RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
A gluten-free, a vegan and a Paleo walk into a bar, except they're walking into your house and gathered around your Thanksgiving table. More and more Americans are passing on gluten, some for medical reasons, most by choice, or adopting diets that exclude meat or diets based on the simple foods Paleolithic man might've even. All of this can be a challenge to the traditional Thanksgiving feast, which is why we paid a visit to Chris Kimball at America's Test Kitchen just outside Boston. There, to the whir of blenders and the murmur of his team of cooks, we tackled the challenge of guests with dietary demands.
CHRIS KIMBALL: All the troublesome kids - all the people that come to your house for Thanksgiving, and they can't eat what you've prepared. So we've designed a menu where you can actually have something for everybody to eat.
MONTAGNE: And our conversation began as so many do these days, with kale.
I am looking at is some dinosaur kale.
KIMBALL: It looks like the skin of a dinosaur. Although, I have to say, how do people know what the skin of a dinosaur looks like? But in any case, it has that look. This has good flavor, and it's a little more tender. And we're going to do a raw salad, also, with Brussels sprouts. And one reason a lot of people don't like Thanksgiving is there are badly cooked Brussels sprouts. So we're going to actually take a pound of Brussels sprouts and shred them, essentially - very thin pieces.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHOPPING)
MONTAGNE: Chris, cutting it with a knife seems time consuming.
KIMBALL: You could probably also shred it with a food processor. Sometimes, if you need to calm down, thought, this actually is a good thing to do.
MONTAGNE: Well, that's a nice thought.
MONTAGNE: It would beat meditating.
KIMBALL: Well, what I would say is, you can't talk to me now. I'm busy with the Brussels sprouts.
MONTAGNE: (Laughter). Once all the sprouts are finally sliced, it's back to that kale.
KIMBALL: And then we'll take half a pound of the kale. And then you're going to have to massage it.
MONTAGNE: Why am I doing this?
KIMBALL: Actually, we're just making fun of you. You actually don't - no...
Of course, it is no prank. It's a method of treating kale that will be served raw.
KIMBALL: Because it tenderizes it, also brings out the flavor of it. You can do the same thing a little bit with basil sometimes.
MONTAGNE: Meanwhile, the shredded Brussels sprouts have been marinating in a mix of flavors - mint, lime, cilantro and apple cider vinegar. Chris tosses in the shredded kale, a handful of chopped peanuts, and it's ready.
This tastes so, so good. I like the peanuts. I have to say, I'm taking this outside our circle of...
KIMBALL: Food safety?
MONTAGNE: Food safety. But the peanuts kind of make it.
KIMBALL: They're optional.
MONTAGNE: It would not be Thanksgiving, though, without stuffing, which brings us to...
What are you going to be doing with this gluten-free?
KIMBALL: We're going to make a dressing that's gluten-free. It's wild rice. And we have some onions, and we have some celery with that and herbs. And we use a little bit of heavy cream. And we use a couple eggs as well. And so we end up with this.
KIMBALL: Hot stuffing.
MONTAGNE: The end result is deceptively traditional. And if you want to make wild rice dressing one of your traditions, we have that recipe up at npr.org.
Now, this is a really good use of gluten-free because there's no way to tell.
KIMBALL: This is, I didn't realize it was gluten-free, and I don't care.
MONTAGNE: Now, something for a guest on the Paleo diet.
KIMBALL: We should clarify a few things about what Paleo is and what it's not. It's not a meat diet. It's really about unprocessed food. In fact, if you think about 2 million years ago, when Homo erectus and running around hunting and gathering, they probably didn't have a tremendous amount of meat in their diet 'cause the hunters went off and came back with nothing.
MONTAGNE: Still, the heritage turkey Chris is preparing looks awfully prehistoric.
KIMBALL: It hasn't been hybridized and bred to have huge breasts and small legs. If you've ever seen a wild turkey, the first thing you notice is the legs are huge. And the breast meat tends to be small. My neighbor raises her own turkeys with a heritage breed. And I couldn't get it in the oven 'cause the legs were so long. The meat is a little darker. It has a lot of more flavor, although their seven times more expensive. We're talking a lot of money - the trust fund bird.
MONTAGNE: Still, if you're tired of a dry, flavorless bird, it's worth it.
The breast meat is not as white - white, white, white. It tastes like something, which is a start, quite a nice something. It's moist.
KIMBALL: Yeah, it's a completely different experience. It's like it's a different animal entirely.
MONTAGNE: On to dessert and pumpkin pie with a twist - gluten-free crust. At America's Test Kitchen, they swap out ordinary flour with this special blend.
KIMBALL: Light rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and we have a little bit of milk powder. And that's your basic mix. And we do use all-butter in this - 16 tablespoons for two crusts. But rolling it out is not the easiest thing in the world.
MONTAGNE: Which is why the Test Kitchen recommends you roll the dough out between two sheets of plastic wrap to keep it from crumbling or sticking to your rolling pin. Chris Kimball, though, has his own ideas.
KIMBALL: For me personally, I'd rather do it right on the counter.
(SOUNDBITE OF ROLLING DOUGH)
KIMBALL: But this could be a train wreck. So we'll see.
MONTAGNE: So far, nice job - oops.
KIMBALL: It's not going to look pretty.
MONTAGNE: (Laughter). I just...
KIMBALL: See - oh, no. See?
MONTAGNE: (Laughter). I'm sorry.
KIMBALL: You guys make this particularly dry.
MONTAGNE: And here's the thing about gluten-free pastry. It doesn't have any gluten in it. And gluten is what makes the dough stick together.
KIMBALL: It does crack 'cause it's dry - 'cause it doesn't absorb liquids very well. And I'm just going to keep repairing it. The fact of the matter is all you have to do is get it somehow onto the pie plate. And by the time you're finished baking the pie, nobody will know, except for everyone listening to your show right now.
MONTAGNE: A lot of trouble. But when we finally pull this pumpkin pie from the oven, the gluten-free crust proves to be full of buttery flavor.
KIMBALL: Almost like a biscuit, so you get that crackly, biscuit texture, which in this case, actually, is a good thing.
MONTAGNE: It's crunchy and nice.
KIMBALL: It's pretty good.
MONTAGNE: Well, I would say now I'm ready for a whole variety of guests this Thanksgiving.
KIMBALL: Anybody could stop by and sit down and have Thanksgiving with you. And you would satisfy all their dietary needs.
MONTAGNE: Happy Thanksgiving.
KIMBALL: You too, Renee.
MONTAGNE: You can find these recipes from America's Test Kitchen and a bonus recipe for a Mediterranean-inspired main course for vegetarians - it's butternut squash kibbe - at our website, npr.org.
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