Consistent with the tradition in this house, there was no turkey for Thanksgiving. Turkey is boring and hard to cook well unless you take it apart. We did, however, have Milo’s awesome Lego turkey as part of the centerpiece. Also keeping with tradition around here, the meal was a seven-course exploration of whatever perfervid visions had swum into my insomniac mind during the preceding week. It’s funny; I was listening to the radio as I made the dough for the foie gras oreos—one such idea—and the guest was saying something like “The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is never to cook something new for the first time when people are coming over.” I think that takes all the fun out of it; three out of the seven courses were things I just made up and figured wouldn’t suck.
Those gnocchi from the previous post had a second life in a more elegant dinner this weekend. We had some friends visit from Boston, so I made a dinner on Saturday night that benefited from a bit of forethought, even though the actual cooking was not too complicated. The presentation was nice, in any case.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, centering as it does around food. I usually take a day or three off leading up to it and cook my ass off, often making ten or so courses for whoever comes to visit. It’s my chance to stretch out and try some ideas that require special ingredients or techniques, and to make the best food I possibly can, in sequential courses, using my own ceramics, and try to nail all the details and timing for each dish. It’s also a holiday that’s relatively free of crass commercialism–although that appears to be crumbling in the face of earlier and earlier riot-inducing sales–but these things are easily avoided by not having TV and choosing not to shop in the days that follow the big meal. I think it should be about the food and the company, period. The timing also neatly coincided with the last Charcutepalooza challenge, which was more of a dare: show off, using any and everything we’ve done so far.
So I did. Eight courses, each of which contained some quantity of homemade charcuterie.
The painting is done, so my frantic 12+ hour days have abated for now. Happily, there’s all kinds of vernal burgeoning going on in the garden and elsewhere, so my return to the kitchen has been made even more inspiring by all the good food that’s growing everywhere. I had promised my wife a special dinner for having cooked most nights while I worked through the evenings, so last night I delivered.
A dear friend’s impending birthday gave me an excuse to spend an afternoon cooking, so after I ran a bunch of errands (including picking up 12 lbs. of pork belly for bacon) I got down to business in the kitchen. In the five hours between my return home and the arrival of the guests, I made a few dishes that turned out pretty well, and one that was damn good. And the wine, courtesy of John, was a beautifully curated study in Bordeaux-type wines vinified in places that (mostly) were not Bordeaux.
I’ve been kind of on a gelling kick lately, due to the combined influences of hot weather and a clamorous child with a vivid culinary imagination. When made using judicious restraint with the proportion of gelatin and fresh, mostly local ingredients, the result is a world away from the ghastly neon cubes and quivering, striated, molded “salads” that have stigmatized the genre so thoroughly.
So herewith day three of our ocean-derived sustenance. It’s telling–and extremely wonderful–that the scallops we received on Wednesday, cooked tonight, were sweeter and fresher tasting than anything we’ve ever bought from a store. Anybody who reads this and happens to live in the Hudson Valley would be well-advised to seek out the Fishmonger and get themselves the royal hookup. It honest and for true does not get much better than this unless you’re a deep-sea angler. I cut these circles out of square wonton wrappers with a jar and a knife because I couldn’t find my biscuit cutter.