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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Everyday Should Be Thanksgiving Part 1

He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part; The full, the true Thanksgiving Comes from the heart.
~J.A. Shedd

Brace yourselves, my pals, this is a loooong blog!!!

Last year at this time was a bittersweet one for me.

We sold our home.

While we were, of course, fortunate to sell it at a time when others could not sell theirs it did not make the leaving any easier. I was however bound and determined to make our last Thanksgiving in the house a memorable one, but wanted to keep the dinner a very intimate one.

So we invited our best "couple" over.
I say best couple because we happen to value both people as friends which is a rarity. You know how it is. Often you have a friend, like we do, and he changes life partners, like he did, and while you can tolerate them for your friend's sake, you don't really connect to them in a truly friendly way. But such was not the case with this couple, they are both truly our friends equally.

Well, Thanksgiving has come & gone and as the Thanksgiving card that I gave my hubby exhaustively exclaims: "Days of chopping and shredding and baking and roasting, stuffing & serving, all for a half-hour turkey binge and a week's worth of dried out leftovers!"

Yep, that just about sums it up. Add flower arranging, dusting, table-setting, and apartment-hunting then you'll have an idea of the Thanksgiving 2007 experience for moi at the old household.

It's mostly a labor of love, anyway & a gift that I give to myself maybe even more than a gift to my guests. All except for the house-hunting part which I faced & face with dread & sadness. Dread because I know there is precious little in the way of housing in the rental market that I deem livable, spoiled brat that I've been so fortunate to become, & I dread how sad the lack of real prospects makes me.

Sad, too, to leave the beautiful home that we built with great care & love over several years. A love that resonates through every room, in every window, door, hinge & fixture; lovingly selected or designed with our collaboration and carefully constructed by warm-hearted artisans who poured their souls into their work giving this house a heartbeat, a real & palpable warmth felt by every sentient being who crossed over her magnificent threshold.

Like Pygmalion with Galatea, the feeling and reverence that went into making this house miraculously brought her to life. She was our creation, our child, an extension of union. Everyday we marveled at her beauty, her elegance, her grace. Everyday we discovered another angle to her lines, another aspect of her personality to delight us.

She is charming & big-hearted, trying always to accommodate her guests and make them feel welcome and comfortable; despite her seemingly formal facade, she is the opposite of cool & forbidding with her radiant light smiling upon you & her large rooms like arms wide open held out for a warm embrace. We loved her for her accessibility; all the more because, like all nobles with her beauty, structure and breeding, she could have been haughty & autocratic and, sadly, most people would have accepted her rebuffs as the natural course of things even as they were stung by them; but our girl was an egalitarian & knew to be grateful for her many gifts and not feel superior to those who were not as blessed.

Somehow, we sold her; because a house like this deserves a large family to shelter and succor; children running around inside her playing & dreaming, laughing & crying. We wouldn't provide that. We could use the money she brought us instead & finance the rest of our barren lives. (Excuse the melodrama but it is cathartic for me to write these words even if my depiction of our situation is skewed by my ridiculously emotional over-reaction to it.)

I think she is sad, too. I hear her groanings very late in the night but she'll soon get over her loss when the new owners arrive. I hope that we can do the same.

The fact remains that everyday we have an opportunity to enjoy our lives should we elect to do so. Life in of itself is a great blessing. What does not kill us makes us stronger & we should be grateful for that strength, however difficult it is to forge the iron that helps us survive. So, I offer up a Thanksgiving Menu even though it's official day of celebration was 6 days ago. Planning and preparing this meal for my husband & friends really helped me through this difficult time. With the mantra "Everyday should be Thanksgiving!" reverberating through this beautiful house, here is the Thanksgiving menu I served on 11/22/07 (recipes to follow when I have the strength to write them P.S. I never did manage to write them... until today...):

Everyday Should Be Thanksgiving Day Menu

Hors d'oeuvresSmoked Salmon Bundles w/ Roasted Asparagus
Crudite with Mascarpone Pesto
California Nut Mix with Wasabi Peas

