A Foolproof Thanksgiving Toolkit from a Chef you Need to Know.
(And a recipe for Many-Herb Compound Butter that will change your Turkey and your Sweet Potatoes!)
Many eons ago, on a press trip to Spain, I met an amazing chef named Ronna Walsh. As we travelled through Spain together, eating and drinking until way too late in the night (way too late), we bonded over food, writing, heartbreak, and more. We’ve stayed in touch on and off for decades now, and I’ve watched her become a mom, and seen her career change and grow.
Ronna started cooking in Austin, TX at Zoot Restaurant in 1994, then in NYC at Savoy (2000), then abroad (France, Spain, Sicily, Greece), then Danal (in the East Village) and then a bunch of other small, quirky, greenmarkety restaurants through 2008 (when her first daughter was born). When she became a mom, she found that her professional cooking skills were quite ill-matched for a household with two small toddlers. Cooking simple toddler-friendly food in 30 minutes or less, often while reading stories, changing diapers, playing with blocks, and general mothering, was not in her toolkit!
“I failed miserably, and continuously, at making the humblest dish. I inevitably under-salted pasta, if I didn’t overcook it,” she said. “I burned plenty of vegetables left steaming in a long-forgotten pot. My professional skills were no match for the ceaseless demands of new parenthood.”
Ronna stepped away from the kitchen line to focus her energies on fine-tuning restaurant practices for the home cook. As she did this, she helped friends become more efficient, organized, less wasteful and more confident in the kitchen. She helped save them time, money, and taught them how to cook with ease. In the process, she discovered she loved to teach. Her “nimble” way of everyday cooking became the foundation of all Purple Kale Kitchenworks instruction (which she founded in 2010), and eventually the content for her first (wonderful) book, The Nimble Cook.
These days, you’ll find Ronna teaching at her studio or online, testing dishes for special events, brushing up on food policy, or browsing seed catalogues. She’s never far from her salvaged Garland stove, a well-stained coffee mug, or her faithful sharpening steel.
To get us all prepped and started for Thanksgiving, she’s generously offered to share her Thanksgiving Toolkit with Strong Buzz Readers! The guide includes how to plan and organize your prep and cooking, how to scale recipes, when to shop, what to cook in advance, when to start cooking your bird, and more. There are leftover ideas too.
Her guide will keep you organized and confident and hopefully a little less stressed! What’s more, there’s an early bird discount (20% off) for online classes at the end of the guide! You can access it here.
Ronna Welsh’s Many Herb Compound Butter
This recipe is a ringer, because it uses up whatever herbs and spices you have leftover as you prepare the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. Steeping herbs and spices in butter both infuses and clarifies it. Once strained, the glossy, golden butter will combine seamlessly to enrich broths and sauces. You can also drizzle it over sweet potatoes, stir it into your stuffing, pour it over turkey, and spread it over biscuits. The butter includes no salt, so you can use it brazenly with other heavily-seasoned ingredients. But when using the butter on its own, add salt to it liberally, so the herbs truly sing.
Makes 3/4 pound
1 pound unsalted butter
2 packed cups assorted fresh herbs, including any non-woody stems
4-5 bay leaves
1 teaspoon mixed whole spices, such as allspice, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, or black peppercorns
Place the butter in a medium saucepan over very low heat. Pile the herbs and spices on top. Once the butter has melted, stir once to submerge the herbs. Continue cooking slowly until the herbs are wilted and the butter is tinged green, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool to room temperature.
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