SAVORING THE PLEASURES OF KEENS THANKSGIVING DAY DINNER
By JR Rosenthal
Photos courtesy Keens Steak House
The Food Network makes a big deal of trotting out its Thanksgiving how-to programs, complete with an All-Star lineup of TV cooking instructors. Who doesn’t love to watch Bobby Flay and his legion of lesser chefs try to teach you how to prepare the perfect holiday meal?
At the end of the day, though, after Alton Brown is done making pithy jokes and Flay decides that adobo really does go with traditional stuffing, the fact remains that the best Thanksgiving meal at any price, in any home or restaurant, is the All-American Thanksgiving Day Dinner at Keens Steakhouse in New York City.
For the sixth consecutive year, we bring you a blow-by-blow description of every dish on this incredible holiday menu. These culinary insights come directly from Keens Executive Chef Bill Rodgers, the man behind the meal served to more than 800 lucky patrons of the best steakhouse in New York.
Round 1: Starters (You get to choose one from this gang of 5 goodies)
Iced Shrimp Cocktail: “This is a colossal array of jumbo shrimp, with four large shrimp to a portion, and it is served with our house-made cocktail sauce. We use our own blend of fresh horseradish, sugar and vinegar and it is garnished with fresh lemon. The plump white Mexican shrimp offer the perfect flavor and texture combination—always fresh and beautiful. We’ve found the white shrimp from Mexico are superior to Tiger Shrimp for the ultimate shrimp cocktail.”
Beet Tartare with Goat Cheese: “We have steak tartare on our menu and we have done a halibut tartare as a special menu item. But this Thanksgiving I wanted to do something out of the box as a vegetarian option as an appetizer. I love working with beets so why not a beet tartare? My interpretation of a beet tartare features a Brunoise cut of beets and cucumbers with a little bit of grated orange zest and chopped candied walnuts. I add a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette, balsamic vinegar on top, and it is set in a ring mold. Now, on top of it all is goat cheese mixed with fresh-cut rosemary and thyme. The goat cheese is whipped, and then to plate the dish I will garnish with mache lettuce and unmold it so it looks beautiful.”
Grilled Thick-Cut Berkshire Bacon: “This is a two-slice portion, served with an arugula salad and cherry tomatoes. This is a classic menu item at Keens. The bacon is thick, smoky and complex in flavor.”
Roasted Pumpkin with Figs, Arugula and Ben’s Herb Cheese: “We prepare delicate slices of roasted pumpkin with figs, arugula and Ben’s herb cheese. Ben is a local purveyor of delicious cream cheese and we add the herbs (tarragon, parsley and chives) in our kitchen. The cheese is served in a quenelle on top of the pumpkin.”
Maryland Lump Crab Cakes: “We serve two 2 ½ ounce crab cakes per plate. It is a combination of Maryland lump crab and Maine crab. We plate the crab cakes with fresh greens and marinated red onion.”
Round 2: Soup/Salad (Pick one )
Butternut Squash Soup: “We have served different squash soups in the past and this is a new spin on a traditional classic. The autumnal elements are roasted butternut squash, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, chicken stock, a little bit of cream to round out the flavor combinations and to lend a silky texture.”
Gem Lettuce Salad with Green Goddess: “Gem lettuce is essentially Boston Bibb lettuce and this will be served with the classic Green Goddess Dressing: mayonnaise, sour cream, chervil, chive, tarragon, anchovy, lemon juice and pepper. The dressing is named for its color/tint, and it originated at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco as a tribute to the hit play, “’The Green Goddess’.”
Round 3: Entrées (Pick One of Five)
Organic Free Free-Range Turkey from Quattro Farms in Pleasant Valley, New York: “These are the best locally-raised turkeys
in New York. I usually cook about 50 turkeys that I brine in-house for 24 hours. My day begins at 4:30 a.m. to cook the first round of turkeys (they go in the oven at 5:30 a.m.), which must be ready for our family (staff) meal at noon and the first service at 1 p.m. The turkey is served with a brioche stuffing, which has lots of herbs, celery, garlic, onions, chicken stock and butter.”
Two Double Colorado Lamb Chops: “Each lamb chop is 6 ounces and it is tender and delicious. We buy the lamb and mutton—used in the legendary mutton chop—from the same purveyor and he is probably the best source for lamb in the USA. We serve the lamb shops with a side of house-made mint jelly and mint jus, which is a brown sauce that’s infused with mint at the last minute.”
Prime Rib of Beef (King’s Cut): “We serve a 28-30 ounce prime rib that’s accompanied by a horseradish jus that’s made with our homemade horseradish and beef stock combination that you won’t find anywhere else. It is a very large and flavorful USDA prime cut of beef.”
USDA Prime Filet: “A 12-ounce USDA Prime Filet that’s the most tender and juicy cut, as it comes from the tenderloin and we typically serve it without a sauce to appreciate the nuances of the beef. Ordering the USDA Prime Filet allows you to do a surf and turf, provided you arrange to share with anyone at your table who is willing to order the Steamed Whole Maine Lobster.”
Steamed 2-pound Whole Maine Lobster: “Everything is pre-cracked so it is easy to enjoy the succulent chunks of fresh Maine
lobster. No need for aprons and an assortment of tools to break through the shell of the tail and claw to get to your precious lobster meat. It is served with fresh lemon wedges and, of course, drawn butter on the side. The hard shell lobsters from colder waters are the best, and that’s what we serve at Keens. Special requests for lobsters with more claw or tail meat are also accommodated for savants.”
Desserts (Choose one of these classics—comments from JR Rosenthal)
Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Cream: The ginger cream is the perfect complement to the almost savory all-spice and pumpkin flavors; a perfect pumpkin pie for its crust and smooth-as-silk filling.
Pecan Pie with Bourbon Cream: The bourbon cream steals the show.
Lady M Chocolate Cake: A perfect balance between cocoa and sweetness.
And, naturally, there’s also an assortment of sorbets and ice creams for anyone who simply can’t make up their mind because they have no cognitive ability left after enjoying one of the great dining pleasures of a lifetime.
IF YOU GO:
Keens Steakhouse, 72 W. 36th Street, New York City, New York.