By JR Rosenthal
In this fifth annual rundown of the holiday menu at Keens Steakhouse in New York City (73 West 36th Street), I am pleased as punch to tell you that this is the best Thanksgiving dinner served at any restaurant in the USA.
The distinction of being the best of the best on Turkey Day once belonged to the legendary Blue Boar Restaurant on Lombard Street in San Francisco, where in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge you could enjoy a locally-raised Sonoma County boar chop cooked in a stock made from the reduction of the boar jus.
After the Blue Boar burned to a crisp in the late ‘80s, Keens took over as the go-to place for gourmet dining on Thanksgiving. Bill Rodgers, executive chef at Keens, has devised a menu that’s both eclectic and creative in its ability to convey dishes that pack the punch of deep, rich flavors sourced from seasonal, local and sustainable ingredients.
The Annotated Turkey Day Planner
As per usual, Natural Traveler offers a blow-by-blow analysis of Keens Thanksgiving offerings—this year slated for November 22. Rodgers, with his best impression of the late, great James Beard, provides a deft commentary on this splendid feast.
COURSE NUMBER 1: APPETIZER CHOICES (Pick 1)
Roasted Kebocha Squash
“I peel and slice the squash, and roast them with cinnamon, nutmeg and honey. When tender, a serving of the Kebocha squash is plated with a beautiful arugula salad that’s tossed in our homemade vinaigrette, and served with an herb whipped cream cheese filled with soft herbs like tarragon, parsley, chive and chervil.”
Grilled Thick-Cut Berkshire Bacon
“Berkshire pigs, originally raised in England, are quite delicious, and the bacon that is sourced from those pigs is extraordinary. Right now on the regular menu we serve double-smoked Vermont bacon, but I wanted to go with Berkshire bacon for Thanksgiving because it’s the kind of treat you want to enjoy on a special occasion. The two thick-cut slices of bacon will be served with a side cart of gorgeous cherry tomatoes for some color and acidity to complement the smoky flavor of the bacon.”
Maryland Lump Crab Cakes
“The crab cakes are made from the finest Maryland lump crab meat. My goal is to showcase the flavor of the crab, and so I keep the cakes simple by adding a few nuances from fresh dill, cracked pepper, fried and crushed corn tortillas, onion and celery.”
Crisp Potato Pancake with Tuna and Crème Fraiche
“This is one of the new creations for this year’s menu. The potato pancake is adorned with sashimi-grade tuna and served with caviar and crème fraiche.”
Iced Shrimp Cocktail
“I am serving wild, white shrimp caught off the Pacific Coast of Mexico. They are delicious and classic! We serve them with our house-made cocktail sauce—the key ingredient is the horseradish that we prepare in-house.”
COURSE NUMBER 2: SOUP OR SALAD (Pick 1)
Granny Smith Apple Soup
“I make this seasonal delight with chicken stock, heavy cream, curry, coconut flakes, lemongrass, Kafir orange, shallots, leeks, bananas, pineapple, parsley and white vermouth. All of these ingredients are pureed and simmered until the flavors combine. I garnish with sliced apples and some chili powder along the rim of the bowl.”
Chopped Twelve Ingredient Salad with Candied Walnuts
“This is the ultimate chopped salad and I serve it with a creamy, blue Balsamic vinaigrette. The chopped ingredients include mixed greens, apricots, candied walnuts, Asian pear, Stilton cheese, basil and fennel.”
COURSE NUMBER 3: ENTRÉE CHOICES (Pick 1)
Quattro Farms (New York State) Organic Free-Range Turkey with Traditional Dressing
“The preparation begins several days in advance once I take out my 55-gallon drum filled with a brining solution of water, sugar, herbs, juniper and black peppercorns. The advantage of brining is that it gets the natural sugars and salts into the meat for maximum flavor and a soft, moist texture. I wash the birds thoroughly and put them in barrels and keep them in the dry-aging room for 24 hours. I then roast the turkeys, beginning at 4:30 a.m. on November 22, to perfection.”
Legendary Double Lamb Chops
“Our restaurant is known for its classic mutton chop and–although it is not on the menu, we will make it available to anyone who wants to enjoy its rich, delicious flavor on Thanksgiving Day. But this year we are serving the just-as-legendary Keens lamb chops, which are two broiled Colorado lamb chops (6-8 ounces each) with mint-infused lamb jus.”
King’s Cut Prime Rib of Beef
“This massive prime rib is 32 ounces of USDA prime beef, which we serve with our horseradish au jus made with beef stock. You won’t leave hungry!”
Steamed Whole Maine Lobster
“We serve 2 pounds of fresh-caught Maine lobster steamed and adorned with the usual garnishes.”
SIDE DISHES (Served Family Style)
Glazed Carrots, Smashed Candied Yams, Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Fine String Beans, Roasted Brussels Sprouts
“You get a sampling of all the iconic, traditional Thanksgiving sides. You can order double portions of your favorites, skip what you don’t like, or we will serve samplings of all 5 dishes.”
DESSERTS (Pick 1 of the 5 options)
Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Cream
Pecan Pie with Bourbon Cream
“These two classics are our most popular Thanksgiving desserts.”
Our Family Carrot Cake
“A huge success last year and so it’s back by popular demand.”
Lady M Chocolate
“A very light chocolate dessert made with an exquisite chocolate Ganache filling.”
Sorbets and Ice Creams are also available.
Keens Full-Roast Fresh-Brewed Coffee and/or an assortment of Black and Herbal teas are included with your meal. All alcoholic beverages are additional.
The Keens Thanksgiving Dinner costs $98 for adults and $49 for children 12 and under (tax and gratuities are not included in the price.)
Reservations are required.
IF YOU GO
Address: 73 West 36th Street (near 6th Avenue)
New York City, New York 10018