Archive for the ‘Thanksgiving’ Category

Brussels sprouts and pecorino salad

6 December 2013

DSC_0042

I nearly didn’t make this salad for Thanksgiving.

With Sam Sifton’s peremptory Thanksgiving book still ringing in my ears, I did, in fact, briefly debate the pros and cons of his strict no-salad rule. Might it diminish the lusciousness of the meal? Is it the last thing anyone wants to see on a festive table? On the other hand, this barely counts as salad. Surely by salad, Sifton means lettuce?

As it turned out, this deceptively simple dish of raw Brussels sprouts and fresh pecorino, both finely shaved and tossed with a simple dressing, was — again — undoubtedly one of the favorites of the table. On the contrary, what a welcome bounce on the palate between forkfuls of turkey and chestnut stuffing.

This dish wasn’t born as a Thanksgiving side, and shouldn’t die as one. It is a salad for any occasion. I first encountered something similar quite some years ago in the lunch bar up the block from our office in Soho. That version had walnuts, and though adding nuts would be overkill on Thanksgiving, they marry perfectly.

This is barely a recipe, just a few very good ingredients tossed together. It must be made a few hours ahead, so the dressing has time to soften the Brussels sprouts. There should be enough pecorino for a shaving or two in each mouthful.

Very fresh Brussels sprouts, preferably still on the stem because snapping them off is a fun occupation for children on Thanksgiving morning

Pecorino, not too aged

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sherry or good wine vinegar

Best olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly hulled walnuts (optional)

Trim and remove one or two outer leaves of each Brussels sprout, then shave them finely with a mandolin or a sharp knife and lots of patience.

Cut the pecorino into paper thin shavings.

The salad is very thirsty and will soak up the dressing, so plan generously, but the proportions are roughly: 5 lemon juice plus 1 vinegar to 8 olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper. Taste the salad and adjust dressing/seasoning as necessary.

The last Thanksgiving, for a while

29 November 2012

Thirteen years and a few months ago, Thomas and I moved to New York for two or three years. Thomas says one or two years. Apparently, we hadn’t discussed things in great detail. Actually, he went to DC while I settled in New York; it was clear that he would join me a year later. At least I think it was. (He did.) We had married in Berlin three weeks earlier.

Next summer we are moving to London. I know better than to give an estimated time-frame. I think it will be temporary. Thomas thinks it won’t. We still own our opinions.

So for me the holiday this year took on the slightly nostalgic sheen of our last Thanksgiving stateside, for a while. I pulled out a carefully folded, diligently preserved page from the Wednesday, November 17, 1999 New York Times: In a Berkeley Kitchen, A Celebration of Simplicity. I didn’t host Thanksgiving that first year, a friend had invited us to her huge, raw, self-renovated, artfully stage-managed Meatpacking district loft. She gave me the newspaper clipping and asked whether I might bake the cranberry upside-down cake. Of course I would.

The feast featured turkey and salmon, creamed leeks and lots of other sides that I can’t recall, though we helped prepare most of it that afternoon. There were probably thirty guests, in a grand space that could have accommodated sixty. We sat cross-legged on cushions around a long low candlelit table. I eavesdropped as a soul-searching dancer waxed existential with a timidly successful artist. New York! I had landed, incredibly, in the middle of a Woody Allen movie (I grew up in France, after all).

Now, when I pull out the yellowed, dried-out newspaper, that night comes rushing back. And those tentative beginnings in New York. Moving to a new city not knowing a soul (ok, two souls). The daunting search for work in a completely new world. It was scary and exciting and wonderful. Alice Waters’ Thanksgiving recipes remind me of all of it.

This year I didn’t prepare the cranberry upside-down cake because dessert is the one thing I don’t make on Thanksgiving nowadays, but I made her wild mushroom stuffing and the stewed fennel. For old times’ sake. And lots of other things. In the past I’ve stuck to a well orchestrated, carefully balanced mix of dishes and flavors that worked very well but kept bugging me as lacking the true spirit of American Thanksgiving, which, I know, is very much about the abundance of sides. Pushing aside this European restraint, I let go.

I would make mashed potatoes, of course, and a shaved Brussels sprouts salad I’ve been wanting to do for years. On the Monday before Thanksgiving I tried to make cranberry chutney. It wasn’t right. On Tuesday I cooked it again, with more sugar and some walnuts. I imagined something sweet and very thick, practically sticky. Wednesday evening Thomas baked his pumpkin pies, I made soup, and as I started a classic cranberry sauce I felt the chutney still needed more sugar, more cooking. It was getting late. But at 1:00 am I decided I must also make those pickled carrots I’d seen a few days before. And I had squash so I’d roast that with spices and a light touch of maple syrup. It was a lot of fun. The final menu looked something like this.

Celeriac and chestnut soup

Heritage turkey
Wild mushroom stuffing

Mashed potatoes
Stewed fennel
Spicy roasted squash
Brussels sprouts salad with pecorino
Pickled carrots
Cranberry sauce
Cranberry chutney

Desserts — pumpkin pies, pear and chocolate tarte, apple cake, tiramisu, chocolate soufflés …

The next day, elated from the party but also exhausted from it all, as we drove away to spend the rest of the weekend — traditionally — by the sea, and although our friends were already scheming to come to London to celebrate next year, I was practically ready to leave that holiday behind.

