Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

View from the couch the morning after Thanksgiving.

Our meal was on Saturday, to give family and friends a chance to travel since the third Thursday of the month of November is not a holiday here. The meal itself went more smoothly and was a better success than any of the 6 French Thanksgivings we have had here so far. This was of course was a combination of good luck and nice people.

What struck me this year as the overall theme was the way that others reached out and took over when it was time, without question and in perfect synch with my expectations. In the days leading up to the meal, I was busy all week, many things in advance, even more than usual, just because I was not sure when and how I would be available. By the time the day came, my planning had been put on paper, and I had given everyone responsibilities. I called out the requests to my entourage to cover every detail.

Callan, our expat American guest this year, brought forth an excellent idea for the Apéro cocktail, which was called a Rasmopolitan, like the Cosmopolitan, which she got from Glamour magazine. You freeze raspberries into ice cubes (very elegant). our rendition of the recipe was to spike the cranberry juice & vodka with a little bit of raspberry syrup (the original recipe calls for sugar syrup). Callan brought the fresh raspberries to the house in the morning and prepared the ice cubes in short order and disappeared into the day again, the raspberry ice angel! We so appreciated her contribution and attention to detail. It started the meal off really well.

I was not sure about what I’d be able to do on the day so I was pretty meticulous about preparing the consommé in advance. During the week I hit the Bresse chicken man at the producer’s market and he had 3 old hens from his barnyard just for me. They made the most flavorful broth! The color was really gorgeous this year. We served this enriched with a capful of Madeira and floated poached cèpe ravioli and fresh minced fines herbes.

What is a verrine, you ask? A pretty and entertaining shaped individual serving glass in which colors and textures in the form of foams, mousses, and various ingredients have been artfully layered and sprinkled for a stimulating visual effect. But most of all a verrine is an opportunity to inject flavors into a second introductory course while remaining light as a feather.

Since this is a festive holiday being celebrated in France, of course foie gras made an appearance. Last year it was in the raviolis I made to serve with the consommé.

This year they appeared in the second course verrine. I started by preparing first a simple foie gras terrine, which is actually very easy to do. You remove the large veins from your foie gras, marinate the foie in cognac and sea salt overnight, and then after pressing it into a terrine, let it cook in a bain-marie which has been placed in a very slow oven. This refrigerates as long as you want it to, up to two weeks by the book, or longer. In the minutes we served the verrine, we put a good hunk (about a cupful) of the foie terrine which had been warmed to just above room temperature along with a few tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, a tablespoon of Madeira, and seasonings like salt and touch of paprika into a bowl and whipped it up into a very smooth thick liquid puree. This was put into a gas charged canister which we call a siphon here in France, in which we normally make chantilly, and piped it into glasses. In the previous days, we did some taste testing and chose a ginger preserve from England and a fig compote that both really set off sparks with the flavor of the foie gras.

The siphon went into a warm bath (actually the water in which we had poached the raviolis in the previous course) When it was time to serve, Loïc was delegated the technical task of inserting the gas capsule piping the just warmed foie gras, which was the consistency of whipped cream, into little oval shaped glasses, layering it along with the different compotes. Heart shaped brioche toasts and a glass of fruity Gewurztraminer completed the course. The guests broke out into applause. It was a strange moment, knowing how easy this was.

The third course was the Turkey, stuffed with the usual freshly cracked at the last minute oyster and regular corn bread stuffing. Mom brought those bags in which you can cook the turkey, and once we’d convinced Loïc that this would not kill us, we used it – really a wonderful invention. The bird steams in its own juices and your effect is so fabulously silky and moist that I think that this imported American innovation in turkey roasting technology is vastly superior to any other roasting method. It saved our eyebrows, it gave us time to spend with the guests, it saved our lives. Thank you Reynolds.

I arranged sage leaves in a decorative pattern over the simply butter slathered bird and then covered this with a veil of crepine, which fused to the skin becoming invisible in roasting and held the herb arrangement in place. I will develop this idea and share it with you with a how to in the weeks to come, because I feel that it is a great trick and it can apply to much more than Thanksgiving.

The sides consisted of A real winner of a recipe which we do every year now for Autumn Vegetable Succotash from Martha Stewart's on-line recipes, a chestnut and bacon puree which was inspired by a dish I once enjoyed in China, glazed carrots (I insisted that Loïc do those again), and thin green asparagus tips wrapped in bacon. Green asparagus is not as common to the French as the white, and since our guests were mostly French I knew that it would be appreciated.

The cheeses this year were all from within a couple of hours by car from Lyon, Epoisse, Langres, an ash covered chevre, an Arome de Lyon, and a fruity Comte. Dessert, which Loïc always prepares, dessert being a man thing in this household, included a Kentucky Bourbon Pecan Pie, and a take on the pumpkin pie using butternut squash, a recipe that has been tweaked and adjusted from a 1985 Southern Living cookbook.

Three guests independently arrived with bouquets of orange roses, a strange and interesting coincidence which I am convinced means something wonderful. The smallest flowers made their way into the table arrangements.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm totally kicking myself here that I didn't call you on Friday! :) It all sounds wonderful, I'm happy you had such a lovely time!

2:28 PM, November 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What more can you say: The guests broke out into applause.
A fabulous meal and terrific time and guests...some years it happens perfect.

2:52 PM, November 27, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

mmm...ash covered chevre! I've become a big fan of consommé

3:53 PM, November 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lovely as always.

and i love that picture of the different colored peppers.

7:23 PM, November 27, 2006  
Blogger franchini said...

Lucy, the meal sounds and looks very elegant. I'm sure you put in a vast amount of hard work in preparation, but your cooking, whether a simple meal for the two of you or something altogether more sumptuous and grand-scale, always seems so effortlessly graceful. Beautiful roses, too.

9:18 PM, November 27, 2006  
Blogger Unknown said...

Elegant was exactly was I was thinking. Lucky guests!

3:53 AM, November 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy, as always your food is beautiful and inspiring.

11:15 PM, November 28, 2006  
Blogger Jann said...

Very, very, beautiful.....I wish i was there!

2:41 AM, November 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so flattered to have made it into an entry ^_^

Thank you again for a magical evening!

6:51 PM, November 29, 2006  
Blogger AnAmericanHousewifeinFrance said...

Wow! What an impressive meal. Where did you find the fresh turkey? I had heard that they are not available in Lyon until around Christmas. And butternut squash-is that what they call potiron and sell by cut-up chunks in the marche?
I love epoisse. We drove through Epoisse a month ago for the sole purpose of purchasing some at Berthaut. We also bought some affidelice which was a wonderful discovery.

11:16 AM, December 01, 2006  

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