The Main Event

Creamy Cauliflower Apple Soup with Dungeness Crab Crouton
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Citrus Butter and Turkey Jus
Chanterelle Mushroom "Gravy" w/ Shallots & Vermouth

The Sides

Truffled Smashed Potatoes
Shitake & Sausage-Apple Stuffing
Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding with Roasted Chestnuts
Vanilla-scented Roasted Yams Gratin with Cinnamon
Sauteed Blue Lake Green Beans with Parmagiano-Reggiano, Meyer Lemon Oil & Tarragon
Triple Cranberry Sauce


The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie
with Cinnamon-dusted Vanilla Ice Cream


The Triple Cranberry Sauce and "The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie" that I usually make for dessert comes from the November 1993 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

It was my first attempt at making & shopping for a Thanksgiving Day meal. I had never really been that interested in cooking although I have always been interested in eating but the meal was a resounding success & started my long journey into the land of the culinary arts.

I still keep that copy of Bon Appetit. It is food-stained and dog-eared but it remains in my reference library; thumbing through its pages has become a fond part of my Thanksgiving Day tradition even though I have long since committed the recipes I use to memory and always improvise my own variations on them anyway. keeps a database filled with recipes from current & back-issues of Bon Appetit & Gourmet. It really is an online treasure trove for cooks; not because the recipes are so delicious or innovative but because it is a kind of archaeological record of our food & cultural trends. Fascinating stuff for geeks like me! Here is a link to it:

The theme is Cal/Italian this year.

I try to stay within a specific culinary cultural style when I make these large dinners.

Makes the whole meal more cohesive and flowing...

The entire menu should serve 4-6 people.

Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Bundles

This is super easy & courtesy of Giada Di Laurentis.
If you don't like smoked salmon, use prosciutto, or thinly
sliced ham

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed (about 20 spears)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon (1 slice per asparagus spear)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lay the asparagus on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast until cooked and starting to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to another baking sheet to cool.

Once the asparagus have cooled, wrap each spear in a slice of smoked salmon. Arrange on a serving platter and serve at room temperature.

Crudite with Mascarpone Pesto

Another supereasy dish to assemble quickly while your guests pile in...
The fish sauce gives the dish a little anchovy umami essence without the messiness of mashing
them. I try to save steps whenever possible when cooking in volume.
Just be sure to buy the best pesto you can.
It's very easy to make yourself, too, if you like
You can substitute equal parts sour cream & cream cheese for the mascarpone, if you can't find it at your grocers'.

    2 zucchini sliced in half lengthwise and cut into 4 inch batons (sticks)
    6 ribs celery cut in half lengthwise and into 4 inch batons
    2 cucumber cut in half lengthwise and cut into 4 inch batons
    20 baby carrot
    1 red pepper cut into2 inch thick strips
    1 yellow pepper cut into 2 inch thick strips
    1 head broccoli cut into small florets
    1 pint cherry tomatoes
    10 crimini mushrooms sliced into quarters
    4 radishes cut into small batons
    1 package mascarpone, room temperature
    2 baguettes, brushed with olive oil, sliced into rounds & toasted in the oven until warm & crisp
    1/2 cup of fresh store-bought pesto
    1/2 teaspoon Thai Fish sauce (optional)


In a stainless steel bowl, mix pesto & mascarpone.
Add fish sauce, mix well.
Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Add to serving bowl.
Arrange raw veggies on a platter. Mangia.

California Nut Mix with Wasabi Peas

Like the others, not exactly a recipe.
But you have lots of cooking ahead so make these hors d'oeuvres mindless & easy.

