This month, for Thanksgiving, we talk to chef and sommelier Dana Beninati about the best Spanish ingredients to incorporate into the feast, with some wines from Spain to match!
Take it from one of NYC’s top foodie influencers, Dana Beninati to create a Thanksgiving feast this year with a difference, simply by using some Spanish ingredients! With her own boutique culinary production company, chef and third level sommelier Dana (as seen on Food Network) is here to coach us through a Spanish-inspired Thanksgiving menu with wine pairings.
What’s your background in cooking for Thanksgiving?
“I’m a first generation American and my parents follow American traditions but a lot of our food is normally Mediterranean. Before we sit down to any big holiday feast with all the favorites, we start with a pasta course, like a manicotti or a ravioli. This is not the typical way of doing things, so when we have guests at the table, they eat several servings of pasta and then realize that they still need to eat the main feast! For me, the wonderful thing that makes Thanksgiving special is that it’s food-centric and communal - we all create this wonderful feast together and it’s about sitting down and sharing it.”
Why should we include Spanish ingredients in our Thanksgiving feast?
“The quality of Spanish ingredients is found in their simplicity - they are beautiful in themselves and on their own. You don’t have to work hard to make your Thanksgiving feast delicious when you’ve added a Spanish product because the ingredients speak for themselves.”
What would you serve as a Spanish starter at Thanksgiving?
“Fried olives stuffed with goat cheese are addictive, you can have just one for a salty creamy bite or take a handful. There is no better appetite stimulant than a fried olive with a glass of Cava DO! I would recommend Spanish soft goat cheese because you can push it into the olive very easily. Use pitted olives, stuff them with cheese and then cool them in the refrigerator so that the cheese doesn’t melt out while frying. Dust them in flour, dip in egg then breadcrumb, and fry the olives in shallow oil until they are brown and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. They are amazing served warm but they also taste great an hour later - briny, salty, cheesy. I’d pair it with Naveran Cava Vintage Brut but really any dry DO Cava, such as Brut or Brut Nature, will do.”
Appetizer: Queso de Cabra Fried Olives with Naveran Cava Vintage Brut
Do you have any secrets for the Thanksgiving turkey?
“The key to a good turkey is a really simple brine, preferably dry brining with salt and sugar, not covered in the fridge, then you rinse off the brine and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The skin will start to dry out so this will get a nice crispy golden brown skin. My Spanish inspired recipe is Saffron Spiced Turkey. All you need to do is take the turkey fat that is rendering off the bird, add saffron threads to it and then brush it over the turkey as you baste it for a saffron glaze. It will give a gorgeous color and savory flavor. Godello is a beautiful Spanish white to pair with this, and all the other buttery things happening on the Thanksgiving table.”
Main Course: Saffron Spiced Turkey and Louro Godello from Rafael Palacios
Can you talk me through your Spanish inspired side dishes for Thanksgiving?
Black Garlic & Thyme Mashed Potatoes
“Black garlic in the US usually comes dried and you can buy it online. I have a lot of articles on Food Network about the perfect way to make mashed potatoes, and I feel very strongly about picking the right potato. Choose a golden, starchy potato that you boil whole, then remove the skins and mash them. While the potatoes are cooking, I will heat some heavy cream gently with the black garlic, chopped thyme and some Extra Virgin olive oil - once it is completely combined you fold it into the mashed potatoes. If you use a slow cooker for the mashed potato, that’s a great way to keep it warm and save some space on the stove top.”
Sweet and Smoky Glazed Squash with Paprika
Sweet and Smoky Glazed Squash with Paprika
"This time of year you can get all types of squash and they’re all great - this recipe is to use with whatever pumpkin or squash you like. Simply cut it up into wedges, top with Extra Virgin olive oil and plenty of paprika DOP Pimenton de la Vera https://www.foodswinesfromspain.com/en/food/articles/2022/september/pimenton-red-peppers-taste-spanish-food, a little bit of honey - you can use a Spanish honey such as Mitica, toss it to coat the squash and then roast it in the oven until tender, always finishing with some Spanish sea salt. A good red wine for this would be Abelis Lui Tempranillo DO Toro Crianza.
Green Beans topped with Crispy Jamón Ibérico and Picual Olive Oil
“Green bean casserole is an iconic Thanksgiving dish. Instead of using canned ingredients that are typical, elevate the dish with fresh green beans. I recommend blanching and chopping the green beans, so they’re crunchy and tender, then place the jamon iberico on parchment paper on a tray and bake it in the oven until it’s crispy. When it’s time to serve the meal, in a big skillet add lots of Extra Virgin olive oil - the picual - to the green beans, some salt and pepper, and then crumble the jamón Ibérico over the top for a dish with great, bright flavor. I think it would be the most popular thing on the table! If you wanted to pair this as a stand-alone dish, I’d recommend the Reina de Castilla (Rueda DO) - it’s a verdejo on lees.”
And, finally, what kind of Spanish style dessert would you serve for Thanksgiving?
“Arroz con leche - aka Spanish rice pudding - can be given a Thanksgiving twist by adding pumpkin puree and spice. A sherry with this would be so delicious. Pumpkin spice is a big thing here - the nutmeg and cinnamon and all these great, deep baking flavors, along with pumpkin, will be excellent with the nuttiness of a Palomino Fino Sherry.”
Dessert: Pumpkin Arroz con Leche with Tio Pepe Gonzalez Byass Palomino Fino Sherry