The started in September and the cooking for Thanksgiving started in earnest on Tuesday. Saturday was cleaning day, Sunday massage-and-art day, Monday was spent with a two-hour plus trip to the market and making Bolognese sauce and spinach pasta for a lasagne tasting … but more on that another day. Tuesday was dedicated to making the crackers and prepping most of the side dishes. Wednesday found me back at the market for the lobsters then making the lobster salad and chocolate terrine and brining the turkey.
Champagne: Lobster Salad on Herb Crackers
This was probably my favorite thing on the this year. Just heavenly. My cracker recipe made 36 little cracker cups perfectly sized to cradle a heaping teaspoon of lobster salad and pop in your mouth in a single bite. Good thing, too, because trying to do this in two dainty bites would lead to half in your mouth and the rest falling out of your hand onto your nice Thanksgiving outfit.
Two large lobsters made exactly the right amount of lobster salad. I steamed the lobsters for 8 minutes and got my husband to separate the meat from the shell. I love him for it because for some reason, shelling shellfish really grosses me out. Anyway, I dress the shredded meat with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper and ½ teaspoon minced fresh dill. This barely coats the lobster meat, letting the lobster flavor shine.
Not only do the assembled lobster cups look really cute, the textures and flavors of the crackers and the lobster complement each other perfectly. I want to eat this every day. More work (and way more expensive) than smoked salmon toasts, but now taking the undisputed top spot on my “” list.
Reisling: Smoky Sweet Potato Soup with Spiced Pepitas
The soup came out good. I’d make it again, but I’d add more chipotle in adobo to make it spicier. The spiced pepitas added a nice crunch and as a bonus, the spice mix added a nice deep red sprinkle of color against the golden orange of the soup.
I wrote down the spice mix for you: 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon brown sugar. You can add more salt to taste. This will make enough for 2 cups of pepitas, mildly flavored. You can increase the spice to pepitas ratio if you want a more intense result.
A fine German Riesling pairs wonderfully with the mildly spicy soup.
Brunello di Montalcino: Rotisserie Turkey
With my faith in the forecast for a beautiful Thanksgiving Day (I always believe a fair weather forecast), I don’t bother preparing Turkey Plan B (oven roasting). We enjoy our soup and Riesling BBQ-side, supervising the rotisserie in progress and enjoying the balmy air and brilliant sunshine. The 12 lb. turkey takes about 2 hours to cook through and the meat is tender, juicy and slightly smoky and the skin was gold and crispy.
The Stuffed Roasted Onions were fine, but I probably wouldn’t go to the trouble of making them again.
My Corn Budin testing, however, pays off. I steam 6 ears of yellow corn and cut the kernels from the cobs. The kernels join half of a chopped onion, ¾ cup masa harina, ¼ cup corn meal, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons honey, 12 oz. evaporated milk, 1½ teaspoons salt and 3 eggs in bowl of the food processor. A minute or so turns out a semi smooth batter. Baking in a shallow buttered dish for 30 minutes results in a creamy texture and full corn flavor. This would also be great with a minced jalapeño or chipotle in adobo added in. Or chili powder.
Twice Baked Potatoes never fail to please. They were solidly yummy and might have been even better if I had used twice as much roasted garlic.
I have decided that I’m just not going to attempt to make butternut squash any other way than simple cut in chunks and roasted with oil, salt and pepper. Every other Thanksgiving preparation I have tried simply doesn’t turn out as good as it sounds. Sadly, the Butternut Gratin with Sage, Roasted Garlic and Hazelnuts is just OK — kind of limp and blah. I’m glad I didn’t slice all that squash by hand — then I would have been really annoyed at the effort-to-results ratio.
The token green on the table (Mixed Chicories with Persimmon) did turn out to be more interesting than the original idea of green beans. The salad featured frisée, radicchio and endive, with sliced persimmon, pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts dressed simply with red wine vinegar and oil. I had never tasted persimmon before. It has an apricot-like color and flavor with the texture of a semi-crisp apple. The pomegranate seeds glisten like rubies against the greens and persimmon for a really beautiful presentation.
Not really caring for cranberry sauce, I didn’t have any Spicy Cranberry Jam with my Thanksgiving meal. I did try it when I was making it and it had a kind of bitter-sweet-mildly-spicy flavor. I’m sure it’s good if you like cranberry condiments in general.
Carlos I: Chocolate Terrine
For once, I do manage to actually eat the Thanksgiving dessert. It is densely chocolaty but somehow light at the same time. The drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt really highlight the deep chocolate flavor.
All told, I spent about 20 hours preparing this meal, not counting planning and scheduling, and most of it was worth the effort. I think if you don’t consider hours of cooking to be a pleasant pastime, you might not agree and you’d probably think the next statement ludicrous: This menu was actually one of the easiest in terms of work and stress on Thanksgiving Day. Almost everything could be made ahead, I didn’t need to worry about the turkey itself, the side dishes all cooked at the same temperature in the same amount of time and were very forgiving in that they waited without any adverse effect for the turkey to be ready.