When dough comes together, smooth to the touch and not tacky, stop adding water. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for one hour.
2. Spray 9-inch pie pan with nonstick spray. Add a few tablespoons of flour and distribute evenly. Flour the counter. Roll dough to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness. Place in pie pan, folding in half for easy transport. Run a paring knife around edges for finished edge. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the dough 4 to 5 times. Place the shell in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before filling.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans on a cookie sheet and roast in oven for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix nuts with 2 tablespoons melted butter and salt. In another bowl, whisk eggs. Add corn syrups, sugar, bourbon, vanilla, and 1/3 cup melted butter. Place pecans in the pie shell and add filling. Bake on the middle oven rack for 30 to 40 minutes. The filling will be slightly loose in the middle. Let cool on a rack for about 30 minutes. Refrigerate to set the filling.
Per serving (based on 10): 535 calories, 5 grams protein, 60 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams sugar, 32 grams fat, 99 milligrams cholesterol, 419 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.