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The Feast: Dale Talde Does Friendsgiving

Need a last-minute dish idea for your Thanksgiving potluck? The star chef has your back with spicy sweet potatoes and minced pork. Plus, 10 juicy value reds and whites
Disco fries, poutine, chili fries, gravy fries: Add this deeply spiced, Asian-inflected combo of sweet potatoes and pork gravy to the pantheon of fried potatoes served with meat sauce.
Photo by: Hilary Sims
Disco fries, poutine, chili fries, gravy fries: Add this deeply spiced, Asian-inflected combo of sweet potatoes and pork gravy to the pantheon of fried potatoes served with meat sauce.

Hilary Sims
Posted: November 20, 2018

Cooking for a crowd? "The Feast" turns to ace chefs—who better to advise on feeding the whole crew?—for recipes, prep advice and, of course, wine pairings. Plus, we'll give you 10 value wines recommended by our editors. Get ready: It's time to feast!

With 48 hours to go before Thanksgiving, you can practically hear the nation’s stoves snapping to life. If your burners are still idling as you wait for inspiration to strike, you might want to think about committing. Lucky for you, Dale Talde gave us his recipe for an easy, seasonal dish that combines the cozy with the unexpected. By the end of Thanksgiving, your friends will be thanking you.

You might know Talde for his runs on Bravo's Top Chef franchise. Today, he’s a co-owner, with David Massoni and John Bush, of Three Kings Restaurant Group, whose eclectic mix of New York–area restaurants and bars includes the flagship pan-Asian spot Talde in Brooklyn, the dim-sum house Rice & Gold in Chinatown and the Italian restaurant Massoni in Manhattan’s Flatiron District.

Talde grew up in Chicago, the son of Filipino immigrants. The title of his 2016 cookbook, Asian American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn, speaks to the identity politics he has negotiated all his life. Today, his approach is fiercely iconoclastic. “I’m gonna own all of it,” he says of his Asian heritage and U.S. upbringing. “I’m so proud to be Filipino, but my parents didn’t come here for me to say that we are anything but Americans. So why should my food have to reflect what you think I should be doing?”

These days, Talde says, his cooking tends to combine salt, fat, acid and heat in ways that speak to his own cultural mash-up. In his version of the classic Szechuan spicy minced pork over rice, you can just forget about the rice. “Why not put that with sweet potatoes instead?” he proposes. “Sweet potatoes are dope, and we’re in America, where this is indigenous to what we are. And it reminded me of disco fries, which is my jam. Hey, of course you could put it over rice, but try it with sweet potatoes and see how much more awesome it is.”

Plus, he says, the combination of crispy sweet potatoes and minced white meat is perfect for that Friendsgiving potluck where you want to bring something familiar, yet a little different. “It travels really well, and everyone’s like, ‘Yo, this is interesting, what is this?’” he says. “It’s really unpretentious. It’s easy to eat. There’s no fighting with your food. Think about bringing that to a Friendsgiving.”

In the spirit of proudly inauthentic, Talde encourages home cooks to make his recipe their own. “Everything’s a riff, right?” he reasons. “You don’t like pork? Do it with beef. You don’t like beef? Do it with turkey or chicken. It’s awesome with that. Do it with brown tofu.”

The dish gains nuance and depth from an array of spices and condiments, many of them specialty Asian ingredients such as Szechuan peppercorns, toban djan (a spicy salty paste of chiles and fermented beans) and shaoxing wine (made from rice). Look for these at Asian groceries or specialty food markets, but if you can’t find them, he says, it’s no big deal. Swapping in black peppercorns won’t ruin this dish; neither will Sriracha or plain white wine. The resulting flavors will just be less funky and sweet. “I think people will see that they don’t have something and be like, ‘Oh, OK, I can’t make it.’ No! Cooking shouldn’t ever be that rigid. Philosophies and styles should never be that rigid.”

Courtesy of All Good
Dale Talde, who creates dishes that are cultural mash-ups, encourages home cooks to riff off his recipes by incorporating influences from their own heritage.

