Holiday Feast! 

Lip-smackin’, tummy-ticklin’ recipes from local folks who love food

Like a kid anticipating a birthday, the crew at the Independent can smell a holiday coming from weeks off. And from our perspective, Thanksgiving smells the best of them all.
Just imagine how the aromas of a lovingly basted, perfectly browned roasted turkey beckon from the oven. Mercy. The buttery warmth of fresh mashed potatoes. Oh, yeah. The hearty fruit goodness of a homemade cranberry sauce. That’s good soul, brothers and sisters.

No holiday revolves so centrally around the pleasures of the senses like Thanksgiving. And there’s no other holiday we’d rather highlight with a special issue celebrating its universal mmm, mmm goodness.

This year, the Indy has collected recipes from a variety of local foodies, including a handful of culinary pros, along with a few casual epicureans, to help the rest of us infuse a little extra flavor and spirit into our holiday feasts. The recipes that follow are simple enough for even novice cooks using supermarket ingredients, but tasty enough to serve to visiting dignitaries. So dig in and enjoy. You can thank us later.


Southern cornbread stuffing

John Engen
Mayor of Missoula

A lot of people would welcome the company of Missoula Mayor John Engen at their holiday table, because he’s such a funny guy. Quick with a joke, Engen can get a rise out of almost any room, regardless of political persuasion. But do you know he can cook, too?

For the benefit of Indy readers and the community, Engen shares a dish he discovered just recently, a recipe for cornbread stuffing “that was so popular with the kin last year that I’ll repeat it this year,” he says.

“I really like to cook, but don’t make as much time for it as I once did, so cooking for Thanksgiving is a treat for me,” Engen says. “This is from Southern belle Paula Deen.”

Southern Cornbread Stuffing

Cornbread, recipe follows
7 slices oven-dried white bread
1 sleeve saltine crackers
8 tablespoons butter
2 cups celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
7 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sage (optional)
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (optional)
5 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the crumbled cornbread, dried white bread slices, and saltines. Set the dry mixture aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture
over the dry ingredients. Add the stock and mix well. Taste, then add salt and pepper, sage, and poultry seasoning to suit. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Reserve 2 heaping tablespoons of this mixture for the giblet gravy. Pour mixture into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees until dressing is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Serve with turkey as a side dish.


1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into a greased, shallow baking dish. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
To serve, cut the cornbread into squares and serve with butter. Or use in Southern Cornbread Stuffing. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Uncle Bill’s stuffed turkey breast

Bill Stoianoff
Master Charcutier
Joint Effort

“Uncle” Bill Stoianoff, master sausage maker and proprietor of Missoula’s Joint Effort toy store, elevates the traditional roast turkey by butterflying the breasts and stuffing them with prosciutto, spinach and bleu cheese.

If you’ve never butterflied a bird before, Stoianoff says it’s easy. Just remove the breast from the bone and split it open. Stoianoff recommends removing the skin first. “Run your hands underneath it and just kind of pick it up and pull it up from the sides to the center, and then run your knife down the center underneath the skin to keep it one piece,” he explains.
To butterfly the breasts, first remove them from the bone individually, then simply split each of them right down the middle and lay them open.

Even if you mess up and cut the breasts apart into two pieces, don’t despair. “If you’ve got two pieces, then you just hammer them all flat and roll them up with a piece of plastic to help you do it,” Stoianoff says.

Uncle Bill’s Stuffed Turkey Breast

1 six to eight pound raw bone-in turkey breast
1 bag fresh spinach
1/2 pound thin cut ham or prosciutto thyme
bleu cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove the skin from the turkey in one piece and save it. Cut the breasts free from the bone and butterfly each one from center out (see above). Cover the meat with plastic wrap and pound with a mallet until achieving uniform thickness of about 1 inch or so. Season with salt, pepper and thyme to taste.
Cover breasts with ham slices or prosciutto. Remove stems from spinach leaves and lay on top of the meat. Then cover the spinach with bleu cheese.
Roll up the breasts like a jellyroll and wrap the rolls with the skin. Tie it all up with string.
Bake until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 degrees. Remove it from the over. Tent with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Carve by slicing the rolls into discs, just like a jellyroll.

Side dish

Cauliflower gratin with queso

Layne Rolston
Marketing Director
Good Food Store

As a former restaurateur and the current marketing director for Missoula’s Good Food Store, Layne Rolston knows his way around the produce aisle. He says he first prepared this spicy cauliflower dish a few years ago when his family decided to give Thanksgiving a Mexican twist.

“We probably only have turkey one out of every four or five years,” he says. “We just eat a big nice family meal together on that day, and it might be Mexican, and it might be traditional one year, and it might be Italian another year. We kind of treat Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks with a feast, but not in the traditional way.”

