Thanksgiving feast #3: perhaps the most spectacular of them all. So spectacular, in fact, that I completely neglected to take any photos of the delicious, abundant spread, which included pale pink mashed potatoes, roasted romanesco cauliflower, seared brussels sprouts, a faintly sweet, crunchy stuffing made with dried cherries, pecans, and cranberries, and massive magnums of wine provided by two of the most knowledgeable wine folks in the city, Theo and Etheylia. Naturally, you’d never expect anything less from a culinary duo as capable and passionate as Michelle and Anthony. I did remember to whip out my camera at the start of the awe-inspiring dessert course, when Michelle modestly unveiled a perfect pumpkin pie and a moist, boozy bourbon-drenched pound cake. Adam swooned, then asked for a thick slice to take home with him. They complied, of course — Thanksgiving is all about generosity, and these two are the very embodiment of perfect home entertaining.
Around these parts, Thanksgiving is something of a week-long celebration. We’ll feast again with friends this Monday, but earlier in the week we hosted another small gathering. The idea was fowl, but definitely no turkey. What did we eat?
Fennel confit with saffron, currants, orange zest, coriander seed. (I make this all the time; it’s very popular around these parts! I always look for the tiniest bulbs at the market for the most tender flesh.)
Sauteed chicken livers with torn radicchio and honey vinaigrette
Shredded duck legs with lentils, kale, and duck-fat roast potatoes
Roasted butternut squash with herbs de Provence, fresh bay and smoked paprika
Crispy brussels sprouts with pancetta and pine nuts
A big hunk of Comté from Jura and sourdough bread
There was lots of laughter, record playing, and garland-making. One of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had in ages. There weren’t even any leftovers!
A lot of Montrealers have asked me if I plan to cook a blow-out Thanksgiving feast today. They assume, I think, that I’d use Thanksgiving as a great excuse to devise of some over-the-top, decadent, butter-drenched affair. But the thing is, I realized that Adam and I have never needed a reason to enjoy a crazy meal, to spend five hours in a kitchen getting something just right, to uncork eight bottles of wine, to spend weeks researching recipes. The way we cook, the things we like to eat, is a special part of our lives, something still unfamiliar to me, something I’m still settling into, this idea that I could ever be paired with someone who loves food as much as I do.
Looking back over the past year, we often have meals that are more elaborate than most Thanksgiving feasts I’ve attended. A lot of foods that Americans consider “special holiday food” — mashed potatoes is a classic example — we enjoy on the regular. Nothing is off limits. There never needs to be a “special occasion” for us to cook something that we love. Why do so many Americans wait until one day a year to drool over roast goose, or to puree yams or bake pumpkin pie? It’s not just fancy foods, though, that I’m grateful for today. Adam has a way of making every meal seem special, whether it’s two fried eggs and leftover lentils for breakfast, or a roast chicken and seared scallops feast the following night. I’m grateful for that, for my special teacup that is painted with scarlet roses, for fresh-squeezed orange juice every morning, for wild mushrooms soaked in duck fat, for fluffy slices of chocolate cake, for the plenty and the abundance that appears in our lives every day.
These photos — from our last major trip to Jean-Talon market — are at least a few weeks old, but I thought they were fitting for today, American Thanksgiving. Looking at these images fill me happiness but also wistfulness — definitely can’t buy Jerusalem artichokes or Roma tomatoes or fresh marjoram anymore!
This fall, I found myself anticipating Thanksgiving with less glee than usual (it’s widely known that it’s my favorite holiday). At first it was puzzling, but I think understand: I live with somewhere where blow-out dinners similar to Thanksgiving feasts happen at least once a week. Why wait a whole year to have dishes that you want to eat year-round?
At first, eating so well was overwhelming; now it just feels normal + right. Roast chicken dinners are a breeze (this one above was cooked Thomas Keller style — with no oil, at high heat and sprinkled with thyme — and was one of the juicest birds I’ve ever eaten); lamb shanks bubbling away for five hours are manageable, too. We eat bone marrow with red wine vinegar and parsley for a snack, and broil scallops in brown butter to perch atop creamed rutabaga puree. I bake at home more than I have in my entire life, and learned to incorporate it into my daily routine in an effortless way. (There is an apple tart bubbling away in the oven as we speak).
I’ve learned to appreciate the incredible richness of my life, and revel in the love we share for food. This Thanksgiving I’m reminded that living spectacularly can happen regularly.