Thanksgiving 2012

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.

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Bananas And Phở

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.

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Gratitude Is The Attitude

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.

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The Return Of The Native

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.

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That’s More Like It

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.

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Bring It On Home

Thanksgiving, 2010. First off, the prep:

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Felonious Gelatinization

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.

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An Education In Every Bite

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.

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Getting Warmer

So the other night I had a hankering for a nice lemony, olivey tagine. We got some chicken thighs, and everything was going as planned when I got it into my head– based on the squishiness of the ground in certain places– that a trip to the garden might be a good idea. And so it was. The beds are mostly thawed, and we got a ton of carrots and parsnips out in no time, with lots more still there. Even some of the indestructible greens are making a comeback, including radicchio, mizuna, Asian cabbage, and endive. And a few chioggia beets are still holding on under the plastic, though they might be completely woody by now. The greens, at least, will get et.

The roots, plus sweet potato, onion, preserved lemon, olives, spices (cumin seeds, ras-el-hanout) and chick peas which I had simmered in leftover dashi for a few hours to soften got all cosy together and bubbled away until thoroughly giving and fragrant. We ate it over whole wheat couscous, and it was damn fine, tasting quite authentic and super-satisfying on a chilly evening.

And of course I saved the bones, so a couple of days later (yesterday, to be exact) I threw them in a smallish pot and made a gorgeously perfumed stock. At this stage, I wasn’t sure what dinner would be, but an idea was forming. I defrosted some Washugyu flank steak, already cut for yakinuku, and thought about pounding the strips a bit and then rolling them . . . → Read More: Getting Warmer

John’s Birthday

The garden is really hitting its stride now, offering a wider array of perfect options for organizing a dish around. The beets have been getting me excited, not least because they go with so many different flavors. They’re also beautiful. John’s birthday party offered me an excuse to monkey around with some of the different directions a beet can go, and try to combine them in an interesting way.

Inspired by the bite of foie and yuzu that came with the daikon-shiso soup at Alinea, I bought some foie to add occasion-appropriate decadence. The jar of fresh yuzu that I preserved Moroccan-style last winter offered the ideal component to go with it: the salt-curing essentially candies the fruit, making for an intensely concentrated flavor.

We had lamb the other night, which I might not post about because the photo is awful, but as a sauce for it I pressure-cooked beets and Kalamata olives with a bit of olive brine. Since there was some of that left, I adjusted it with maple syrup, a drop of vanilla, and some yogurt. A tour of our edible flowers yielded coriander, nasturtium, and lavender, and I picked some chives for a little allium bite. Here’s the first try, including a sliver of raw chioggia beet for crunch:

For the final version, I sautéed short pieces of the beet stems in smoked duck fat (plus the fat that rendered off the foie when I seared it) adding a little vanilla sugar at the end. And I put one . . . → Read More: John’s Birthday

Yours Truly



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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