Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner—a memo for next year

I hope that those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful time last Thursday—we certainly did. My parents were visiting from France, and we prepared our first ever traditional Thanksgiving dinner together. We usually jump on the occasion of a 4-day weekend to travel around the US, but staying home with family and cooking all day was actually quite enjoyable (as always!).

We prepared no fewer than 8 dishes from scratch, using recipes we had never tried before, with lots of unfamiliar ingredients and techniques. Quite a challenge... But everything turned out great. Before I forget, let me write down what we cooked. This will come in handy a year from now... Or sooner...

We started with dessert, using this butternut squash pie recipe from High Ground Organics farm, but with orange kabocha squash, heavy whipping cream, and this pie crust. I had roasted the squash and taken a ball of pie dough out of the freezer the night before, and was ready to go in the morning.

Before lunch I had also made corn bread, half of which got used in the stuffing, and the other half served with the appetizer.

I used the Southern Corn Bread recipe from Joy of Cooking (75th anniversary edition, page 632). It was really fun to see the batter start cooking as soon as I poured it in the hot pyrex dish. It smelled delicious too!

The stuffing recipe also came from Joy of Cooking: Bread Stuffing with Giblets (page 534). I replaced the chopped nuts with a jar of chestnuts, cut in 2–3 pieces each, and chose the "sausage meat" option (using mild Italian sausage). We followed Alton Brown's advice and didn't actually stuff the turkey, but baked the stuffing (or is it dressing in that case?) separately.

Alton Brown also provided the secrets to a delicious turkey roast. We brined a 13-lbs all-natural, free range turkey (from Diestel Ranch) in our biggest cooler for 24 hours (after thawing it for about a day in the fridge), then roasted it for about 2.5 hours.
We replaced allspice berries with cinnamon and nutmeg in the brine (just because we didn't have any allspice).

My friend Susyn had sent me her cranberry relish and candied yam recipes, which her mother and grandmother had passed on to her. I felt very honored to be given such treasures. 
The relish was simply a raw mix of cranberries and navel oranges, with a little bit of brown sugar. It was amazingly refreshing.

The yams were boiled then sliced and covered with a sauce made of caramelized navel orange zest, juice, and brown sugar.
Susyn had said "yams, not sweet potatoes," but I couldn't resist the temptation to try different types of yams. From left to right in the upper left corner picture: Japanese yam, Hannah yam, Jewel yam, and Garnet yam. (In the lower right corner picture: Hannah, Jewel, Garnet, Japanese.) I believe that Garnet yam is the most traditional one. 

The last side dish was Brussels sprouts. We found our inspiration in Jerry James Stone's recipe on KQED's Bay Area Bites. Instead of baking the tiny cabbages on skewers, we simply steamed them in a pressure cooker for a few minutes, then sautéed them in a pan with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pine nuts, and added freshly grated parmesan cheese at the last minute.

The appetizer was a radicchio salad with pecan nuts and a honey vinaigrette dressing. This was Pierre's invention, and a very fresh and light start to a copious dinner. 

There was one bit of Frenchness in this meal... Did you see the wine bottle? It was a 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin (from Côte d'Or, near Burgundy), which we had bought at the château several years ago, during a vacation there with my parents. There wasn't a better occasion than this family reunion in our country of adoption to open this little gem.