Harbinge

I spent some time going back and forth about how fancy to make Thanksgiving this year. Last year was really simple, but the two before that were 11-course extravaganzas (2008, 2007). We have a wedding to attend on Saturday, so family will be in town, but some of them have to drive over an hour after dinner. So I decided to split the difference and make something in the 6-course range. I went shopping today and got what I think I need; if I forgot something I will make substitutions. And, in typical fashion, ours will be a turkey-free Thanksgiving.

As a mood-setting warmup, I cooked a duck breast and some root vegetables. The roots, all dug that afternoon from the garden (today was 60˚ and the ground is far from frozen) included turnip, carrot, leek, parsnip, onion, and two kinds of potato. I roasted them with woody herbs and copious olive oil. While they did their thing, I scored the fat on a duck breast, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and put a good crisp sear on the fat. As it rested, I drained most of the fat into a jar, which promptly shattered, spilling hot fat all over the counter and floor. After I cleaned that up, I sautéed some chanterelles in the skillet, adding a splash of wine at the end along with some minced rosemary.

Now as most of you know I like to fan slices of meat out across a plate; it shows off the pink perfection of a proper cooking, and makes for proportional portions and easy eating. But I was feeling kind of bored with it. So I thought instead that cubes might be nice, nestled in among the similarly-sized hunks of veggies and mushrooms. Kind of like a rock garden or something. So that’s what I did, and it looked (and tasted good). The only thing detracting in both areas was the lack of a nice frothy curry, dashi, or maybe saffron emulsion to add saucy splendor: colorful bubbles to visually enliven the landscape and tie the rich meat more thoroughly to the roots. I thought of it too late; it was time to eat. But it did the trick, and the absence of that elevating sauce made me start to think seriously about what I’m going to make on Thursday.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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