The most important element in the dish is the crispy sweet potatoes, which provide a textural contrast to the soft minced-pork gravy. Your best bet, he says, is actually to buy them frozen. “Frozen potato products always come out crunchier because they IQF [individual quick freeze] them,” he explains. “It draws moisture out and really, really gets them crunchy.” Look for sweet-potato wedges in the frozen-foods aisle. Follow the package instructions to thaw them before you sauté them.

If you’re going the home-cooked route with your sweet potatoes, he suggests washing, drying and slicing them the day before you plan to cook, then letting the wedges sit, uncovered, in the fridge overnight. This will dry them out a bit, helping them crisp up in the pan the next day.

In fact, Talde notes, if at some point in the future you make this with more than 48 hours before you intend to serve it, almost the entire dish can be made well in advance: “Make it a month ahead, whatever,” he says. “This thing freezes really well. It’s like chili.” You could make the pork gravy in advance, minus the tofu, then refrigerate it for a few days or freeze it for longer. Then, “Bring it up to a boil, get it ripping hot, put your tofu in. The tofu will break up, and then it’s warmed through.” Pan-fry your sweet potatoes, combine everything and you’re good to go.

He also has a tip for Thanksgiving day—no matter what you make. “My thing, especially when you’re cooking for a big group of people, is don’t ever turn the oven off. Because if that thing’s underdone—boop!” Into the oven it goes. And if you’re a good host, your guests probably won’t mind anyway: “‘Ah, guys, it’s gonna be another five minutes. Have another glass of wine.’”

To complement his bold cooking style, Talde typically goes for light- to medium-bodied, higher-acidity wines. To balance this dish, which he says is “more spiced than spicy,” he especially likes the juicy fruit core of the lively, fresh Viña Herminia Tempranillo Rioja Herminia 2014.

Talde likes having a couple white wines on the table as well. “That’s the fun part about wine, right? There’s not one right answer.” Grüner Veltliner is a go-to for him. “It’s light, it’s easy-drinking,” he says. And for a palate-cleanser, “If you can get Txakoli, it’s perfect. That effervescence shuts it all off, it turns the spice off, and then it gets you ready for the next bite. It’s made for this kind of food.”

If you’re going for extra Friendsgiving credit and want to bring a side dish to balance the pork and sweet potatoes, he suggests a light, refreshing smashed cucumber salad, a classic Szechuan complement to hearty foods. Cucumbers are cut into matchsticks, smashed lightly with a rolling pin or the back of a chef’s knife, and then salted and drained. Talde adds a simple dressing (play around with rice-wine vinegar, soy sauce and a pinch of sugar), along with shaved sweet-tart apples, such as Pink Lady, and herbs like cilantro, basil and mint.

And when it comes down to it, he concedes, “I would make a pot of rice. Hell, yeah. Pot of rice would be really good with this.” Sometimes a side of tradition has its charms.

Szechuan Pork with Tingling Sweet Potatoes

For the sweet potatoes:

  • 4 pounds (about 4 large) sweet potatoes, washed, dried and cut into 1-inch sticks or wedges
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons cracked Szechuan peppercorns
  • 4 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns

For the pork:

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Asian five-spice powder
  • 1 cup toban djan Asian chile bean sauce (or gochujang paste or, in a pinch, Sriracha)
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 16-ounce pack soft tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup shaoxing rice wine (or dry white wine or sake)
  • 4 teaspoons Szechuan chile oil (or other chile oil)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions (about 1 bunch)

1. Place sweet potatoes in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Cover with cold water and add salt. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until al dente but not soft, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Optional: Transfer to refrigerator and chill, uncovered, overnight.

2. In a sauté pan, add the vegetable oil, and heat over medium. Place the cooled sweet potatoes on a cutting board and crush lightly with the back of a chef’s knife. Add the Szechuan pepper and black pepper to the pan, followed by the sweet potatoes, working in batches if necessary. Fry the sweet potatoes, flipping once, until brown and crispy on each side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

3. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. Stir to incorporate and set aside.

4. Coat a Dutch oven with vegetable oil or canola oil and heat over medium-low. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until just fragrant. Add Asian five-spice powder and cook, stirring, just for 5 seconds or so. Add toban djan, increase heat to medium and add shaoxing wine, then add ground pork, breaking up with a spoon and stirring to coat with the toban djan mixture. Cook until pork is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add soy sauce and chile oil. Cook, stirring, until some of the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat and cover to keep warm.

