A Very Voice Friendsgiving with Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy

A Very Voice Friendsgiving with Meredith Graves of Perfect PussyEXPAND
All photos Bradley Hawks

Somebody needs to come up with a new name for this goddamn holiday.

There's nothing better than a group of people coming together to eat amazing food and express gratitude, but the word "Thanksgiving" just sounds like a smallpox blanket. (While we're at it, "pumpkin spice" isn't actually a white-people thing, the president "pardons" turkeys but drones children...)

Anyway. Hi. My name is Meredith. I sing in a band called Perfect Pussy and run a small record label called Honor Press. I also write — mostly about music and feminism, but also about food, because I love food. I could barely boil water until I was eighteen, newly vegan and living in an ultra-sleepy and resource-starved rural town in upstate New York. Soy Not Oi and Veganomicon saved me from certain death by starvation. After I learned the basics, I started to enjoy cooking for myself and my friends.

Soon after, I branched out into baking — and quickly became the prototypical self-consciously twee girl who sells vegan cupcakes at punk shows (every town has one; we are legion). I read a thousand cookbooks (and Julia Child's My Life in France). Then I got really into raw food; then I dropped the vegan act and developed an interest in organ meats; then I built raised beds and grew all my own produce for a summer. I learned how to pickle stuff, make kombucha, and brew hard cider. I started foraging for herbs and greens and mushrooms, fell head over heels for bread (bread over heels?) — et cetera, ad nauseam.

Now, a decade after I started, cooking and baking are my greatest joys. They are easy ways to take care of people, to tend to their health and make them feel loved. I am perpetually curious and want to learn everything I can about food — how it's grown, how it's cooked, who grows it and cooks it, how it's preserved, who can access it, and where and why. I'm interested in the science and history behind recipes and restaurants — and why we save greasy, decades-old index cards with secret family recipes for Swedish meatballs or Frito pie. This is in direct conflict with my life as a touring musician, so when I'm home, I cook as much as humanly possible.

Hence my new column for the Village Voice, Recipe for Disaster. Every Thursday, I'll be reviewing a record and providing an accompanying recipe for the Voice's online music section, Sound of the City. If I'm on the road and can't cook, you might just get a roundup of exceptional regional potato chip flavors (ranked), a sonnet about the worst burrito in rural Indiana, or my stoned play-by-play of whatever's on the Food Network (if whatever motel we end up in has cable). No rules, no promises, except that it will always be about music and food.

And because I'm a total sociopath, I figured we'd celebrate the column's inception with a full-on Friendsgiving dinner. Five (well, seven, sort of) recipes, spelled out as simply and intuitively as I can manage, using mostly whole, natural ingredients that can be found at basic grocery stores, because while I'm definitely all about specialty items, you shouldn't always have to take the train 45 minutes each way just to buy inverted honey, or psychic sausage, or powdered nasturtium, or whatever.

All of these recipes are designed to feed a dinner party. Adjust quantities accordingly: Since I cook intuitively, one could theoretically read through each recipe (OK, maybe not the turkey) and figure out how to make it for one or two people.

Accompanying each recipe is an album, all of which I've collected on a Spotify playlist (see above, or listen here). I started cooking around 3 p.m., worked at a moderate pace, and finished around 8, so by the time you listen to it twice through you'll be about done.

Thank you for reading, listening, and (hopefully) eating, and just for being you.

THE MENU

Dream Bread With Roll Variation

Ex-Boyfriend Kale Salad

Roasted Root Vegetables

Smashed Sweet Potatoes

A Turkey Named D'Artagnan

Tea's Gravy

Vegan Chocolate Mousse Pie

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DREAM BREAD WITH ROLL VARIATION

This is my tried-and-true yeast bread recipe. You can split the dough between two loaf pans for sandwich bread or do as I've done here and divide it into twelve palm-sized balls before the second rise so it turns into pull-apart dinner rolls. I bake all my bread in a cast-iron skillet because that's just the kind of guy I am. I suggest it.

Bread is psychedelic as fuck. Once you start making it, you will become obsessed with the magical and chemical processes at work. If you start your day by making bread — which you totally should — pair it with Japanese art-metal band Boris's album Heavy Rocks. It will get you amped enough to bench-press the turkey, but you'll also kind of feel like a mystic wizard, which is good when you've got pots boiling and ovens steaming and dough rising. Open your heart and raise your third eye. Bread is a ritual. Get in the zone.

Ingredients:

6 1/4 cups flour (I like to use 5 cups unbleached all-purpose, 1 1/4 cups whole wheat or rye, but you can use all-AP if that's what you've got)

2 1/4 tsp/one packet dry yeast

3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt (I like sea salt)

2 tbsp oil

2 1/4 c water, warmed to pleasant bathtub temperature

1. In a small bowl, whisk yeast and sugar together with the warm water. Set aside to proof — that is, to turn foamy and bubbly.

2. Combine the flours in a large mixing bowl.

3. When the yeast is fluffy and foamy, add the oil and salt and whisk.

4. Pour the yeast mixture into the center of the flour and stir gently with a wooden spoon until dough begins to form. Once stirring is no longer functional, dig in with your hands. Knead it a little, but not too much — just a minute or two to combine everything.

