Thanksgiving in Sonoma

By on November 10, 2011

By Erica Galindo –

As believers we carry in our hearts the sacred truth that the Lord God fashioned the entire world and everything in it. This foundational fact of our faith has a way of stirring a longing within us to stop, breathe it in, and thank the Lord for all his glorious goodness.

This celebration of praise and gratitude is what Thanksgiving is all about. And while we are commanded to give God thanks all year round, the Thanksgiving holiday does create a special opportunity to relish in the spirit of praise and gratitude and to share our blessings, and our faith with others. The apostle Paul exhorts the saints in 1 Thess. 5:16, NKJ “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

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Few places in the country make it easier to bask in the glory of God’s abundant blessings then when you drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge into Sonoma County. As you travel back roads alongside apple orchards and clusters of olive and fig trees, you sense there is something special about the land. Rolling hills brim with dairy cows, horses, sheep and goats. Tomatoes, corn and zucchini plants flourish in residential backyards where rosemary grows thick and wild. Elegant rows of vine ripened grapes stun the senses at every turn.

The rich soil, the near-perfect climate and the combination of sun-warmed hills and fog-cooled valleys make Sonoma an agricultural Garden of Eden.  Upon settling in Sonoma County in 1875, famed Horticulturist Luther Burbank said “I firmly believe, from what I have seen that this is the chosen spot of all the earth as far as Nature is concerned.”

Indeed right here in our beautiful countryside, over 200 wineries cultivate over 56,000 acres of wine grapes. Sonoma Farm Trails has over 150 local family farms that produce a profusion of exotic fruits & vegetables, olives, herbs and farm fresh honey. From Bodega Bay’s Gleason Ranch to Rosie’s Chicken Farm in Petaluma, to Willie Bird’s Turkeys in Sebastopol, local farmers raise sustainably farmed, hormone-free, organic poultry and beef that are shipped to top chefs all over the country.

Pamper your guests and take advantage of our culinary utopia by incorporating some of the Sonoma County Harvest Fair award winners into your Thanksgiving menu. Healdsburg’s Costeaux French Bakery’s delicious Multigrain Batard is made with nine grains and a touch of molasses. A winner of best of show in the multigrain category, this elegant loaf will make a heavenly moist stuffing.

Repeat gold medal winner, McClellan European Artisan Organic Butter, out of Petaluma, will add a luxurious flavor to potatoes, pies, sauces and gravies. B. R. Cohn Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Glen Ellen, another gold medal winner, will add depth to salad dressings and enhance the intense flavor of roasted vegetables.

The Lord’s abundant provision and the exquisite beauty of our local landscape make it easy to give thanks to Him. Let’s give praise to the Father this Thanksgiving, for surely God has given us so much to be grateful for, right here, in our sweet home Sonoma.

Erica’s Thanksgiving Menu:

  • Willie Bird Farm Fresh Roasted Turkey with English Cider Sage Gravy
  • Brandied Chestnut & Sausage Stuffing with Organic Mission Figs
  • Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts
  • Sweet Potato Soufflé
  • Cranberry Orange- Jalapeño Relish


Willy Bird Roasted Turkey

Prep time: 35 mins      Cook time: 240 mins        Total time: 4 hours 35 mins          Serves: 8-10


  • 12 to 14-pound turkey
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper
  • Cheesecloth

For Garnish: fresh sage leaves and thyme & rosemary sprigs, 3-4 Pomegranates, Persimmons and or and 4-6 Figs, cut in halves


Rinse the turkey, pat it dry, and season it inside and out with salt and pepper.

Pack the body cavity loosely with some of the remaining stuffing and truss the turkey. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in an open roasting pan.

Prepare the Herb Butter Seasoning for the Cheesecloth: Over medium-low heat, combine the butter, herbs and seasonings. Stir until well blended, remove from heat. Place a four-layer piece of cheesecloth (large enough to drape down the sides of the bird) into the herb butter mixture and let it soak, and cool down.

Massage the turkey with some of the herb butter mixture, making sure to get it under the skin and into the breasts and thighs.

Roast the turkey in a preheated 425º oven for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 325º F., baste the turkey with the pan juices, and then cover the turkey with the cheesecloth that has soaked in the butter herb mixture, letting it drape down over the sides.

Lifting the cheesecloth, baste every 30 minutes with the herb butter herb mixture, until it’s gone, then start using the natural juices from the pan. While cooking, the cheesecloth may get very dark, but that’s normal.

Approximately 1 hour before your turkey should be done, remove the cheesecloth, to brown. Baste again after 30 minutes.

Allow three to four hours for a 4–8 pound turkey, four to four and one-half hours for an 8–12 pound turkey, four and one-half to five hours for a 12–16 pound turkey.

To test for doneness, move the leg joint up and down. It should give easily or break, or, when inserted in a thigh, a meat thermometer should registers 180º F or 170º when inserted in the breast. If you don’t have a thermometer, pierce the thick part of the thigh with a sharp knife, the juices should run clear.

Remove the turkey, place onto a cutting board and let rest 20-30 minutes, covered loosely with foil. Carve the turkey and transfer to a heated serving dish.

Garnish the turkey with the sage leaves, thyme and rosemary sprigs, and halved pomegranates, figs and or persimmons.


*Remember, if you buy a frozen turkey; allow approximately 3 days to thaw in the refrigerator.