A new city, a new country, new traditions, surely. Of course I wouldn’t. I’ve taken Thanksgiving with me from Paris to Berlin and home to New York. London Thanksgiving will have to be, and forge its own traditions.

Parsnip and butternut squash soup with sage

14 December 2011

It’s about how easy it is to make soup, or rather — and I may be the one here most surprised at reading this — how easy it is to make soup with broth, when no broth is around.

I’ve mentioned before how I like soups that don’t require the use of broth, and I have already surreptitiously written about at least four soups that don’t require any broth because — at the risk of repeating myself — I’d rather not use store-bought broth if I can help it, and chicken broth doesn’t usually last long in this house. But somehow I had disregarded vegetable broth.

This soup has taught me that I can make great vegetable broth at a moment’s notice, pretty much simultaneously to making the soup.

All the broth requires is a few vegetables roughly chopped into chunks, thrown into a large pot, and generously covered with water. This takes no time at all. Then as the broth simmers away happily on its own, there is plenty of time to to pour a glass of wine, peel and chop the vegetables destined for the soup, and sweat them in some oil for a little while. By the time the broth needs to be poured in, it is ready.

***

The broth

The vegetables and quantities below are indications. I used rutabaga for the first time in this broth and loved the depth of flavor, but it’s by no need obligatory.

4 celery ribs

2 medium carrots

2 medium onions

1 medium rutabaga

Olive oil

Few sprigs parsley

2 bay leaves

3 quarts (3 liters) water

Trim the celery stalks and wash off the dirt; trim and wash the carrots. Cut the vegetables roughly into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces. Wash and trim the rutabaga and cut into pieces approximately the same size. Peel the onions and cut each half in three.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil, add the vegetables, and cook over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the parsley and bay leaves, cover with 3 quarts (3 liters) water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, skimming off the foam as it rises.

Drain the broth through a fine mesh sieve before using.

*

The soup

The soup should be very creamy, though it contains no cream (in fact it’s vegan unless using crème fraîche as garnish). The key is to blend it thoroughly (a good 4 to 5 minutes) until it becomes perfectly smooth and velvety.

It is liberally adapted from the pumpkin, butternut squash, and parsnip soup in The New Low-Country Cooking by Marvin Woods.

2 medium onions

2 carrots

3 leeks

6 parsnips

1/2 butternut squash

Olive oil

2 quarts (2 liters) vegetable broth (recipe above)

Small handful fresh sage leaves

Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

Crème fraîche, pumpkin seed oil, and more sage leaves to garnish (either one of these or all three – optional)

*

Peel, wash, and coarsely chop the onions, carrots, leeks, parsnips, and the butternut squash.

In a large soup pot, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and cook until they softens, stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes. Then add the leeks and the carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes longer. Add the parsnips for another 5 minutes, then the butternut squash.

Add enough hot vegetable broth to cover the vegetables by a good inch. Once the soup simmers, cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.

Finely chop the sage leaves.

In batches, scoop the vegetables and most of the broth as well as the sage into a food processor or blender (fill it up to only about 2/3 and hold the lid down tightly, or the steam released will make it pop up). **Do not pour in all the broth with the vegetables, keep some to adjust the consistency of the soup once everything is blended.**

Season with salt, pepper, and a little freshly grated nutmeg.

Serve garnished with crème fraîche and pumpkin seed oil, and a few sage leaves fried for 1 or 2 minutes in a little olive oil.

*

Related posts

Pumpkin leek soup

Cream of cauliflower soup with salmon roe

Happy New Year (Lentil soup with cumin)

The many dessert of Thanksgiving (Best award-winning pumpkin pie)

The many desserts of Thanksgiving (Best award-winning pumpkin pie)

2 December 2011

I’ve come to realize that I am not a person of habit, I seem incapable of a routine (though I have tried). I am, however, stubborn about traditions.

Every year, on December 1st, I hang an advent calendar over the fireplace for my children — twenty-four hand-sewn little bags filled with chocolates and small toys; it’s just the beginning of the Christmas celebration. On the eve of December 6th, I lay out cookies and milk, salt and a carrot for St Nicholas and his donkey; on the 24th, we feast on foie gras and unwrap presents while nibbling cookies and clementines. In February, I make crêpes for La Chandeleur. In spring, I dye eggs for Easter. I cherish these rituals; they shaped my childhood and I wish to perpetuate these memories. And of course, traditions are always good excuse for a party.

And so every year, on the fourth Thursday in November, we invite friends for Thanksgiving, and there is turkey and cranberry sauce.

This year we were twelve adults and at least as many children, seated around a single long table. I made the same meal as last year, with a different soup to start. And, like last year, each guest brought a dessert. In the past, the timid offering of one pumpkin pie, one pecan pie, and perhaps an apple crumble were usually picked at somewhat wearily, but pulling out a huge spread of desserts (after a small digestive pause) has the unfailing ability to revive the party.