5. Cover with a towel and let rise for 90 minutes in a warm spot. I like to put the bowl in the oven with the oven light on, which generates a little bit of heat.

6. After the first rise, either split the dough into two loaf pans or divide it up into twelve balls, placed adjacent to one another in a cast-iron or other baking implement. Let rise, covered, for another 40 minutes.

7. Spray the top lightly with oil (option: top with fresh or dried herbs and sea salt; rosemary is a nice choice) and bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until the bread sounds sort of hollow when you tap the crust.

EX-BOYFRIEND KALE SALAD

My ex used to run a raw-food place that served great (and idiotically expensive) salads, but when it came time for him to eat, he preferred this kale deal from the Australian joint across the way. I got hooked on it, so I taught myself how to make an approximation.

For this, try Beak's >>. I heard this at Dimes, late at night with a group of my best witches drinking a mezcal that tasted like it was flavored with burnt toast and bacon, and I feel like they might serve something like this salad there, too. (Wishful thinking. Dimes is dope.) Beak is nestled between several genres: experimental, electronic, trip-hop. It's energizing brain fuel, and so is this salad.

Ingredients:

1 (or 2, if you're feeding a lot of people) head of kale, any variety

2 large lemons

3/4 c tahini

1/2 c + 2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 c agave nectar (maple syrup or honey will work)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 cloves garlic

1/3–1/2 c golden raisins

1/3–1/2 c raw sunflower seeds

1. Massage the kale well with 2 tbsp olive oil and the juice of one lemon. This will help the kale break down a little so it can be eaten raw. Let this sit for a long time, like an hour or two if you can manage it.

2. Finely chop the garlic into little teeny tiny bits.

3. In a small bowl, whisk up the raw garlic, tahini, remaining 1/2 c of olive oil, agave, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar.

4. When the kale is sufficiently broken down, mix in tahini dressing.

5. Toss in the sunflower seeds and raisins right before serving.

A Very Voice Friendsgiving with Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy (5)

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES

Easy, easy, easy. So easy. Unbelievably easy. Flexible. Nutritious, nice colors, looks much fancier than it is. Use whatever root vegetables you want and whatever herbs you want. I timed these so I could throw them in the oven with the turkey when it was 30 minutes away from being done. When the turkey came out, I cranked the oven up to 420 for 20 minutes. If you're making these alone, sans turkey companion, follow the recipe below.

Pair the root vegetables — earthy, fortifying, and simple — with Helado Negro's Double Youth. Roberto is a true crooner; few things sound sweeter than his low, almost classical vibrato enmeshed with digital beats and a slowly strummed guitar. Your fingers will be stained pink and you'll gain the sense that the universe is a sentient, seductive being for whom you play a small but unequivocally important part.

Ingredients:

3–4 large beets

2–3 large martian carrots (or 7–8 normal-size carrots; I just happened to find these bizarre, super-large carrots at the market)

Olive oil, indeterminate quantity

Fresh herbs (I used sage and rosemary), 1/3 c chopped

Sea salt

1. Chop your root vegetables (FYI, this will also work for sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, whatever tickles your fancy) into rough 1-inch cubes. Don't peel anything. Don't ever peel anything.

2. Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, chopped fresh herbs, and sea salt to lightly coat.

3. Spread on a parchment-lined baking pan and roast at 420 for 20 minutes. Take the pans out, flip the vegetables around with a spatula, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.

SMASHED SWEET POTATOES

This barely counts as a recipe, but I'll put it here anyway because I made it and people loved it. If this were an album, it would be a Beat Happening record, their debut, the one with the stupid cat in the rocket. Three ingredients — beautiful because it's simple, but more complex than it seems at first glance, and folksy without being contrived. Use Earth Balance and agave to make it vegan; use salted butter and honey if you don't care.

Ingredients:

Sweet potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes

Agave nectar (or maple syrup, or honey)

Butter (Earth Balance or dairy butter)

1. Boil sweet potatoes 20–30 minutes, until tender and smashable. Drain.

2. Return sweet potatoes to pan and add butter as desired. I used about 6 tablespoons of Earth Balance for 8–10 sweet potatoes. You might like more, you might like less. YOLO. If you use unsalted butter, you might also want to add a pinch of salt. Then, smash the crap out of the sweet potatoes with a big wooden spoon.

3. Add liquid sweetener to taste. You shouldn't need much! Again, for 8–10 sweet potatoes I probably used 1/4 cup of agave.

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A TURKEY NAMED D'ARTAGNAN

OK, I started calling the turkey D'Artagnan because that was the brand of turkey they had at the local shop, but it meant I became weirdly attached to the turkey for the three days it lived in my fridge. It quickly got to the point where my sainted mother called yesterday before dinner just to ask "if D'Artagnan was ready."

D'Artagnan was a learning experience. I've only made one turkey before, and it was spatchcocked to high hell, so roasting a whole bird was a trip. Since I've heard turkey described as "a big chicken," I decided to lean heavily on Ina Garten's roast-chicken recipe, which I've warped and appropriated wildly over the years.

