Home With The Lost Italian

Excerpts of this post have been published in the Wednesday, November 14, 2012 edition of The Forum, and can be found here: Home with The Lost Italian.

We were pleased to learn that our debut column in our local newspaper, The Forum, would coincide perfectly with Tony’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. As America’s favorite feasting tradition, the Thanksgiving holiday boasts a bounty of recipes to choose from; finding a topic for our first column would be easy.  Ha! After days of rejecting idea after idea, and more than one exasperated eye roll toward each other (more from me, I confess), we soon realized that this bountiful holiday presented more of a challenge for us than we’d anticipated.

After reviewing our previous menus for Thanksgiving-themed cooking classes, as well as countless magazines and cookbooks, the only thing we agreed on was that we would never agree on a single recipe. How do you condense this great American holiday into one recipe? The answer: we can’t. So we decided to compromise. We’d each pick one dish to showcase, with the agreement that we had to choose a dish that encompassed as many Thanksgiving flavors as possible.

Once we’d made our decisions, it was time to get to work. We sat down, turned on Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown tunes to set the holiday mood, and talked for over two hours about Thanksgiving, what we love about this holiday, and why we chose our recipes.

Stuffed Turkey Breast

Stuffed Turkey Breast

As I mentioned earlier, Tony loves the Thanksgiving feast, and not just because his mother-in-law does all the cooking.

“To me, Thanksgiving represents the ultimate in tradition: nearly every family celebrates with turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy…the works. And I love that! Tradition is very important in Italian culture, as are food and family, so I embrace everything this holiday is about. And I don’t even miss the pasta!”

Tony often likes to take a familiar tradition and try to give it new life, and that’s just what he’s done with his recipe for Stuffed Turkey Breast.

“This recipe is my spin on a classic Thanksgiving dinner. I like it because it incorporates the flavors of the season, without the hassle of planning a major feast. The turkey’s there, tender and moist, stuffed with apple-soaked raisins, brown sugar, carrots, all great fall flavors. And then you add the Panko bread crumbs…” Here, Tony pauses and lets out a long sigh. It’s clear to see that he is happy with his recipe choice.  “It’s also a perfect dish for smaller groups, like newlyweds, empty-nesters, or small families.”

Before heading outside to play with our son, Giovanni, he adds this seasonal anecdote.

“The other day, as I was driving to Sarello’s, traffic actually stopped for a moment on First Avenue in Moorhead, just to let a group of wild turkeys pass. They actually stopped traffic – only in Fargo-Moorhead!”

This recipe for Stuffed Turkey Breast really has a lot going for it. Elegant in its presentation, it’s also easy to assemble, and can be prepared up to two days in advance. And while the flavors may not be Italian, Tony has managed to work his culture into the dish via the Scaloppine technique used to prepare the turkey cutlets, which ensures their tenderness and fast cooking time. To complement the turkey breast, Tony pairs the dish with a Pomegranate Butter Sauce.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

My recipe of choice, Sweet Potato Cheesecake, has been a seasonal favorite at Sarello’s for years. Our guests are always pleasantly surprised when first tasting this dessert, which has become one of our most requested recipes. We love the versatility of sweet potatoes in cooking, and this dish also puts a new spin on a classic Thanksgiving food.

Velvety smooth in texture, Sweet Potato Cheesecake is bursting with autumnal flavors of cinnamon, brown sugar, and of course, sweet potatoes. The key to this recipe is in its preparation. Roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven first helps to bring out their natural sweetness, and makes such a difference in the overall flavor.

To further enhance this dish, we prepare our own Caramel Sauce and drizzle it around the plate before placing a slice of cake on top. Add a dollop of whipped cream and some strawberry slices, and your guests will soon be asking you for the recipe.

Just as I was finishing up this column, Tony walked into the kitchen and shared this bit of humor with me.

“Every day is Thanksgiving in this house, when you’re married to a turkey.” Hmmm…who’s the turkey?

To get the recipes, visit our Recipes page to print out copies of each featured recipe. If you’d like more ideas for Thanksgiving, be sure to check out Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips, as well as our Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations and Turkey Thawing Guidelines.