Every year around mid-October I start to freak out about my Thanksgiving menu. I cook a lot and throughout the year I put together quite a few menus for large and small gatherings, cooking projects and Sunday dinners, but I go all out for Thanksgiving. It is the most important meal of the year for me, I honor my family by showcasing my best, and everything I learned through the year and aside for a few favorite staples I do not like to repeat myself.
I have to have a theme, an inspiration of some sorts, whether a specific cuisine, a showcased ingredient or one dish that I am dying to make that I can build a whole menu around. I had French inspired Thanksgivings, Mediterranean, and all American. I had color inspired Thanksgivings, when I was obsessed with orange one year and yellow the next. Last year’s inspiration was a “perfect byte” concept and this year I struggled to come up with a fresh idea… but that is what fiends are for. I have a coworker who I call my “culinary” friend ( she is of course much more than that), she shares my passion for cooking and gets the lengths I go to ( Let’s just mention that every year she makes an edible animal to represent the Chinese symbol for the year…. The year of the snake was especially creative). I bounced a few ideas off her and loosely came up with an October fest theme, but it didn’t quite fit my personality, besides I have baked pretzels before and have no desire to do it again. We were taking a lunch stroll when she mentioned I should showcase venison somehow (God knows I have a lot of it this year), I started playing around with that idea and it hit me… The original Thanksgiving! The settlers and the Indians did not eat turkey (well maybe wild ones), they had venison and clams and chestnuts and corn and small birds…. Why not showcase the original Thanksgiving ingredients before we get to the Turkey, and while we are at it, why not use the original cooking techniques if I can, such as open fire roasting and grilling on coals.
Also, because the second night of Hanukah happens to fall on Thanksgiving Day this year, I included a few modern twists on old and trusted Jewish favorites.
I sincerely hope that I will be able to execute on this very ambitions menu. At this point I think that the only things that can derail some of the dishes are either lack of peculiar ingredients or the fact that there are only 24 hrs in the day…. Anyway, now that it is in print, I guess I am committed.
I am off to make my stocks now… as always, there will be highlights and tastes post after the holiday.
Chilled cucumber shots with warm roasted squash and tomato soup, garnished with pop-corn
Lobster salad stuffed eggs
Homemade boudin blanc with warm cabbage salad, lentils and walnut cider vinaigrette
Tiny polenta cakes with fall vegetables ragout
Home cured gravlax with spicy brown mustard or watercress cream sauce served on pumpernickel bread
Clams on half shell baked with crème fresh and pesto and anchovy bread crumbs
Roast of venison served on crostini with chestnut pure, horseradish sauce and crispy fried onions
Pork roulade stuffed with apples and onions with spicy apricot balsamic sauce
Duck liver mouse with red-wine prune preserves
Micro-greens with fresh pomegranates, spicy pepitas and pomegranate dressing
Apple, cucumber, radish and watercress salad with mint yogurt dressing
Fresh Zucchini bread with choice of sweet and savory butters
BBQ Smoked Turkey with apple cider, ginger sauce
Bourbon cranberry sauce
Potatoes and wild mushrooms
Roasted corn and tomato salad
Hericot vert with roasted hazelnuts and red pepper dressing
Red rice and quinoa salad with oranges and pistachios
Poblano pepper and cheddar corn bread
Bourbon Pumpkin cheese cake
Assortment of macaroons (Lemon, Cassis, Chesnutt and Pistachio)
Assorted of decorated butter cookies ( Jam stuffed, sour cream and chocolate stuffed or salted caramel)
Cinnamon doughnut holes with chocolate and berry dipping sauces