Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanks again!

So Thanksgiving has come and gone.  I think I might scale back on the menu next year.  The cooking actually went off without a hitch.  Jeff and I started on Sunday afternoon with the chicken liver mousse, and continued working on weekday evenings, leading up to a marathon starting at 9 AM on Thursday.  With all the work we did in advance, there really weren't any flying drumsticks or burning casseroles at dinner, and we had it served within 15 minutes of schedule.  It was probably my proudest achievement of the year 2012.  I might put it on my resume.

Still, there were a couple moments, like when I was saving a PDF copy of the menu to print on cardstock, or churning the second of a trio of ice creams, or playing Tetris with a cascade of jars and tupperware on the top shelf of our refrigerator, when I thought--OK, this might be a little gratuitous.  Twenty-four separate recipes.  Maybe we'll cut that down to eighteen next year.  Or thirteen for '13.  Who knows?  Anyway, my recipe post from last year was actually quite a help in planning, so I thought I'd do another one.  Regardless of how many dishes come out of the kitchen, I'm sure that I'll be glad to have this around.  Maybe you will too.


Crudites included lightly cooked broccolini, watermelon radishes, colorful carrots, and celery, served with french onion dip (2/3 cup mayo, 1/3 cup sour cream, 4 deeply caramelized onions) and bleu cheese dip (1/3 cup mayo, 2/3 cup sour cream, crumbled bleu cheese, chives, and black pepper).

Chicken liver mousse, recipe from Frances, was served with apple butter from last year (don't tell anyone--apparently 17 pounds lasts longer than I thought) and some of Heidi's oatmeal crackers rolled out to thickness 6.  Making crackers is never, never as simple of an undertaking as you think it's going to be when you get started.  Don't let anybody ever tell you that it's easy.

Beet-pickled eggs weren't originally going to be on the menu, but after a request from my friend Greg, who tweets about #color every other day, I decided to bring them out again.  And it's fine, because hard-boiling eggs is something that I could stand to be better at doing, anyway.  I had to sacrifice a few to test doneness, but the lucky survivors weren't too hard to peel or pickle (2/3 red beet cooking liquid, 1/3 white vinegar, salt and sugar to taste).

Somehow I got attached to the idea of serving guests cocktails as soon as they walked in the door, and boulevardiers are my new favorite cocktail.  It's 2 parts rye whiskey, 1 part Campari, and 1 part sweet vermouth.  I learned from Serious Eats that to make a cocktail for a crowd, you can make up 1/4 of the total volume with water, then stick it in the freezer to chill (don't forget to remove it before serving, to prevent ice chips).  So I came up with 24 oz rye, 12 oz Campari, 12 oz vermouth, and 16 oz water.  I can do math!

Roast duck was roasted according to this method, and was a big hit, although I thought the breast meat came out a little overcooked.  If I did it again, I might remove one of the breast-side-up roastings, or try an even lower temperature.  There's a dozen ways to roast a duck on the internet, but I was too lazy to stage a dip into boiling water.  This method did seem to cut down on splattering fat, and crisped up the skin nicely.

Cranberry sauce was a 12-ounce bag of cranberries, a cup of sugar, the zest and juice of an orange, a one-inch piece of ginger, two cinnamon sticks, and five pods of star anise.  Remember how many whole spices you put in, so you can fish them out later.

I think everyone who knows me knows that I have a special fondness for mashed potatoes, which grew even fonder this year thanks to the food mill that Sam's Mom bought me after reading the linked blog entry.  Unlike last year, I didn't have to spend 90 minutes pushing them through a strainer--more like 90 seconds cranking them through the grating.  So that was about 60 times more pleasant.  To reheat, Jeff and I tag-teamed them in the microwave, which worked really well.  I probably didn't even need to add the last cup of cream.  I probably did need to make more than five pounds, because there weren't any left over.

Leek bread pudding, just like last year, was from Ad Hoc At Home, as adapted here.  We made it two days in advance, covered it in duck drippings, and baked again at 350 to heat through before serving.  Marvelous.

Cauliflower gratin is Jeff's thing, from Martha's recipe, with three different colors of cauliflower, parmesan cheese, and chestnuts.  Also, six cups of cream.  Shockingly, it is delicious.

