Friday, November 26, 2004


The Bakerina had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: a Friday post-mortem of our respective Thanksgiving feasts. I’m holding up my end of the bargain with this post, written after enough time has elapsed so that excessive levels of l-tryptophan in my bloodstream will not cloud my thinking.

This year, we did a few things differently. We had purchased new china a few months back, in one of those little trips to Williams-Sonoma that got way out of control: instead of some cedar boards and seasoning for making planked salmon, we went home with three hundred bucks worth of heavy white porcelain. As Martha would say, “it’s a good thing.” Anyway, we elected to use this nice white dinnerware instead of our Fancy Shit from the China Cabinet. This saved an enormous amount of time in the clean-up phase that inevitably follows Gastric Packing Exercises.

Our table looked pretty spiffy, with a new red tablecloth and a beautiful floral centerpiece. The picture below shows things just before the arrival of the Mongol Hordes our friends. Snazzy, huh?

Chez Elisson, before the invasion of the Mongol Hordes festivities. Posted by Hello

We broke with tradition in yet another respect this year. Rather than horse all of the platters to the table and serve everything family-style, we set up a buffet line in the kitchen. That way, everyone could load his or her plate at leisure, without having to wait patiently for dishes to get passed. Much more efficient.

Now, to the menu items.

Once again, She Who Must Be Obeyed prepared her Maple-Roast Turkey, from a recipe originally published in Bon Appetit magazine twenty years ago, and which we’ve used many times since. The turkey is prepared by inserting mint and sage leaves under the skin of the breast and glazing with a mixture of maple syrup, butter, snipped chives, and minced ginger root. The results this year were superb.

We had two – count ’em! – two types of stuffing, both prepared ex ave. One, a traditional bread stuffing, was made with foccacia croutons enhanced with herbes de Provence, onions, celery, and my made-from-scratch 100-octane chicken stock. The second is a little less traditional: sweet Italian sausage, rice, toasted pine nuts, golden raisins, chopped parsley, and Parmesan. This year, we stepped out of the box a little bit and used turkey sausage and brown rice, small changes that will henceforth be incorporated into the Elisson Cooking Canon. The bread-based stuffing was pretty damn fine, as expected, with a flavor that shouted “Thanksgiving!” - but the brown rice stuffing kicked its ass around the block. It was just that good.

Especially when slathered with my Giblet Gravy. Yes, friends, this is one dish for which SWMBO hands the kitchen reins to me and lets me drive, for it involves Substances She Does Not Eat. Namely, giblets.

It’s basic stuff, really, although it sounds like a big pain in the ass. You take the giblets (minus the liver, which is sautéed separately), simmer them in water to cover, along with carrots, onion, celery, parsley stems, a clove or two of garlic, some whole peppercorns, and fresh thyme. After a couple of hours, you strain off the liquid (now a yummy stock) and mix in some roux (olive oil plus flour, stirred over med-high flame until it gradually turns the color of milk chocolate) to get the right consistency. You take the simmered meat and pull it apart (gotta get rid of the neck bones and gristle), then dice it up fine along with the sautéed liver, then add to the thickened stock. Stir in a splash of Cognac and simmer for about 20 minutes, then keep warm until serving. Yummers!

But wait, there’s more. An assortment of tiny potatoes – gold, red, and dark purple – halved, and roasted to a caramelized turn in olive oil and duck schmaltz, along with about a head’s worth of unpeeled garlic cloves and a handful of fresh rosemary. Butternut squash, split, with the deep orange flesh slathered with butter and honey, then roasted – recipe courtesy of the Mistress of Sarcasm her ownself! SWMBO’s carrot soufflé, a low-carb treat. Our friend Gary’s amazing sweet potato pudding, surprisingly non-cloying.

I can’t forget my Wilted Spinach Salad with Pine Nuts and Dried Currants. “My” is a misnomer – we got this recipe from SWMBO’s brother Aaron (a professional chef) and we love it all year ’round. Take a good-sized bowl of clean, dry baby spinach. Heat up some extra-virgin olive oil and throw in a liberal amount of chopped garlic. As soon as it’s hot enough to perfume the oil (but not brown the garlic), dump it on the spinach and toss until wilted. Throw in some dried currants and a liberal handful of toasted pine nuts, then toss with freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Sprinkle a little extra Romano on top before serving and you’ve got a spinach salad that will kill a vampire at twenty paces.

And – in a semi-appalling nod to American tradition – the Infamous Green Bean Casserole. Yes, you know which one I’m talking about. Canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, canned fried onions. A rare example of the whole being greater than the sum of its (horrendous) parts, this is a dish that makes a statement. “Get down off your foodie-ass high horse and eat some of this.”

All of this washed down with copious amounts of Rex Goliath 47-Pound Rooster Merlot and chilled Peanut Grigio (a local Georgia wine), and you’ve got yourself a meal, laddie buck.

Desserts? Yeah, we had those, too. Our friend Laura Belle contributed two apple pies (one crumb, the other a gargantuan two-crust marvel) and a pumpkin pie, along with ice cream, schlag, and caramel sauce with which to decorate them. Plus some chewy chocolate brownies, if the pies were not enticement enough. We threw in a (store bought, I’ll confess it) chocolate silk pie.

Oy. Some nice hot coffee and a shot of Underberg bitters. Now…(urp) what’s fer breakfast?

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