Posts Tagged ‘thanksgiving’

European Thanksgiving with a cranberry lime sauce

2 December 2014

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Perhaps I am feeling sentimental. Certainly I am feeling sentimental — it happens once a year, on Thanksgiving.

Moved by bonds tightened over many years, touched by new ties strengthened over the course of a meal. Each one is a little different, and a little bit the same. The food varies only slightly; we are with old friends, and new friends. Some guests come from halfway across Europe, some cannot come at all. Some are cooking turkey with apple chestnut stuffing on the other side of the Atlantic. Thanksgiving is messy, and loud, and funny, and, basically, happy.

Thanksgiving is the time when we feel most strongly all the invisible strings.

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Barely different cranberry lime sauce
This version uses lime rather than lemon (or orange). I think it’s the best.

680 g fresh cranberries
300 g (1 1/2 cups) sugar
2 cups water
1  lime

Wash the cranberries, check through them, and chuck any discolored or soft ones.

In a saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a lively simmer.

Add the cranberries and cook for about 15 minutes, until they’ve all popped. Stir in the zest and juice of one lime and cook for another minute or so.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a jar or bowl.

Brussels sprouts and pecorino salad

6 December 2013

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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.

Sunday reading | 17.11.2013

17 November 2013

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Living in London hasn’t changed some things: Thanksgiving is approaching and, like every year, I am at once hugely looking forward and also dreading it a little. For many years we’ve hosted large parties for Thanksgiving, it is our favorite holiday. It’s also, of course, a lot of work. Being as I am, I like to cook the meal fully, I am not one for potlucks. But there invariably comes a time when everything seems to come crashing together — too many things, too little time. Thomas might tell you this happens every single time we have friends over for dinner, whether it is just one guest, or twenty five. He has a point. But that doesn’t help.

Having read many great reviews of Sam Sifton’s clever book Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, I was anxious to soak in some of its wisdom, suffer a little hand-holding that might make this year’s preparations slightly more — um — relaxed. I enjoyed the book tremendously. It is fun and well written, full of good insights about the holiday. What to eat, what not to eat, how to set the table (and how not to), how to serve the food. Sifton’s style is at once light and unapologetically authoritative.

‘Thanksgiving is no place for irony. […] We are going to cook Thanksgiving correctly. […] It means there is going to be turkey […]. There is going to be a proper dinner table […]. There are going to be proper place settings for each person and glasses for water and wine. There are going to be candles. There will be dessert.’

But I didn’t find what I was looking for. I wanted, I realized, a timetable. What should I prepare in advance, when can I make the mashed celeriac? Will it sit for a while without becoming pasty and dry? I tend to leave everything to the very last minute, for fear of losing flavor. On Thanksgiving it’s a hard bargain. So Thanksgiving wasn’t all that helpful for actual logistics. I guess that would have been too practical; it would have tarnished its flavor.

On the other side of the Thanksgiving-reading spectrum lies Edward Behr’s minimalist column for Food52. It’s palate-cleansing like a shot of aquavit.

Somewhat related but not exactly are Yotam Ottolenghi’s celery recipes published in last week’s Guardian. I am firmly in Ottolenghi’s camp. Celery deserves to be treated as a proper vegetable and score the starring role. The recipes sound incredible and would sit very well on a Thanksgiving spread. Or would Sam Sifton approve?

Finally, for those unconcerned by Thanksgiving or in need of an escape from cranberries and pumpkin pie, this fascinating article about Venice caught my attention recently, as I perused the internet for interesting eating suggestions in view of a short weekend trip to La Serenissima next Friday to catch the tail end of the Biennale (!!!). Some things do change when you live in London…

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.

Thanksgiving Menu

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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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)


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