    Buy 1 lb. of your favorite dried fruit & nut mix.
    Add 1 lb. of wasabi peas.
    Add 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Place ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Mix thoroughly.
Throw it in a pretty bowl.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Dungeness Crab Crouton

Another very simple but elegant dish that reflects the season. The creaminess comes from a small dollop of mascarpone at the end. There is no cream in this soup. You don't need it. The cauliflower when boiled & pureed has the creamiest texture
all on its own. It really has a velvety mouthfeel. To make this more economical & vegan friendly omit the crab crouton & substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. It will still be yummy, I promise!

For the Crab Salad
Note: Keeping this recipe very casually written. That's how easy it is.

    Buy 3/4 - 1 pound of the freshest meat you can find, make sure it includes lots of claw meat.
    Take 1/3 cup of lowfat Best Foods mayo
    add chopped fresh tarragon, chopped fresh chives; all to taste
    the juice & zest from half a Meyers lemon
    1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce
    1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
    1 sweet baguette, sliced on the bias, brushed with extra virgin olive oil & toasted in a 350 degree oven until golden brown. (about 5-7 minutes)

    Mix the dressing well.
    Fold the crabmeat in being careful not to break it up too much.
    Slice up a baguette, spoon the crab mayonnaise on top. Garnish with sprig of tarragon or chives or both. Place on top of soup. Serve, Eat. Voila!!!

For the soup

    3-4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
    2 leeks, white part only, washed well and chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 small potato, peeled and chopped
    2 large sweet (Vidalia or Maui) onions, cut in half & sliced thinly
    1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
    1 head of cauliflower, chopped roughly
    1 apple, cored , peeled & chopped roughly
    3 cups chicken stock
    1 cup apple juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
    2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish
    add fresh lemon to taste as a garnish, too much lemon will make soup astringent
    1 teaspoon of sugar
    1 teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce

    Heat a large saute pan. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil & 1 tablespoon of butter to the saute pan.

    When butter melts & browns lightly, add the slices onions, stirring to coat with the fat. When onions soften, add the sugar, stir to combine well & lower the heat to low setting.

    Allow the onions to cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring once every 5 minutes or so until golden brown. Add the soy sauce & stir it in. Then turn off pan & set aside.

    Heat olive oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, apples, fennel and the garlic and stir. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the cauliflower, stock, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

    Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches*, puree the soup.

    Add the 2 tablespoons mascarpone and blend again to combine. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/3 cup mascarpone to soften.

    Add to the mixture & blend, once again until well incorporated.

    Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Dollop the top of each of the soups with a dungeness crab crouton & sprinkle with chives.

    * When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Citrus Butter and Turkey Jus

I elected to use a turkey breast because there were only four of us. When choosing a size appropriate for guests, allow about 1 pound of raw turkey per person.

Sounds like a lot, I know, but you want to have leftovers, don't you? That's the best part. Frankly, hot turkey leaves me cold. I love the sandwiches later on Kaiser rolls or Dutch Crunch bread with stuffing, avocado, & cranberry sauce... Yummy, Yummy!!!

BTW, you can substitute any kind of mushroom you like for the gravy. Chanterelles are crazy expensive. I chose them because this meal is small in scale which meant I could spend more per person, but good old button mushrooms or criminis will work just fine. Hell, you don't even need any mushrooms.

The consistency of my gravy is much thinner than most. I prefer the good wholesome turkey flavor of the jus & stock not the taste of a floury pasty goopy gravy... yuk! I achieve the thickening with a minimum of starch & a maximum of reduction.

I boil the hell out of the stock to reduce it to an almost gelatinous consistency which means you must minimize the use of any salt products until the gravy is made, then add the seasoning or else it will taste way salty.

For the turkey
    1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 6 1/2 to 7 pounds
    1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
    2 teaspoons dry mustard
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons good olive oil
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 cup dry white wine
    1 onion, skin removed & cut in half
    1 leek, cleaned & sliced length-wise
    1 carrot, cut into quarters
    1 lemon, cut in quarters, juiced with juice reserved


    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack ( I use a trivet) in a roasting pan.

    Nestle the onion, leek, carrot & juiced lemon & place it inside the breast cavity. Be sure that you have cut the pieces in large enough sections so that they don't fall through your rack or trivet.

    In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste.

    Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat.

    Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin.
    Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

    Heat up Citrus butter in small sauce pan until melted & keep warm.

    Roast turkey for 20 minutes at 450, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

    Baste with Citrus butter.

    Roast the turkey for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast. (I test in several places.)

    If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. Occasionally basting with citrus butter.

    When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes while you make the gravy. Slice and serve with the jus & gravy spooned over the turkey.

For the Citrus Butter:


    1 teaspoon grated lime rind
    1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
    1 teaspoon grated orange rind
    1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
    1 shallot, finely minced


    Stir rinds into boiling water; pour through a wire-mesh strainer. Drain on paper towels.
    Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer or by hand until creamy; gradually add juices, & shallot beating until blended. Stir in rinds. Chill. Can be made 3 days ahead or more if you freeze it.

For the Chanterelle Mushroom Gravy:

About the stock: make your own if you have the time, I'll leave a link; if not buy it frozen; you can substitute canned chicken stock, but make sure it has no or low-sodium both Pacific & Wolfgang Puck make good chickeny ones. This gravy will be dark , almost mahogany in color, if you take the time to roast your turkey giblets & wings first, really worth it. It's only once a year & a lot cheaper than buying canned, plus you can make extra & freeze until Christmas to use it then!

Cornstarch & arrowroot are almost flavorless & tend to dissolve more quickly than flour which is why I am using it here, but heat destroys it's coagulating properties so you must wait to add it until the last minute or so to the gravy. Do not boil the gravy after you add them. Then serve immediately.

    2 big handfuls (handfuls is an industry term ;P) of chanterelles or your mushrooms of choice, cleaned & sliced
    2 large shallots, sliced thinly
    6 sage leaves, in chiffonade (sliced very, very thinly length-wise)
    half a handful of parsley, minced
    2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
    4 cups of fresh turkey stock
    pan drippings from turkey
    scant tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
    1/2 cup of dry vermouth or any acidy, non-oaked wine such as sauvignon blanc
    sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
    1 Tbs. cornstarch or arrowroot


    Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. butter & olive oil, when butter is foamy & melted, add a tiny pinch of sea salt to the pan followed by the shallots. Saute until they just change color.

    Add the mushrooms, add the additional tablespoon of butter, if the mushrooms appear to absorb the fat in the pan. Saute until mushrooms are softened, lower heat to medium-low.

    Add the parsley and sage. Stir in & when the mushrooms appear to be slightly glazed, season lightly with salt & pepper.

    Turn off the heat & set aside in a warm place.

    Place roasting pan over medium heat on the range burners. When hot, deglaze pan with the wine or vermouth, being sure to scrape off all the pan fond (the stuck on brown bits) & incorporate into the wine.

    Add the stock to the pan & reduce by half; about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of stock & mix that into a slurry with the cornstarch. Set aside.

    When stock, is reduced add the mushroom mixture, season with soy sauce; stirring well to incorporate it. Taste for seasoning & then add salt & pepper to taste.

    When everything is to your liking, turn the heat down to very low & add cornstarch mixture, stirring really rapidly to avoid making lumps.

    Heat for another minute or two over low heat until the cornstarch flavor is gone.

    Place in gravyboat. Serve immediately.
Here's a link for Turkey stock:

Truffled Smashed Potatoes

What can I say about smashed potatoes? Don't cut them too small, in fact if you use Yukon Golds, Baby Reds or Yellow Finns leave them whole, leave the skins on, boil them with salt until soft but not mushy, remove excess water by tossing them over heat in a dry, hot pan and heat up the cream & butter before adding them to the potatoes.

Put them through a ricer or food mill if you like a smoother, lighter texture or smash them like I do with an old fashioned masher if you like them with a heartier, more rustic style.