My deepest thanks to everyone for the apple pie, the pecan pies, Mamyvonne’s chocolate cake, tiramisus, profiteroles, pavlovas and more sweet bites, as well as Thomas’s (as he won’t tire of telling anyone willing to listen) “award-winning” pumpkin pie (the award in question being a company bake off — but still).

It was a merry dinner, which, rekindled by an unreasonable amount of desserts, extended with dancing late into the evening.

Two days after Thanksgiving we drove out to Montauk for the day. It brought back memories of another Thanksgiving trip to the beach, some ten years ago. Back then there was leftover pumpkin pie eaten from the hood of the car in a deserted gas station on the way to Cape Cod; an unusual bed and breakfast in Provincetown, memorable in unexpected ways; long walks on the deep yellow sand where seals lolled in the low November sunlight; silly shortcuts through the icy water and tears of pain from thawing feet; two days of glorious weather and the drive back to New York in the pouring rain.

This year in Montauk, the children found smooth stones and carried huge glistening rocks for hours. A fisherman teetered on a rock swept over by rippling waves. We followed a path through the thorny brush that withered away into damp reeds. It was so warm we might have jumped into the sea.

Different years, new friends, interwoven memories.

***

Best Award-winning Pumpkin Pie

The story behind this overemphatically named pumpkin pie goes like this: my mother used to make it for Thanksgiving. When she handed me the recipe, she titled it “Best Pumpkin Pie,” and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. Some years ago the pumpkin pie became Thomas’ Thanksgiving prerogative. One year he entered it in his company’s bake-off and won first prize — unanimously, he claimed. It is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted. It isn’t cloyingly sweet or overspiced. It has a clear crisp lemony taste that is completely delicious.

1 unbaked sweet pie crust

A little over 1 lb (500 g) of dense, flavorful pumpkin or squash such as hubbard, kabocha, butternut or a mixture of two different kinds, which must yield a little under 1 lb (425 g) of pumpkin purée

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (200 g) sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 heap tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 ground cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

Juice and rind of 1 lemon

1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

***

Prepare the pie crust, roll it out into the pan, and keep it in the refrigerator while making the batter.

To make the pumpkin purée: remove the skin and seeds from the pumpkin (or squash), cut the flesh into large wedges, and steam for about 20 minutes until soft. Blend or press through a food mill to obtain a thick, smooth purée.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Combine the eggs, sugar, salt, spices, lemon zest and juice and beat well. Stir in the pumpkin purée. Add the cream and beat well.

Pour the batter into the pie crust and slip into the hot oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The pie is ready when a knife inserted in its center comes out clean.

*

Related recipes

Thanksgiving (Cranberry sauce)

Pumpkin leek soup

Quince and apple tarte

Mashed celeriac with parsley

21 November 2011

Mashed celeriac is the ultimate Thanksgiving side dish because it is so perfect with turkey and cranberry sauce and marries well with many other flavors.

It is also an excellent complement to fish, game, or duck, and works well with lamb tagine or calf’s liver. It is brilliant because it’s so similar to mashed potatoes but more subtle. It’s comforting but also fresh and vibrant. I have to restrain myself from making it too often.

***

The quantity can easily be adapted, with proportions of about 60% – 40% celeriac to potatoes in favor of the celeriac (a lot of celeriac needs to be removed in the peeling process, so it’s always a good idea to buy a bit more than you think you need).

4 Tbsps Coarse sea salt

4 small heads celeriac (about the size of an orange)

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes

2 large bunches flat-leaved parsley

Good olive oil

4 Tbsps good butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

***

Bring two large pots of water to a boil each with 2 Tbsps of coarse sea salt.

Peel the celeriac and the potatoes and cut them into large chunks, all about the same size so they take the same amount of time to cook.

Place each vegetable in a separate pot of boiling water and cook until soft. **The celeriac and potatoes must be cooked separately because they don’t take the same amount of time to cook through (the celeriac takes longer) and it’s important not to overcook the potatoes; if they start falling apart the consistency of the mash will be watery.** The cooking time depends on the size of the pieces of vegetable and how crowded they are in the boiling water, but I usually start checking the potatoes by poking them with a sharp knife after about 12 minutes, the celeriac after about 20 minutes. They are ready when the knife goes in with no resistance.

Meanwhile, wash the parsley and trim off the thickest part of the stems.

In a blender, purée the parsley with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water.

Once the roots are cooked, mash them with a potato masher or through a food mill (never in a food processor as the blade cutting through the potato starch makes the potatoes gummy). Mix in the butter, a good slosh of olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Taste and adjust.

Reheat the mash over very low heat and at the very last minute just before serving add the parsley purée. Stir well until it is uniformly green. **The parsley must be added at the very last minute;  if heated the parsley will turn brown and loose its vibrant flavor.**

*

Related posts

Sautéed hen of the woods and king trumpet mushrooms

Simply kale salad

At the market | Celeriac aka celery root (Rémoulade salad)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 103 other followers

%d bloggers like this: