DOUBLING DOWN ON THANKSGIVING
By JR Rosenthal
Food and Wine Editor, NT Traveler
It’s been said that you have to wait 364 days to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, and this culinary form of purgatory (a long one!) tempts both patience and self-restraint—in truth, November 26 is the only day on the 2015 calendar that allows for the type of Roman-debauchery style of dining that would make Caligula and Babe Ruth proud.
As always at Natural Traveler, the goal is to champion the menu at Keens Steakhouse in New York City, the best steakhouse in New York. I don’t make this claim without having had more than 50 dinners at Keens over the past two years. Every menu item has been sampled and analyzed. Each dinner special (the smoked 12-ounce Filet, for instance,) enjoyed for its excellent quality (hand-selected USDA Prime) and an uncanny ability for the broiler chef to turn out a dish that’s cooked exactly to the doneness one desires.
Keen’s Executive Chef Bill Rodgers is like the Rock of Gibraltar at Thanksgiving: He rolls out of bed at 3 a.m. on Turkey Day to insure that all of the turkeys, Filets, Prime Ribs, Lobsters and Lamb Chops are prepped for a marathon day of dining pleasure.
Here, in order of the author’s preference, are the items on the 2015 Keens Turkey-day menu. As needed, I will quote Chef Rodgers to explain or expand upon a special dish.
ICED RELISH TRAY
Yeah, I know what you are thinking: Who cares about the relish tray? At Keens, though, it’s a big deal. The crisp celery, vibrant-orange carrots, tangy-green olives and house-made blue cheese dressing (with large chunks of imported blue cheese) are the perfect jump-start to the meal.
STARTERS (Select 1)
Twice-Baked Stilton Puff: A new item for Thanksgiving and so here are a few comments from Chef Rodgers: “This is a savory Stilton soufflé made with Tuxford and Tibbit Stilton, eggs, sugar, milk, flour, butter, nutmeg and chives. We serve it with a Sauce Mousseline (hollandaise). It is twice-baked in the sense that each soufflé is first baked and then allowed to cool at room temperature. They are then warmed and sauced to order.
“One of our waiters who grew up in Paris told me that this is a traditional dish served in a French home for a special occasion, “said Rodgers, “and another great element of the dish is that it won’t fall immediately like a traditional soufflé.”
Roasted Pumpkin with Figs, Arugula and Ben’s Herb Cream Cheese: A melding of the savory flavors locally-made Ben’s cream cheese, the peppery notes of the arugula, the sweetness of the figs, and the seasonal freshness of the pumpkin.
Grilled Thick-Cut Berkshire Bacon: A bacon-fest that exceeds the quality of the bacon served at Peter Luger, as the Berkshire pork ramps up the flavors to another dimension. Berkshire pork was bred for the King of England, and is noted for its darker color (pink-hue), rich flavor and marbled character. The bacon is served with cherry tomatoes for a hint of acid and watercress.
Iced Shrimp Cocktail: This is a lighter starter; it has a fresh, subtle flavor and is served with an exquisite horseradish-infused cocktail sauce.
Maryland Lump Crab Cakes: The crab stands in the forefront—as it should, with a minimal amount of breading or filler.
SOUP/SALAD (Select 1)
Three Mushroom Soup: Another new offering from Chef Bill’s bag of tricks: Says Rodgers, “This is a savory blend of Shiitake, Cremini and domestic mushrooms pureed with chicken stock, sherry and cream.”
Iceberg Wedge: The best blue-cheese dressing I have ever had, with chunks of blue cheese and just the right ratio of richness to the crisp, fresh-from-the garden iceberg lettuce.
MAIN DISHES (Select 1)
Organic Free-Range Turkey from Quattro Farms in Pleasant Valley, New York: This is not your grandmother’s dried- out turkey that puts you in a daze. Chef Rodgers butters these beauties and cooks them to perfection. Quattro Farms produces the best organic turkeys available in New York State. Established in the early 1900s, this family-owned business produces all-natural free-range poultry and game. The animals are raised humanely and fed high-quality, locally-grown feeds. The turkey is served with a dressing that’s made with chicken stock and speaks to the savory goodness to complement a perfectly-cooked turkey.
King’s Cut Prime Rib: As good a prime rib that was ever served in any restaurant. The USDA Prime cut gives you the marbling, flavor and tenderness that you’d expect from the top house of beef in NYC.
Colorado Double Lamb Chops: The farms of Colorado produce the best lamb anywhere (including New Zealand), and on your holiday plate you will get two 6 ounce double lamb chops served with house-made minted lamb jus.
Prime Filet Mignon: I’m not a big fan of Filet, but this 12 ounce USDA Prime version packs so much flavor that you won’t miss the turkey one bit.
Steamed Whole Maine Lobster: Delicate lobsters that are sourced from the Maine waters and then cooked to perfection. The excellent service staff will then crack the shells and serve you the delicate meat at the ready; for once, you won’t have to fight for your lobster or wear a stupid apron.
SIDES COME WITH ALL MAIN DISHES
Smashed Candied Yams
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Fine String Beans (Haricot Vert)
DESSERTS (Select 1)
Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
A selection of Sorbet and Ice Cream
Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Cream
Lady M Chocolate Cake
Coffee and Tea are included
$115 per person
$55 for children under 12
If YOU GO
72 W. 36th Street
New York City, New York 10018