Just add lots of white truffle butter or truffle oil to it at the end to give them a luxe flavor. Add a few chives & Yaay!!!

If you can score fresh white truffles and shave them on top, all the better but good luck; they are as rare and as expensive as an F50 Ferrari.

Shitake and Sausage-Apple Stuffing

Be sure to cut all the aromatics the same size small dice. Makes a big difference in texture.

    16 ounces Challah bread or any brioche (use white bread if you can't find an egg bread), cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
    1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
    6 cups onions, about 2 large, finely chopped & 4 cloves of garlic, smashed & minced
    1 pound tart green apples, peeled, cored, diced small
    2 handfuls of shitake mushrooms (you can use oyster, button, whatever you like)
    1 large carrot, peeled & cut into small dice
    2 celery ribs with leaves, diced small
    4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
    1 cup dried cranberries (about 4 ounces, optional)
    4 sprigs of finely chopped fresh rosemary
    8 sprigs of finely chooped fresh sage
    2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
    3 eggs, beaten to blend
    1 and 1/2 cups to 2 cups (about) fresh turkey stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide bread cubes between 2 large baking sheets. Bake until slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

    Sauté sausages in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, crumbling coarsely with back of spoon, about 10 minutes.

    Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl. Pour off any drippings from skillet.

    Melt butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, apples, celery, mushrooms and poultry seasoning to skillet; sauté until onions soften, about 8 minutes. Mix in dried cranberries and rosemary & sage.

    Add mixture to sausage, then mix in bread and parsley. Season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

    Mix eggs into stuffing just before baking.
    Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 15x10x2-inch baking dish.

    Mix 1 1/3 cups broth into stuffing. Transfer to prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding with Roasted Chestnuts
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence

I just add roasted chestnuts to the hunky Tyler Florence's recipe for added depth of flavor, it's great for vegetarians, though not vegans.

    1 1/3 cup heavy cream
    4 eggs
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cubed
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering baking dish
    2 shallots, sliced
    4 pounds mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    1 package of roasted chestnuts, chopped roughly ( jarred is fine)
    3 tablespoons chopped chives
    3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
    3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
    4 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more to top


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    On a sheet pan put cubed bread. Toast it in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

    In a large saute pan melt the butter and saute the shallots until just wilted. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

    In a large bowl make custard, whisk together the cream with the eggs and season with the salt and pepper.

    Add toasted bread cubes along with the chives, thyme and rosemary to the egg mixture.

    Stir in the sauteed mushrooms and mix in the grated Parmesan.

    Transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, top with more grated Parmesan, to taste.

    Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the custard is set.

Vanilla -scented Roasted Yam Gratin with Cinnamon

This is pretty damn easy & super tasty. An Alsatian Riesling or Gewurtztraminer is the best bet for this entire meal. Just thought I'd mention it now before I forget. A ripe California Pinot Noir from Sonoma might work, too. I love the Central Valley Coast ones like Ambullneo, too.


    4 large garnet yams or Jewell sweet potatoes, roasted in a 450 degree oven for 1 hour, peeled , cooled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
    1/2 cup of heavy cream
    1 vanilla bean, split in half with seeds scraped & reserved or 1 teapsoon of good quality vanilla extract
    ground cinnamon to taste
    2 Tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for topping gratin
    sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Place yam slices in a gratin dish large enough to hold them all in a single layer, but do make sure they are overlapping slightly. Squash them together a bit, if necessary.

    In a medium sauce pan, heat the remaining ingredients over low heat; allowing them to steep for 15 minutes.

    Pour cream mixture over yams.

    Dot with additional butter.

    Bake for 25-30 minutes until top is caramelized & golden brown.

This is a repost from last year.
I am making this menu again.
It is classic.
Click HERE for Part 2


Harlequin said...

What a marathon write in every sense of the word ... hugely interesting and entertaining ... Go Chef !!!

Lori Gomez said...

Awwww! Hooray!~ Thank you so much, Simon. xoxoxo