For variation, Rolston suggests giving the recipe more of a Mediterranean flavor by eliminating the cayenne, then substituting roasted red bell peppers and a mix of mozzarella and feta cheeses and adding a few sliced Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Cauliflower Gratin with Queso Cotija

2 heads cauliflower
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound fresh poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into strips
12 ounces cotija cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil in a medium-large pot. Rinse and trim the cauliflower, breaking the heads into bite-sized florets. Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and blanch it for just three minutes, or until it begins to get tender. Don’t let the cauliflower get too soft. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Stir together the cream and cayenne. Lightly oil a shallow four-quart baking dish and layer about 1/4 of the well-drained cauliflower florets. Drizzle 1/4 of the spiced cream over the cauliflower, season with salt and pepper, then top with a layer of the roasted poblano strips and shredded cotija. Repeat by adding three more layers.

Bake until cheese is golden brown and cauliflower is tender. Makes eight servings.


Winter squash soup

Scott Gill
Scotty’s Table

This simple soup recipe from Scott Gill of Scotty’s Table in Missoula takes advantage of the fresh local squash available this time of year. Gill points out that it’s the only fresh local produce you can find this late in the fall.

“It’s been a traditional dish that we’ve made in my family for a long time,” Gill says, explaining that he often prepares a variation that omits most of the liquid. Use just a small amount of broth, along with the squash and seasonings, to turn this recipe into a side dish for mashed squash, instead of potatoes.

If you would like to spice it up a bit, Gill suggests seasoning the soup with cayenne pepper.

Winter Squash Soup

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium butternut or other favorite squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon fresh garlic
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg butter or olive oil
28-32 ounces organic chicken or vegetable stock
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
8 to12 ounces apple juice salt and pepper

In a medium, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat add butter/olive oil, onions, and squash. Cook until onions start to turn golden (caramelize), stirring often.
Make a well in the center of the pot. Add a little oil, garlic and ginger. Heat the garlic and ginger until they caramelize, then add white wine and apple juice. Reduce for three to five minutes.

Add stock, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add heavy cream. Simmer another eight or nine minutes Garnish with toasted almonds, diced apples or grated nutmeg.


Milk chocolate marbled pumpkin cheesecake

Toby McCracken
Executive Chef
The Stock Farm Club

The executive chef at the Stock Farm since 1999, Toby McCracken says he wrote this recipe because he thought incorporating pumpkin into cheesecake would work nicely. The addition of chocolate adds some contrasting flavor to the dish.

“It is one of my favorite desserts that we enjoy with a late harvest ice wine or Sauterne,” he says.

Milk Chocolate Cheesecake

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup cake flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

1 pound cream cheese
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
15-ounce can of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
6 ounces milk chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, cake flour and sugar in a bowl. Add butter and mix thoroughly. Pack crust into the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan. Set aside.

For the filling, melt chocolate in the top half of a double boiler, or in the microwave, and keep it warm. Blend cream cheese and sugar in a mixer until well blended. Add pumpkin, mix until combined, and then scrape down the bowl. Add eggs one at a time until each is incorporated. Fold in vanilla, cinnamon and allspice.

Pour mixture over crust. Drizzle milk chocolate over the top of the cheese mixture and swirl with a toothpick.

Wrap foil around bottom of the spring form pan to prevent water from seeping into the cake. Place pan on a cookie sheet filled with water to create a water bath. Bake cheesecake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes. To ensure doneness, a toothpick poked in the center of the cheesecake should come out clean .


Fresh cranberry sauce & cranberry fruit stuffing

Albert Henricks
Sous Chef
St. Patrick Hospital

Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce is like a painting without a frame. The hearty fruit adds a whole new dimension of flavor to the plate and brings otherwise mild turkey flavors into sharper focus. A roasted bird served without it just isn’t quite complete, is it?

Albert Henricks, along with Executive Chef Kim Melchior and the kitchen crew at St. Patrick Hospital, have developed their own take on holiday cranberries and have shared recipes for basic sauce and a stuffing that makes a great side dish.

“We feature them in the Blarney Stone Café when we serve roast turkey,” Melchior says. “We develop the recipes with the help of the team at St. Pat’s. They are upscale recipes, but we need to keep it simple due to the volume of the meals we serve. They are perfect for the home.”

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

1 cup apple pie filling (or apples)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup fresh orange juice
3 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Chop the apples or pie filling if needed. Combine all the ingredients in a pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until cranberries pop open. Allow it to cool before serving. Makes 10 servings.

Cranberry Fruit Stuffing

1 cup chopped onions
1 cup celery
1/4 cup margarine
9 ounces Stove Top dry stuffing mix, include spices
2 cups dry fruit, like dried cran berries, apples, apricots, etc.
1 cup cranberry sauce
2 1/4 cups boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sautee onions, celery and margarine, then cool before adding all the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well. Add boiling water and combine. Bake in greased casserole dish until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees, about 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 12 servings.


Poached pears in persimmon sauce

Rhonda Fitzgerald
The Garden Wall Inn

Rhonda Fitzgerald, chef at The Garden Wall Inn in Whitefish, offered up a whole brunch worth of holiday food ideas, but she says this recipe for poached pears in persimmon sauce is her favorite. “It’s really visually stunning and it tastes great,” says Fitzgerald. “People feel very pampered when you serve it to them.”

Despite that, she says, it’s easy to cook, and uses ingredients in season now.

