Well HELLLLLOOOO There – Thanksgiving 2010

Holy cow the last post was August 10?  That’s crazy talk but you know, we had issues with our wordpress password and couldn’t log in.  There’s a lot of to catch up on.  Here’s a list of coming attractions:

Farmers market review of the Montclair Farmers Market

Farmers market review of the Temescal Farmers Market

A visit to the Cheeseboard collective – And a list of some of my favorite cheeses

Aunt Mary’s restaurant review

Casa Vino Restaurant Review

La Note Restaurant Review

Write up of my third year of making limoncello

Christmas dinner write up – My family is coming over to the house for Christmas!

I’m sure I will come up with more but that’s my start.  Anyway, to kick off the new round of posts, I had to do a write up of Thanksgiving.  This was the best food Thanksgiving ever, as it involved actual food professionals.  This was a hardcore Thanksgiving, so hardcore that the key players had a planning summit to coordinate the menu. We had just eight, but Cheffie Mark and Bellisima worked in restaurants as an executive chef and a wine manager respectively.   Sadly, I forgot to take notes on the wine.  That is a tragedy because we had eight wines and three with appetizers alone.  Nevertheless, here’s the rundown:

Starters

Cheeses with pear and olives
The first cheese plate was a beauty. The cheesemonger at Bellisima’s restaurant is incredibly talented at selecting and caring for our cheeses. He selected the cheese, but also sent a paragraph about each. The cheese shared the plate with a variety of pears and olives. J selected a few to share as well. From the cheesemonger (thank you Colin):

Camembert Le Pommier – “Super strong and pungent, but rich and delicious and beautifully runny at temperature.” Spot on. This was one of the best. Goo.

Beaufort – “A French Gruyere from southern eastern France. Earthy, nutty, occasionally chocolaty.” A favorite for several folks.

J added two of his new favorites:
Tomme Crayeuse – a total score. Thanks to the people at Cheeseboard. Mushroom, butter, cream, sexy, luxurious.

Gubbeen – An Irish cheese. A bit more firm but on the butter side of firm. A little grassy and nutty.

Homemade pate and condiments
Cheffie Mark sent me into orgasms of delight by making a pate that was studded with pistachios and had a pork tenderloin in the middle.  It was earthy and divine.  He made two condiments – a raisin chutney and a fig jam.  I had to get into the action and made an onion jam – reduced onions with balsamic vinegar.   This came on top of homemade crostini and pickled carrots.   A perfect blend of sweet, salty and sour and a great compliment to the creaminess of the cheeses. Cheffie Mark also made a red currant gelee that he wanted to allude to canned cranberry sauce.

Soup course
I think because Thanksgiving can be so iconic, you don’t mess with the main course and sides.  We went all out with the starters.  The next set of starters was a trio of soup shooters.  I love the concept of soup shooters because it allowed us to give very interesting and intense flavor combinations. The soups were:

“Cream” of cauliflower with a bagna caude drizzle. I adore bagna cauda – a hot dip that consists of anchovies, garlic, butter and olive oil.  It has a bacony savoriness and pairs well with crunchy, bitter vegetables like endive.  This intense flavor complemented a creamy and mild cauliflower soup.

Beet and carrot soup with coriander cream. This was made by Angela Goodhair, Cheffie Mark’s wife and a close friend of West Coast Rebecca’s.  It was a bright, sweet soup with that had an earthiness with the coriander.  I love soups that play well on the tongue.

Heirloom tomato soup with garlic quark. This is essentially a Barefoot Contessa roasted tomato soup but the key is to use dry farmed early girl tomatoes.   These are small tomatoes that are never watered.  They get their moisture from Northern California fog and have the most intense flavor.  We’ve discovered this amazing cheese product  – quark which has the consistency of being somewhere between whipped cream and ricotta cheese.  It can be either sweet (with lemon zest and sugar) or savory.  Floating on top of soup. it gave an ethereal creaminess to the tomatoes.

And here’s where we made our big mistake. We were freaking stuffed by the end of the soup course and even with a 45 minute delay, we were still full by the time we served the turkey.  But we soldiered on (poor us! 🙂 )

Main course

The turkey
So the day before Thanksgiving, J picked up the turkey from Cheffie Mark.  Cheffie Mark actually brined the turkey in a maple syrup/salt/white wine brine.  Along with that he gave us a basting liquid to flavor the gravy and baste the turkey.  He gave detailed instructions on cooking the turkey that were practically foolproof.  The turkey was the best we ever had –  a beautiful red-bronze color and full of a sweet savoriness.   This was perfect with the gravy that West Coast Rebecca made with her grandmother’s technique.  On top of that was a homemade cranberry sauce with ginger.

The sides
“green bean casserole” –  I put this in quotes because this was a play on the traditional green bean casserole.  Bellisima made this casserole that was actually a chiffonade of  brussels sprouts sauteed in butter and with a little red wine vinegar.  This was topped by crispy shallots.

Actual green beans – Muffin and June made a nice sautee of green beans in butter.   I am sad that we were so full at this point because the beans were perfectly made – tender and crisp.

Kale and sweet potato casserole – Another contribution form Muffin and June.  We asked them to bring some vegetably since there were so many starches.

The mashed stuff – West Rebecca brought two mashed vegetables – mashed ptoatoes with creme fraiche and mashed acorn squash.  Having had then as leftovers, they stood well on their own.  They were well seasoned and savory.

Rolls – j also made rolls.  I didn’t partake during the dinner part but they made perfect turkey-cranberry sandwiches.  They were soft and fluffy.

Dessert
By the time dessert came around we were just picking at our meal.  We were just SOOO full.

Cider – One of the things were were able to really enjoy in our satiated state was the hot apple cider Muffin and June brought.  It hit the spot and paired well with the apple cobblers and cheeses.

More cheese – We held back on the cheeses and had two for after dinner.  Sadly I can’t find the description.  The first was a semisoft cheese washed with walnut liqueur.  Another was a bleu cheese.  The great thing was that Cheffie Mark brought the walnut liqueur that the cheese was washed in (well the same brand).

Homemade truffles – This was perfect for our post meal state of mind.  Small bites to just pick at.  He had milk chocolate rolled in powdered sugar and dark chocolate rolled in almond flour.

Apple cobblers – I made individual apple cobblers in ramekins.  Like made things we ate after the soup course, they tasted excellent the next day.  Between the eight of us, we managed to finish two.

Pumpkin tarts – Finally, I made pumpkin tarts for everyone and ended up being very nice parting gifts.

Thanksgiving 2010 was great because we had a kitchen big enough to accommodate eight cooks, a dining room and dining room table that accommodated eight diners, and eight great friends who shared our new house with us.   Now on to Christmas!

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