Frugal Feast

Produced and styled by Carrie Campbell, Blake Miller, and Lisa Summerell
Photographs by Chris Edwards

When Chef Charles Semail set out to create his alternative feast for the holiday he immediately envisioned a meal that was not only innovative but also easy on the wallet.

Chef Charles Semail
Chef Charles Catering

Chef Charles Semail
Chef Charles Catering

"I chose this menu to create an affordable Thanksgiving dinner for a private dinner for two," he says, "or a feast for the whole family using European flair and French cooking techniques." The turkey osso bucco, for example, can be purchased at Harris Teeter for 99¢ per pound. The most expensive ingredients are the butter and brown sugar, which are still relatively affordable.


Corn Bisque with Spaghetti Squash and Seared Sea Scallops
Serves 10

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
1 cup chopped onions
½ cup diced celery
7 ½ cups frozen corn kernels, thawed, drained (about 42 ounces)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 sea scallops
1 small spaghetti squash

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve the spaghetti squash, lay cut side up on baking sheet, and bake in oven for 45 minutes.
  • When baked, remove the squash from the shell with a fork and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for later use. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and sauté for 3 minutes. Add 5½ cups corn, rosemary, and cayenne and sauté for 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender and liquid is slightly reduced, about 30 minutes.
  • Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in half-and-half and remaining 2 cups corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper.    
  • Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in heavy, large skillet over medium-high
  • heat and place the spaghetti squash to reheat them.
  • In a second large skillet, over high heat sear the scallops with the olive oil for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.   
  • Bring soup to simmer. Place a small dome of spaghetti squash in the center of each bowl. Ladle the soup in the bowls over the squash and place one seared scallop on a top of the squash and serve.

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Sweet Potato Raviolis with Maytag Blue Cheese
Serves 10 (as a first course) or 6 (as a main course)

2 pounds red-skinned sweet
potatoes (yams)
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons (¼ stick) butter,
room temperature
8 ounces Maytag blue cheese
60 pieces wonton wrappers
1 large egg, beaten to blend

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet. Cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise; place cut side down on baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 35 minutes; cool. Scoop potato pulp out of skins into small bowl. Spoon 2 cups pulp into medium bowl. (Reserve remaining potato pulp for another use.) Add sugar, butter, and cheese; mash well. Season filling with salt and pepper.
  • Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place wonton wrappers on work surface. Using pastry brush, apply beaten egg to wrappers. Place ½ tablespoon sweet potato filling in center of each. Fold each wrapper diagonally over filling, forming a triangle. Seal edges. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature. (The raviolis can be made up to 5 days ahead. Freeze, then cover and keep frozen. Do not thaw before cooking.)
  • Cook ravioli in pot of boiling, salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. In a 2-gallon pot place ravioli with butter and toss to coat. Transfer to plates, drizzle dried cranberry sauce from osso bucco over ravioli, and serve immediately.

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Turkey Osso BucCo with Pearl Onion and Dried Cranberry Sauce
Serves 10

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 turkey drum sticks, French trimmed
1 cup carrots, grated, peeled, and chopped
2 fresh leeks, washed and sliced
½ cup onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 3/4 pounds Italian-style peeled
tomatoes, undrained
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a heavy, nonreactive Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season turkey drumsticks with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté in Dutch oven about 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Transfer to a platter. Add next 5 ingredients and half the minced garlic to Dutch oven. Stir in tomatoes, and break them up with edge of spoon. Bring to a boil. Return turkey to pan. Cover and bake about 1 hour 10 minutes, until turkey is very tender. Remove turkey and strain the cocking stock. Transfer turkey to work surface and cool slightly. Set aside for finishing the sauce later.
  • Combine remaining garlic, parsley, and orange zest in a bowl. Serve turkey osso bucco in bowls with the sauce and sprinkled with parsley mixture.

2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups dried cranberries
2 cups peeled pearl onions
5 pieces applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 cup dried sherry wine
1 cup chicken stock or cooking stock

  • Place the bacon and onion in a saucepan over medium heat; cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the flour, sherry, and chicken stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat.

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Wild Mushroom Risotto
Serves 10

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 small onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
1 teaspoon celery, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup dried mushrooms
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup risotto
5 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until onion is tender and garlic is lightly browned. Remove garlic, and stir in the parsley, celery, salt, and pepper. Cook until celery is tender, and then add the mushrooms. Pour the milk and cream into the skillet, and stir in the rice. Heat to a simmer. Stir the vegetable stock into the rice one cup at a time, until it is absorbed. When the rice has finished cooking, stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese, and remove from heat. Serve hot.

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Chocolate Devil’s Food Pumpkin Cake with Candied Pumpkin and Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Serves 6

1/3 cup canola oil
1 pinch cinnamon
1¼ cups sugar
1 egg
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
¼ cup sour cream
1/3 cup water

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the oil and cinnamon over medium heat for 8 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool. Pour the oil into a mixing bowl. Add sugar. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the oil and sugar for 5 minutes. Add the egg and pumpkin puree and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Then blend into the sugar mixture. Add the chocolate and sour cream, and mix well. Place 6 buttered 2½-inch-diameter-by-1½ inch-high ring molds on a sheet pan and fill halfway with the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on the pan and then remove the ring molds.
  • Place the devil’s food cake on a plate. Lightly place 5-10 cubes of pumpkin to the side of the cake, with a neatly presented dollop of cinnamon whipped cream to the other side. Cinnamon can be lightly and carefully sprinkled where desired.

Candied Pumpkin
2 cups ½-inch pumpkin cubes
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

  • Pour water in a saucepan and bring to broil. Reduce to low heat and add sugar. Insert the pumpkin cubes and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until tender. Set aside for garnish around the plate.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream
1½ cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 pinches cinnamon

  • Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whip until the mixture becomes stiff.

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Categories: Feature, Food & Entertaining