Sunday, November 27, 2011


John Baker presiding over my less-is-more-Thanksgiving table setting. 

My smallest Thanksgiving ever--just four of us this year.  I normally don't invite large crowds for dinner--six at most, and I always de-bone a turkey, roast it spatchcock-style, that is split up the backbone, pulled off the bone with the breast, wing, drumstick and thighs skin-side-up.  It's a good technique I once saw Julia Child do on TV and amazingly, I was able to copy it, and have been doing it ever since.  But this year, I wasn't in the mood, so I bought a turkey breast, and took it off the bone and decided to cook it "porchetta-style".  The inspiration for it came from the Food52 Cookbook and website, run by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubs. The recipe they prepared uses a traditional pork shoulder, but I thought the method might work for a turkey breast and it did.  Two days before Thanksgiving, I mashed up in a mortar and pestle, peppercorns, fennel and coriander seeds, rosemary, red pepper flakes, garlic, orange zest and coarse salt and turned it into a paste with some olive oil.  I then rubbed it all over the the turkey breast and under the skin, placed it in a bag and let it marinate for two days. I tied the roast into a tidy bundle, inserted fresh bay leaves under the strings (the photo you see above), and then covered the meat with slices of pancetta. It roasted low and slow at 325 degrees, for about two hours.  It was delicious, sliced so cleanly, and I was left with no bones, and happy eaters. 

Turkey breast, "porchetta style" before it's robe of pancetta slices

The rest of the menu was somewhat conventional:

corn chowder
mashed potatoes
turkey gravy
mushroom, leek and sausage stuffing
jellied cranberry-orange relish
Brussels sprouts braised with shallots, white wine and bacon
homemade rolls
lemon tart

I never make soup, but John Baker, one of my guests, suggested it was his favorite soup from a mutual friend of ours, and I made it.  The soup was excellent, a rich, if cholesterally nightmarish combination of bacon, corn, potatoes, heavy cream, and whole milk, with a few dashes of hot sauce and a sprinkling of chopped chives.  Everything else, dessert excepted, was from my hide-bound list of Thanksgiving favorites. We dispensed with the sweet potatoes and creamed onions (in my case, another rich gratin of leeks, baby white onions, scallions, shallots, and sweet onions).  Too heavy.

Pumpkin pie got aced out of it's traditional dessert spot in favor of an easy-peasy lemon tart.  Into a cooled, pre-baked tart shell, you add a blender-mixture of Meyer lemons (with their skins but sans seeds), a stick of butter, 1 1/2 cups fine sugar, and four eggs.  Into a 350-degree oven this simple dessert goes for a 30-minute baking.  The texture of the lemon curd for this tart is gossamer. The taste was out of this world.  I didn't miss pumpkin pie at all.  This recipe also comes from Food52 and variations of it have been used all over the Napa Valley (where it originated) for years. This one's secret was in using Meyer lemons. Good idea. It also made for a very pretty tart.  

Thanksgiving Lemon Tart

Spent most of Friday lying around the house like a lox.  Thanksgiving dinner is a marathon no matter if you have four guests or forty.  Over the past twenty years, I think I've cooked sixteen of them.  Obviously the key to success is to get all the food onto the table hot.  I'm rather tired of it, and so I'm announcing next year that I'm available as a guest for Thanksgiving.  

John always goes to Zupan's for flowers for my Thanksgiving table. Here's his beautiful 
arrangement for this year's dinner. 

Saturday I spent most of the day working on my top ten cookbooks of the year for my cookbook blog. Seven of the ten books have been written about, with three more to go.  Should have it up and running at by Monday or Tuesday of next week.  

At four, I quit my computer.  After enduring two rain-soaked days on Wednesday and Thursday, the sun shone brightly on Friday and Saturday  It was time to put up the Christmas lights.  Last year, Kyle put the lights up. This year, I had to do it myself. I dragged out the lights from the basement, pulled the ladder out of the garage and went to work adding more hooks to the gutter to fasten the lights running along-side of my driveway.  It never occurred to me to actually plug the light fixtures to make sure they all worked. I simply added the rain-gutter hooks, and attached the lights, adding another strand for a fuller light effect.  I plugged the lights in and only the center strand was working!!!  "The hell with it."  I just put away the ladder with a sense of self-disgust, and now I have three long strands of lights with only the middle section working.  I just went outside to take a photo, and noticed that half of one of the unlit strands was working.  Do I know why?  Hell no.  Next year, I'll invest in those newer LED lights and get rid of these silly icicle lights.  

The partially working Christmas lights hanging on the side of the house.  

Bit blissing out on his weekly catnip high at his scratching post. 
Really trying to keep him fixated on his post and not my couch arms.

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