|Ten courses, plus an amuse and bread basket. Not pictured: sweet little mignardises.|
This year, I decided to do something I've wanted to do for a while now, albeit not necessarily for Thanksgiving: prepare and serve a 10 course meal.
Last year I made an entire meal and packed it all up into a car at 6 am on Thanksgiving to drive down to my brother, his wife, and their three-week-old daughter, and the year before I cooked up a storm at my parents' house on Long Island for a crowd of 15, so this year I was determined to serve a meal in my own home. And because it was going to be a small crowd - myself, Matt, and my parents - I decided I was going to go all out and serve only composed plates. No family style here - although I am usually a proponent of it, especially for Thanksgiving.
I found this to be a particular challenge for Thanksgiving, as everyone is accustomed to a family style meal and there are certain dishes that are essential for this holiday, so this endeavor entailed translating some of the classics into plated dishes.
I spent about a week coming up with the menu. Some of the dishes came to me right away, while others required a little more thought, particularly because I was trying to use up my CSA share and only buy a few supplemental vegetables as well as dairy and grains.
Preparations for the meal started the Saturday before, when I put in about 6 hours of work. Over the next few days, I spent 3-4 hours a day doing prep, and I did significantly more the night before. I made sure to leave some work for the morning of, but not so much that I would be overwhelmed or rushed before my parents arrived.
Aside from one lapse in keeping an eye on the clock and the resulting 40 minutes between courses (whatever, I was talking to my parents over a glass of wine, can you really fault me), I pulled it off, with a huge portion of the credit due to Matt for helping with the service prep and, most importantly, keeping the kitchen from turning into a disaster zone. We took turns in the kitchen, with me prepping food and plating and him cleaning up and setting up for the next course - our usual setup for big cooking endeavors - and as a result my parents were never left sitting alone at the table. Besides, our apartment isn't all that big, so whoever was in the kitchen was still able to stay in the conversation.
We invited over some friends for dessert (Matt's idea) so as to make our Thanksgiving celebration a little bigger and also to prevent ourselves from eating an entire kabocha squash cheesecake, which we are entirely capable of, which was a brilliant move. I think I can safely say that everyone involved had a great time, and it was a wonderful way to end the evening.
Waking up to go to work the next day was not as awesome - I'm fairly certain I slept on the G train that morning - but all of the work was worth it. This was one my proudest culinary escapades, and I'm not quite sure how I'll top it. Maybe I shouldn't. Sleep is not overrated, despite what many people like to say.
The full menu is below - the photo above is in order of the menu and beverage pairings are above each set of courses in italics. Over the coming weeks, I'll be posting the recipes for each item as well as providing some insight into how I came up with each one and how some of them actually fit into my standard Thanksgiving repertoire.
Hopefully you enjoyed your Thanksgiving as much as we did. Regardless of how elaborate or simple the food is, there's really nothing better than sitting down to a long meal with your family.
Amuse: gruyere gougere filled with gruyere fonduta
Farnum Hill Extra Dry Apple Cider
Celery root, fennel, and Empire apple veloute with apple brunoise, fennel fronds, and blue cheese-walnut tuile
Concord grape pebbles, kohlrabi puree and matchsticks, toasted almonds, Quebec maple syrup, and mint
Chateau L'Ermitage Castillon & Fils 2008
Spice-roasted sweet potatoes, beluga lentils, young lettuces, gingered cranberries, and Stravecchio parmesan
Yukon Gold potato mille-feuille, seared brussels sprouts, sweet pea shoots, and mustard creme fraiche
A to Z Pinot Noir
Pan-roasted hen of the woods mushroom, toasted farro, maple-glazed tri-color carrots and icicle radishes, and cranberry beurre rouge
Butternut squash and mascarpone agnolotti, brown butter-apple cider-parmesan broth, lacinato kale, and toasted hazelnuts
Sixpoint Craft Ales limited edition saison August 2009 (yeah, I know you're not really supposed to age beer. This was the beer Sixpoint graciously brewed for my wedding and we had a few bottles left and decided to crack one open instead of buying another saison for the cheese course. It was excellent.)
Cheese course: triple creme brie, manchego, and Bayley Hazen blue with Greek thyme honey, membrillo, and homemade fig-hazelnut stout jam
Johnnie Walker Blue Label (this was not supposed to be served here, but, whatever. Thanks, Dad!!!)
Concord grape sorbet with toasted oat and almond crumble
21st Amendment & Ninkasi Breweries, Allies Win The War
Northern Spy apple galette, black pepper pastry, maple-rosemary ice cream, pepita brittle
Kabocha squash cheesecake, ginger burnt caramel sauce, coconut gelee
Duckwalk Blueberry Port
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Balvenie 21 Portwood
Mignardises: butternut blondies and maple-cornmeal shortbread cookies filled with cranberry jam