For 157 years of its 166-year history, Tujague’s proudly served a five-course, table d’hôte menu that varied only in the choice of a few Creole entrees. But even before the introduction of a more diverse à la carte menu in 2013, Thanksgiving was a bit different, with turkey and dressing supplanting the likes of trout almandine and chicken clemenceau. Today, the French Quarter institution, regarded as the third-oldest restaurant in America, still creates a special Thanksgiving lunch that showcases traditional roast turkey, but chef Gus Martin also has made stars of the first dishes to arrive at the table. A standout is his roasted beet salad, amplified by goat cheese, spiced pecans, and (mmmm) bacon vinaigrette.
“I love cooking for Thanksgiving because it’s about bringing people together and catching up,” Martin says. “The beet salad is a nice, light way to start the meal before you move into the heartiness of the other dishes.”
It’s also a prime example of Martin’s emphasis on seasonal ingredients. “I think beets are so good this time of year, and the best way to eat a beet is roasted,” he says. “Their sweetness is really complemented by the bacon and the goat cheese.”
Harried Thanksgiving cooks take note: Although the recipe requires separately prepping several components, none are particularly challenging, and most can be prepared in advance. Of course, you need not divulge that to your impressed guests.