5. Drain off any accumulated water from the tofu and scatter tofu evenly over the pork. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Let cook for 20 minutes. Add cornstarch slurry and sugar, and simmer for another 5 minutes, until thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning. Check sweet potatoes; if necessary, set burner on medium-low to rewarm.

Make ahead: Pork mixture will keep, minus the tofu, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Reheat over medium-low, then add tofu and cook until warmed through.

6. Plate one of two ways: classic disco fries–style, by scattering some sweet potatoes on each plate and topping with pork, or restaurant-style, by spreading pork on each plate and topping with sweet potatoes. Garnish with scallions. Serves 8.

10 Recommended Value Wines

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good red and white wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

Fruity Spanish Riojas

BODEGAS ONTAÑON Tempranillo-Garnacha Rioja Crianza 2015 Score: 90 | $18
This red is fresh and firm, with dusty cocoa, underbrush and licorice notes framing the black cherry and red currant fruit. Keen acidity and well-integrated tannins give this focus. Drink now through 2027. 10,000 cases made.—T.M.

BODEGAS VIVANCO Rioja Crianza 2014 Score: 90 | $18
This plump red has a sweet core of ripe cherry and plum fruit, with leafy, cedar, toast and vanilla accents. Bright, juicy acidity and light tannins give this focus. Lively and harmonious. Tempranillo. Drink now through 2024. 60,000 cases made.—T.M.

EL COTO DE RIOJA Rioja Coto de Imaz Reserva 2014 Score: 89 | $20
Light and crisp, this graceful red delivers cherry, berry, leafy and loamy earth flavors in a supple texture, with light tannins and orange peel acidity that give way to a spicy finish. Drink now through 2024. 100,000 cases made.—T.M.

CUNE Rioja Viña Real Crianza 2015 Score: 89 | $15
Cherry and orange peel flavors show a bright, sweet-tart character in this red. Firm underlying tannins and lively acidity give this structure, while vanilla and spice notes linger on the finish. Drink now through 2025. 5,000 cases imported.—T.M.

BODEGAS LAN Rioja Crianza 2014 Score: 88 | $14
This juicy red offers bright cherry, berry and sweet vanilla flavors, with spice and leafy accents. Citrusy acidity focuses the plush, gentle texture. Graceful and gentle. Drink now through 2020. 96,000 cases made.—T.M.

Aromatic Austrian Grüner Veltliners

FORSTREITER Grüner Veltliner Niederösterreich Grooner 2016 Score: 90 | $12
There's a nice balance here between the peach and apple fruit and the herb and grassy flavors. This is harmonious too, leaving a fresh impression. Drink now through 2023. 3,500 cases imported.—B.S.

SCHLOSS GOBELSBURG Grüner Veltliner Kamptal 2016 Score: 90 | $20
An aromatic style, boasting lilac and freesia accents. Apple and grapefruit notes prevail as this elegant white winds down on the graceful finish. Drink now through 2023. 3,700 cases imported.—B.S.

DOMÄNE WACHAU Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Wachau Terrassen 2017 Score: 89 | $18
Elegant and well-balanced, with flavors of apple and dried apricot and hints of fleur de sel, all supported by firm acidity. Remains focused on the finish, ending with flinty, spicy notes. Drink now through 2020. 42,000 cases made.—B.S.

Snappy Spanish Txakolis

ERREKALDE Hondarrabi Zuri Getariako Txakolina Saline 2017 Score: 89 | $18
This snappy white delivers bright citrusy flavors accented by briny and light herbal notes, powered by racy acidity and a light spritz. Very fresh, and shows some breadth. Drink now. 14,000 cases made.—T.M.

ETXANIZ TXAKOLINA Getariako Txakolina Txomin Etxaniz Getaria 2017 Score: 89 | $20
This white shows the rapier acidity and mineral profile characteristic of the type, but offers broader flavors of apple and ginger that add depth, if also a touch of rusticity. Drink now. 7,500 cases made.—T.M.

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