Poached Pears in Warm Persimmon Sauce

4 firm pears; choose well-shaped unblemished pears that are firm (not hard) to the touch.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine; I use Riesling, but any will do.
2 ripe Fuyu persimmons
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons Poire liqueur, or substitute light rum or other spirit
Optional garnish of mint leaves and pomegranate seeds

Peel the persimmons with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1/2-inch dice. In a small saucepan, toss persimmons with powdered sugar and cornstarch. Add just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to a boil while stirring gently, then reduce heat immediately. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, add liqueur and keep warm while pears are cooking.

Meanwhile, place a rack (like a cake rack) in a large pot (like a pasta pot) and fill the pot with an inch of water. Add the white wine.

Peel the pears, then core pears from the bottom to halfway up, leaving stem intact. Dip peeled, cored pear in a measuring cup of water to which lemon juice has been added. The quick dip will prevent the pear from turning brown. Place the pear on the rack in the pot. Repeat with next 3 pears. Cover the pot, bring the water to a gentle boil and cook pears until a toothpick inserted near the bottom of the pear enters easily to the center of the pear. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon as they are ready. Test each pear, sometimes they do not all cook at the same rate. And be careful to not overcook them, they will retain some heat. Drain the pears and serve as soon as possible.

To serve, place each pear upright in a stemmed glass with wide bowl (sherbet, old-fashioned champagne, or margarita). A shallow bowl also works. Spoon one fourth of the sauce on the bottom half of each pear. The top of the pear will be pale yellow, the bottom half will be bright orange, and the excess sauce will pool around the pear. Sprinkle from five to seven bright red pomegranate seeds onto the persimmon sauce. Insert a mint leaf next to the stem. This is easiest if a hole is poked first with a toothpick. Makes four servings.

Side dish

Wild mushroom bread pudding

Laurence Coffman
Executive Chef
Blue Canyon Kitchen and Tavern

Chef Laurence Coffman at the Blue Canyon in Missoula’s Hilton Garden Inn says he serves this mushroom dish as a side for his bone-in bison rib chop at the restaurant. “I like to season it with the Blue Canyon pork seasoning,” he says. “It contains crushed peppercorn medley, fennel, dehydrated garlic, shallot and onion. It is not necessary, but I feel it takes it up to the next level.”

Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding

1 loaf of day old bread or 10 rolls torn into small chunks
1 pound of portabella mushrooms diced
1 pound of shitake mushrooms,
1 pound of cremini mushrooms, diced
1 red onion, minced
1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
2 quarts of heavy whipping cream
12 whole eggs
*Blue Canyon pork seasoning (available for sale at the restaurant)
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the cream on the stove at a medium low heat. While the cream heats up, grease the bottom and insides of a baking dish. Mix the bread, mushrooms, onions and garlic in the baking dish.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and temper them by whisking in half of the heated cream, stirring constantly. When the mixture becomes warm, whisk it back into the pot of cream.

Just before the combined cream and eggs reach a simmer, slowly pour the liquid over the bread mixture. Mix everything together to get the bread to soak up all of the ingredients. Coffmann recommends wearing gloves and making fists with the bread, which will prevent dry bread in your finished pudding. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wrap in plastic and cover with anything that has weight. Cans from the pantry will do fine. The weight on top helps the bread soak up the other ingredients. Let the pudding sit covered in the refrigerator either over night, or for at least two hours prior to baking.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover pudding and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes. Serves eight, with some left over.


Butternut Shrimp Bisque

Andy Blanton
Café Kandahar

Andy Blanton spent years living and studying culinary arts in Louisiana, but these days he works in decidedly cooler climes, as head chef and owner of Café Kandahar on Big Mountain. His recipe, he says, “Is a nice, warm and very flavorful dish for cool nights.”

Butternut Shrimp Bisque

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium sized butternut squash, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled (21-25 ct. work well)
6 cups shrimp stock (Chicken broth or water will work, also.)
2 cups heavy cream (Whole milk can also be used.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the seeds from the halved butternut squash. Rub the skin and flesh of the squash with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Place the squash skin side up on a flat cookie sheet and roast for about 25 minutes in the oven.
While the squash roasts, heat a large heavy duty saucepan or stockpot on medium high heat. Pour in 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion, celery, and bell peppers until they start to sweat, becoming translucent, which will take approximately 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often.

Add the shrimp and continue to sauté on medium high heat until the shrimp begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp.

Next, add the garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, oregano, thyme, green onions, and bay leaves while stirring continuously for about 45 seconds.

Pour in the shrimp stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the heavy cream with a whisk. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 25

minutes on medium low heat. The soup should gently bubble while it simmers.

While the soup cooks, check on the butternut squash. It should be soft to the touch when firmly pressed. When the squash feels done, set it aside and allow it to cool. Once cool, use a spoon to remove the pulp from the skin of the butternut. Discard the skin.

Around this time the soup should be close to finishing the simmering process. Add the butternut pulp, stirring it into soup, then puree the soup using a hand blender or a food processor, but be sure to remove the bay leaves first.

Adjust the thickness of the soup by adding more cream if necessary. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If you use milk, the soup may need more time to simmer after pureeing it, so that it may thicken to the desired consistency. Makes eight servings.

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