Thanksgiving: Before, During, and After

Ah, Thanksgiving.  How was yours?  Mine was super-relaxing.


Want to know what a Personal Chef eats on the day before Thanksgiving?  And for lunch the day of?

The same thing everyone else eats: whatever is most convenient.

true story

And when it’s a pescatarian Thanksgiving meal that one doesn’t start planning until Tuesday (luckily for only three people), it’s a meal full of nothing but simple “greatest hits” that one can basically bang out with eyes closed.

Or blurry eyes, if you’ve already gotten into the bar.  And it’s Thanksgiving, so of course you have.

Clockwise, from the fish in front (and with links to recipes):
Crème Fraîche Roasted Salmon

Raw Lacinato Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad (one of my all-time favorite recipes)
Mirliton and Shrimp Dressing
Roasted Delicata Squash with Avocado Sauce and Walnuts

Dessert was a Lemon Curd Tart with a Gingerbread Rusk crust, adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  It was my one concession to the overachiever that lives in my heart.

To deal with some leftovers, I cooked up a couple of bacon slices, sautéed a bit of leftover kale and Brussels sprouts in the fat, and tossed it all with some cooked orzo and a healthy dash of hot sauce.  Beer.  Salad.  Lovely.

The day after Thanksgiving is the day I do not leave the house.  Man, forget that.  Instead, I put on Christmas music (this year’s selection), whip up some eggnog, and put up the tree.  It is absolutely my favorite holiday.  This year, I even made cookies.

so sparkle

The eggnog this year is the aged eggnog recipe from the Art of Eating, and you guys it. is. amazing.  Previously, I’ve used the uncooked eggnog from the Joy of Cooking, but always end up with a huge pitcher of eggnog that I end up dreading towards the end, but slogging through bravely.  I mean, one can only drink so much nog before it begins to wear a person down.

This recipe, though, has you mix an egg-booze-sugar base that gets aged at least three weeks (!), and mixed up one cocktail at a time.  It’s perfect.  Bonus: aging the eggs in booze actually kills all traces of salmonella, so it’s safer than my old traditional uncooked eggnog.  We do not discuss cooked eggnog around here.

If you have a copy of the magazine, I strongly urge you to mix up a batch.  It’ll be ready just in time for Christmas.

nog perfection
tinsel tree for maximum sparkles

Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend.  Now let’s get ready for the next one.

Thanksgiving; Or, Better Late than Never

We had Thanksgiving dinner!  You know, um, two weeks ago.   (Give or take a day.)  I bet you did, too.

I took some pictures, and thought you might like to see them.

For hors d’oeuvres, we had a date and kumquat chutney…

…served with a round of soft Camembert, the World’s Best Spiced Pretzel-Nut mixture, and the World’s Best Spiced Peanuts.  Black pepper water crackers are always a must.

There was also a cocktail hour, featuring a rye and amaro concoction that required a few attempts at mixing and sampling to perfect, simple as the recipe seems.  I think it was four tries before we hit the real magic.  Perseverance always pays off.

The entrée was a couple of wild pheasants, barded with bacon and braised whole with aromatics, juniper, and bay.  They were hunted by a friend of a friend (thank you, Sergei!), and were pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself.  On the same platter are roasted wedges of acorn squash.  To the right of the pheasant is a sweet corn spoonbread, which might’ve risen higher if I had a proper soufflé dish, but I don’t need to keep one around for how often I make soufflés (this might be the second or third time in this apartment).

This is cornbread, chestnut, and andouille dressing.  I think dressing is my favorite part of the typical All-American Thanksgiving Dinner.  Basically just bread and vegetables, maybe a little meat for flavor, what else do you need?

I don’t know about you, but I think this dish is hilarious.  It’s my nod to that perennial favorite, jellied cranberry sauce in a can.  Thanksgiving dinner was never complete without it when I was little, and it turns out it was always my boyfriend’s favorite part, too.  It was stupidly simple; I just made a fancy cranberry sauce (half recipe of that beast) and molded it in a can.  But the solids that I was supposed to trash – instead I strained and jazzed them up with a little port and some orange zest – have been my favorite leftover.  Sandwiches, curries, cheese on crackers, they all go splendidly.

For bread, I made these mustard rolls, because Thanksgiving requires a softer-crust roll.  Ciabatta or a baguette just doesn’t seem right.

Dessert was a Paris-Brest, from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe.  I usually trust CI with my life, but I feel they really dropped the ball with this one (or maybe I did).  It looked pretty enough, but there were issues.  The choux paste was fine, but it didn’t behave like my usual recipe.  The hazelnut crème chiboust filling was a little too stiff with gelatin, and didn’t melt on the tongue like you’d expect it to.  It was just okay, and I was sorry to have wasted the poor hazelnuts on it.  Yes, I’m very picky about the desserts I make.

pretty, though

On this plate, you can see the raw kale and brussels sprout salad I included for a little verdant crunch among the other rich dishes.  This salad is so, so, so good.  It’s earned a place in my short go-to list.  Full-flavored, crunchy, and ridiculously nutritious.  I could eat it every day.

For you oenophiles, the wine was a charming little number from the South of France, a blend of… some… kind… of grapes.  It had a woodcock on the label, and the old European gentleman I purchased it from assured me without hesitation that this was the wine for pheasant.  (I mean, come one, there was a game bird right on the bottle!  Who was I to argue?)  Turns out he was so very right; it was a perfect match.

Hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving!






Five Minute Photo Shoot: Almost time…

First, a little something healthy before the big feast.

This is beet greens sautéed with Tuscan kale and plenty of garlic, over brown rice.  Parmesan on top, of course.

And a few previews of my Thanksgiving menu, still in progress:

wild pheasants



cranberry sauce

choux paste


More later.  Until then, Happy Thanksgiving!