Sometimes little details can add a world of elegance to your Thanksgiving table. That’s what Barrington chef, Erin Bailey says. And, when it comes to cooking, Erin’s a local expert. She’s a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris Culinary Arts School in France and, for years, she ran La Pomme de Pin, a specialty foods market and catering business she started right here in Barrington.
I recently dropped by to see Erin when she was preparing a pre-Thanksgiving meal at home. She was making mashed potatoes and the conversation quickly turned to one of her favorite subjects, food. “If you start with good ingredients, the preparation can be really simple.”
Erin is so passionate about quality foods that she hosts a local Community Supported Agriculture program here in Barrington. For $440, members who sign up for the CSA program receive 18 weekly deliveries of fresh produce from the closest participating farms.
“It takes all of the guesswork out of your grocery shopping. You know that it’s organic. You know that it’s local. You know that it’s seasonal and you know that it’s as fresh as you’re going to find because everything is harvested the day before you receive it.”
Erin says she loves that the program takes us back to way things used to be, when a family’s menu was based on fresh, seasonal and locally grown foods.
“We’ve become so accustomed to getting anything we want anytime we want it, anywhere we want it and it’s just not natural.”
She says the Wednesday produce deliveries drive her weekly menu.
“It’s a different kind of challenge. It forces you to get creative. I have a goal of never throwing things away and I personally think it’s fun.”
And that’s where Erin’s “Top 5 Thanksgiving Garnishes” come in. She’s always trying to be creative with different ways to prepare and present food.
“Garnishing is not only an elegant way to finish a dish, but also sends an important signal to guests as to what ingredients were used in the preparation. This can be a useful tool when it comes to food allergies, or simply people’s preferences and aversions. While a garnish should always be edible, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Here are five simple examples for your Thanksgiving buffet that will add the perfect finishing touch!”
The sweet potato, originating in the Caribbean, was cultivated in Spain and imported into England. It was a rare dainty available to the wealthy, who believed it to be a potent aphrodisiac. Source
“Toasted pecans on your sweet potato casserole alerts guests with nut allergies to pass on these and save room for dessert.”
Potatoes, which originated in South America, had not yet made their way into the Native American or English diet in 1621. Source
“A dash of nutmeg on your mashed potatoes gives away the secret ingredient that tastest so good.”
The Native Americans brought pumpkins as gifts to the first settlers, and taught them the many uses for the pumpkin. This is what developed into pumpkin pie about 50 years after the first Thanksgiving in America. Source
“Two cinnamon sticks criss-crossed on the pumpkin pie adds interest.”
The American cranberry, vaccinium macrocarpon, was used in American cuisine before the first pilgrims landed on the nation’s shores. Native American tradition incorporates cranberries into many dishes. Source
“Orange zest atop your cranberry relish lets guests know what to expect.”
Turkey was introduced to the early Pilgrim settlers by the Native American Wampanoag tribe after the Pilgrims arrived in 1620. Source
“Use bunches of the same fresh herbs to dress your turkey platter that you used in the roasting.”
Erin regularly shares tips and recipes on her weekly video program about cooking with local produce on Patch.com’s Barrington website. You’ll find all of Erin’s videos by clicking HERE. You can also visit her website at PommeFoods.com. You can learn more about the Community Supported Agriculture program that Erin is involved with by clicking HERE and, to sign up, give her a call at 312-339-3759.