These are the questions I am plagued by this time of year: does everybody like poultry or would they really rather have fish, does the menu capture memories, hopes and dreams, is it festive, is it historical, is it local, is there enough variety, too much variety, does it speak to saying Thank You, is it GOOD ENOUGH? I try to pay no attention to this question. I say ask a different question. How about “am I having fun making this turkey” or, does it feel more like an itch that can’t be scratched?
It’s a plus having whatever you make–whether it’s mashed potatoes, art, or making out–be of high quality, but think too much about it, and those mashed potatoes won’t ever make it to the table. The dance shoes will live an I’m-not-ready-yet life in the closet.
I was struggling with this last night. I wrote everything I love on the page that makes me think of Thanksgiving. Pilgrims, big hats, potato chips and dip, roasted chestnuts, pureed butternut squash, duck liver pate, apple pie, creamed onions, stuffing with mushrooms and celery, cranberry sauce with candied ginger, string beans with caramelized shallots and toasted hazlenuts, brussel sprouts with bits of crunchy pancetta, cornbread, biscuits, sweet potato biscuits, oysters, and broccoli rabe (no idea on this one, but no editing allowed.)
And then I panicked. Then I asked what I wanted to happen: a feast. Tradition and taste sensations. A window into what I love.
And then I narrowed it down.
Starter: Either a big plate of garlicky, white winey mussles OR all three of the following:
a new red wine with roasted chestnuts and an Umbrian Pecorino. (tiny, because your people have to keep going)
demi tasse cups of a soup of roasted butternut squash with fried sage. (I have a minute but significant affair happening with fried sage at the moment–I try to get into a menu at every opportunity.)
Pear with organic local honey (something very appealing to me about raw honey and honey reapers)
The main deal:
Warm bread salad with sauted mushrooms and leeks (make garlic croutons and toss with shrooms, thyme and leeks; saute the mushrooms and leeks separately.)
Brussel sprouts, braised in simmering water with olive oil, thyme, parsley, and a garlic clove until tender. Get your pancetta hot and crispy and then right before serving get the sprouts back onto the heat with the pancetta.
Mashed potatoes and celeriac with cream and butter
String beans with just butter and salt and fried parsley
Oven roasted shallots and onions with red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar and teeny tiny bit fresh orange juice (caramelize the onions/shallots first in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.)
Cranberry sauce with orange zest (roasted in the oven as well, because of my crush on jamie o.)
a small plate of candied ginger squares from the highest mountain peaks of China for a surprise
Little pots of pumpkin custard with a creme brulee type top