Many people take three or four days to make a turkey, from brining to basting to tra-la-la. This is the easiest, most foolproof way to make the turkey, in my opinion. It might not be fancy, but you probably won't fuck it up, either. I took a lot of hints from the New York Times' guide to turkey.

While you're making the turkey, listen to Yoshimi and Yuka's Flower With No Color. Members of Boredoms and Cibo Matto, two relatively abrasive bands, came together to make this sweet, dreamy album, so making the naked, raw turkey dance along to it gently might stave off the grim reality of death that comes with cooking animal flesh. You're handling something the size and weight of a six-month-old baby, slaughtered for your pleasure. Pairing it with something soothing is your best option to avoid staring into the gaping meat-maw of the empty turkey as if it were some sort of Nietzschean void.

Ingredients:

Turkey (mine was 11 pounds)

3 lemons

3 heads of garlic

Large bunch of thyme

4 tbsp (half a stick) salted butter

Salt and pepper

White onion

6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Large roasting pan

1. Preheat the oven to 425. While the oven is heating, get the turkey open and pull the neck and guts out. Let the turkey hang in a pan in the sink so it dries as much as it can on the outside.

2. Chop the onion into big chunks.

3. Chop the very tops off the heads of garlic and halve two of the lemons. Stuff the carcass with the lemon halves, garlic bulbs, and a big fistful of thyme, leaving a few sprigs of it out for decoration.

4. Pour melted butter over the top of the turkey. Follow with salt and pepper. Thinly slice the last lemon and lay some fancy-looking lemon slices on the outside of the bird, along with a few sprigs of thyme.

5. Make sure the bird is off the bottom of the roasting pan — either use the rack that comes with a roasting pan or, if you're using an aluminum pan like I did, flip a baking dish upside down to loft the bird a bit.

6. Scatter the chopped onion in the bottom of the roasting pan, then pour in the stock.

7. As soon as you put the turkey in the oven, turn it down to 375. The rule is cook it for 13 minutes per pound of bird. By this metric, D'Artagnan baked for about 2 hours, 45 minutes.

8. Basting can be done by spooning pan drippings over the top of the bird every 30–45 minutes or so throughout the baking process.

9. When the turkey is cooked through and out of the oven, transfer it from the pan to a cutting board, cover it in an aluminum foil tent, and allow it to "rest" for half an hour while you finish your vegetables and make gravy with the pan juices.

TEA'S GRAVY

I forgot gravy was a thing until ten minutes before people arrived. Thankfully, my good friend Tea came early. This girl could track a deer through the woods blindfolded. Of course she knows how to make gravy.

Ingredients:

Pan drippings and onion bits, drained from turkey

1–2 c vegetable or chicken stock

4 tbsp salted butter

1/4 c all-purpose flour

1. Go back to your turkey pan, now absolved of the turkey, and dump the contents through a sieve into a measuring cup or bowl. Save the onions and reserve turkey bits — you'll need them after.

2. Warm butter on medium heat in a large pot or wok-type pan.

3. Add flour and whisk, whisk, whisk until a roux forms. The flour and butter will start to thicken and brown into something resembling what you'd use to paste a show flyer onto an unsuspecting surface.

4. Slowly, while whisking, pour in the drippy liquid. Continue to whisk as it thickens. Start by adding one cup of stock, using more if you prefer it thinner.

5. Add in the oniony-meaty bits you strained out. If you roasted the turkey neck along with the bird, scrape off the neck meat and add that, too. Why? Because neck meat, my dude.

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VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE

This pie has made a lot of friends over the years. Back when my apartment situation included punk bands sleeping in our living room two or three nights a week, all of whom I had to feed, I knew I needed a quick, cheap, vegan, and relatively foolproof dessert recipe in my arsenal. This pie became the stuff of legend, I guess because it tastes like elementary school cafeteria dessert. The prefab piecrust is essential. It simply isn't as good with an elegant, buttery homemade crust. You need that grainy graham cracker texture to make it shine.

We'll pair this dessert with Born Against, inarguably one of the greatest American hardcore punk bands (of the loud-fast-rules-flag-burning variety). I listened to this band a lot during that particular time in my life, so it cracked me up beyond measure when I read Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts only to find he made a far more elegant version of this dessert at Del Posto. The collective unconscious is crazy.

Ingredients (for two pies, because you will need two pies):

Two packages silken tofu

2 premade Keebler graham cracker pie crusts (accidentally vegan!)

1 bar of Baker's German chocolate (sweet)

1 bar of Lindt Sweet Dark chocolate (you can use 2 if you want it REALLY chocolatey)

Agave to taste

Sea salt to taste

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until it resembles thin chocolate syrup.

2. Combine chocolate, tofu, and a bit of agave in a blender. Blend the hell out of it until it resembles chocolate mousse.

3. Taste. Sweeten with agave accordingly. (You shouldn't need much, if any, but live your life.) Add sea salt, because salt and chocolate love each other very much.

4. Pour mixture into the two pie crusts, wrap in saran, and refrigerate until set.

A Very Voice Friendsgiving with Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy (2)

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