Last year I went to the extra trouble of blanching my brussels sprouts before tossing them in a hot oven to finish, but the water trapped between the leaves gave a kind of mushy result with a broken sauce.  This year, I just made a miso brown butter (8 tbsp butter, browned, and 2 tbsp miso).  As soon as the ducks came out of the oven, I tossed about 2 1/2 pounds of halved brussels sprouts with this melted butter in a cast-iron skillet and stuck it under the broiler.  I gave it a shake every few minutes, and after 6-10 minutes, the sprouts had just a bit of char, and were glazed perfectly with the butter.  This is it.

A few pounds of multicolored carrots were tossed with duck fat, salt, and a sprinkle of powdered cumin, then roasted until tender.  I toasted about a cup of uncooked wild rice in a little extra duck fat and then boiled it, with a sprig of thyme.  Then I mixed the rice and carrots together with some chopped dates and cumin seeds.  To serve, I warmed it through in a 350-degree oven.  It's based on a dish from the Eleven Madison Park cookbook.  It didn't come with a meyer lemon puree or a complimentary clambake, but it was quite good, and I was proud of the adaptation.

I love the recipe for glazed romano beans with mint from Ad Hoc At Home, especially with a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds tossed in, but the timing is just a little bit tricky as part of a large meal.  The buttery glaze doesn't keep well at all, so you have to whip it up five minutes before you serve.  If you heat the romano beans in it too long, they won't be green.  If you don't heat them enough, the butter will congeal on them.  This might not make the cut again.

Fennel is one of my favorite flavors in the world, and I wanted a raw vegetable to cut the richness of the rest of the meal, so I sliced two bulbs very thin and tossed them with the zest of juice and a lemon and a little salt.  Just before serving, I minced a handful of parsley leaves and tossed those in too.

Jeff had gotten dozens upon dozens of beets in his most recent farmbag, and I already had to make up a red pickling liquid, so I decided to also make a beet salad.  I boiled some red, yellow, and pink chiogga beets in separate pots of water, cubed them, and kept them separate until dinner.  Then Jeff tossed them with some apple cider vinegar, minced horseradish, and a few handfuls of arugula.  Though kind of an afterthought in my dinner plan, it came out just right, and it was another refreshing dish amidst the (literal) quarts of cream on the table.

I made some cornbread from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home, and holy crap is that a good recipe.  The recipe calls for hot peppers and scallions, and just because I knew Jeffrey would approve,  I chopped up 8 oz of cream cheese and added that to the batter too.  Luckily, it was sitting in a weird place, so nobody took seconds, and I had it for breakfast through Tuesday.

This roasted fruit crostata is one of my favorites and makes an appearance every holiday.  I double the quantity of fruit, just so it's not too crusty.

I did make up an extra half-batch of crust from the crostata and use it as the base for Paula Deen's sweet potato pie.  It was good, but to my palate it was eclipsed by a butternut squash pie that my friend Chelsea brought, which was even more packed with deep vegetable flavor.  Anyway, they were both better than pumpkin pie.

I made some fruit salad from six persimmons, a red and a yellow grapefruit, and a big pomegranate.  Just before serving, I tossed a few spoonfuls of vanilla sugar over the top and mixed it up.  The best part was that all the fruit could be cut up in advance, with no danger of oxidizing and turning brown.  The last thing you want to do is take a knife to pare a pear after a few glasses of pinot noir.

And that brings us to ice creams, three different ones, all inspired by The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  I made peanut butter rosemary by steeping three big sprigs of rosemary in cream before making his peanut butter ice cream recipe.  Cinnamon was by-the-book, but I found it a bit lacking in spice up-front, so I added in a few teaspoons of powdered cinnamon to the base.  And celery vanilla was his recipe for green pea ice cream, with celery instead of peas, and some vanilla steeped into the cream.  I blanched and pureed all the green parts from a bunch of celery so the final ice cream was green, and I steeped the rest of the bunch in the cream to enhance the celery flavor.  I think about three bites were eaten in total, but I still love her.


  1. Will you please fly out east and cook me Thanksgiving dinner next year???

  2. Sure thing! Then will you hop on a plane for my birthday and cook me a dozen recipes from your blog? (it's okay if 6 or 7 are cocktails)