English Cider Sage Gravy


  • 1 tbsp each butter & extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 gloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup English hard cider
  • 7 cups homemade turkey or chicken stock
  • 1 tsp each, fresh grated pepper & celery seed
  • 1 tbsp each, fresh parsley & thyme, chopped well
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh sage, chopped well
  • 2 tbsp each, butter & flour for beurre manie (to thicken gravy)
  • Salt & pepper to taste


While your roast turkey “rests,” make your gravy.

1. Make your gravy base at least 1 hour before you remove your turkey. Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the vegetables and garlic, for approximately 15 minutes, until caramelized. Stir frequently to avoid sticking and burning.

2. Add to the base the remaining 6 cups turkey stock, 1 cup hard apple cider and herbs. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for one hour, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove turkey from roasting pan and drain all drippings from pan; skim off fat and reserve.

4. Deglaze the pan over medium hi heat with 1 cup turkey stock and 1/2 cup hard apple cider, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce until the liquid evaporates to an essence. Approximately 5 minutes.

5.  Add the Gravy Base and the defatted pan drippings back to the pan and bring liquid to a boil over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes.

6. To thicken the gravy, take 2 tbsp each softened butter and flour, kneaded together by hand to make a beurre manie. Whisk in small amounts of the beurre manie until the gravy is at the desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. For a silken gravy, strain through a fine sieve. Accent with extra cider if desired. Salt & pepper to taste.

Makes approximately 6-8 cups


Brandied Chestnut & Sausage Stuffing with Organic & Mission Figs


  • 4 cups each, of day-old multigrain bread & french bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 cups day-old french bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4 -5 mild Italian Sausage, casings removed
  • 2 cups peeled roasted chestnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 6 celery stalks, with leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups organic Mission figs
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup organic chicken stock, (preferably homemade)
  • 1/2 cup Brandy
  • 1 1/2 tsp each of dried thyme & fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp anise seeds or fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp butter cut into small pieces


Soak figs and chestnuts in Brandy in a small bowl for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350º Coat a 8x8x2 inch baking dish generously with non-stick spray. In a large skillet over medium-high heat sauté the sausage until brown and cooked through, breaking into small pieces with back of fork, approx. 7-10 minutes. Set aside.

Bring heat down to medium and melt butter. Stir in shallots and celery; cook for 5 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Stir in figs, soaking liquid, 1/2 cup chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until figs are tender, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl and add eggs, sausage, chestnuts, parsley, sage, thyme, anise, cloves and lemon juice, mix thoroughly. Gently add bread cubes and combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Cover baking dish with foil and bake stuffing for 25 minutes. Remove foil and dot with butter and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Serve hot.

Serves 10 – 12.


Sweet Potato Soufflé


  • 5 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, cut into bits
  • 3/4 cup each of granulated sugar & dark brown sugar
  • 4 large brown eggs
  • 3 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 1/2 tsp each of vanilla extract, almond extract & cinnamon
  • 1 tsp each of salt, fresh grated nutmeg & Garam Masala (available in most spice stores)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons each of unsalted butter & dark brown sugar, re- served for topping
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar for garnish


Preheat oven to 350º. In a large pot boil the potatoes for 30-45 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes, peel them and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Using an electric mixer beat the potatoes, sugar & butter on high, until smooth. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the flour, milk, salt and the extracts until all are combined well.

Cover bottoms of two 1 1/2 quart baking dishes with non- stick spray, then divide the mixture and pour between the two. Gently heat the reserved butter and brown sugar for 1-2 minutes and drizzle over top. Bake for 1 hour or until lightly browned. Garnish with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar. Serves 10-12.


Roasted Brussel Sprouts


  • 2 lbs Fresh Brussel Sprouts
  • 4 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp each, salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 450º. Rinse, trim & pat dry brussel sprouts. In a stainless steel roasting pan toss the them evenly with half the EVOO, salt & pepper. Roast them for approximately 30 to 40 minutes; turn them frequently so they don’t burn. Cook until golden brown and crispy. Serve au natural, or finish them off with a very light coating of EVOO & a drizzle of your favorite Balsamic vinegar. Salt & pepper to taste.

Serves 10-12.


Orange Cranberry-Jalapeno Relish


  • 2 pounds fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 medium oranges, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 persimmons, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 5 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup jalapeno-cranberry jelly* available at specialty food stores
  • 2 tsp each of cumin and fresh minced thyme
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves (1 tbsp reserved for garnish)


In a medium saucepan boil the cranberries and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar in just enough water to cover them for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Place half the chopped oranges, the zest, and the jalapenos in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the sugar and pulse for 1 minute.

In a medium sized glass serving bowl, stir together the cranberries with the jalapeno mixture, then stir in the jelly, cumin, thyme, 2 tblsp mint and remaining orange pieces. Chill the relish for at least 1 hour. Garnish with remaining chopped mint. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.

Serves 10-12.


Story & Recipes by Erica Galindo, Courtesy of Sonoma Christian Home. For more of Erica’s recipes, cooking tips and menu ideas, please visit:

About Erica Galindo

Erica Galindo is a Chef, Writer and Stylist. A native of South Florida and veteran Manhattanite, Erica now lives in the beautiful wine country in Sonoma, California with her husband David and son Jack. She has worked as an editor and feature writer for various national and regional publications including: Woman's Day, Country, Ocean Drive, The South Florida Business Journal and Erica’s passion for food, faith and family has inspired her to create a new online magazine -

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Thanksgiving in Sonoma