The afternoon did not start out well. I blame exhaustion and an upset stomach. After blubbering for a while, I phoned my very patient and loving sister, said hi to my dad, and gladly welcomed Alix when she arrived at 4:00, ready to start cooking. Alix, however, was late. Turns out her world also fell to pieces, and tears were shed. Ah the joys of being emotionally volatile. But it only took a cup of tea and a piece of gingerbread to set us enthusiastically back on track: we had, you see, a pretty killer menu ahead of us, inspired by some of our favourite foodies.
Although we weren't cooking for an army, just four in fact (Alix's dear Oscar and his friend Glauco), we split the task up. It was really fun to plan the meal together, prepare a bit on our own, and then come together for the big bang on the day of. Despite mutual tears for different reasons, we produced a nourishing and delicious meal, created with very few misshapes, and one heck of a lot of love.
A close friend and former teacher gave Alix an ORIGINAL copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. For the past two weeks she's been pouring over it at breakfast, lunch and dinner, learning about how to read foaming butter and luckily for us, how to roast a chicken. And roast a chicken is what we did. More precisely: Julia's Roasted Chicken Tarragon with Mushroom Port Stuffing. Accompanied by of course, the delicious sauce made at the end from all the juices, reduced down with more tarragon and more port. Roasted in my newly acquired, but second-hand dutch oven, the chicken was fall-off-the-bone succulent, perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked. The mushroom stuffing was something to be giddy and grin into the plate about, and the sauce! Need I say another word?
[The long orange thing holding the chicken together is Alix's silicone contraption for trussing the chicken. Brilliant eh? Needle included.]
I scoured the Internet (well, mostly Molly's website, I must admit) for Thanksgiving specialties I would like to make. I've never made an entire feast by myself; the years spent away from home I was either invited to a meal, or in a country where they didn't know what Thanksgiving was. My family has traditions, but we often vary what we do, so I took the liberty to find some new delicacies to prepare. Recently introduced by Alix to Lucy Waverman, a Canadian food writer, I made her Spiced Cranberry Chutney, Molly's Sweet-Potato Biscuits, and her Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds and Lemon. When I was mixing up the biscuits, which you add mashed sweet-potato to, I was worried: the dough was too moist, there was too much butter, oh no, oh no, oh no. But after they reached the 15 minute mark in the oven, I saw they were going to perform just fine. Being more moist than normal biscuits, they need to cook longer. And Holy Molly. They were rich, buttery, with that warm flavour of sweet-potato. Everyone had seconds.The cranberry chutney was spiced up with chili pepper, ginger, cardamom and smoothed out with an apple. It was cheap and easy to make, and stupendous on top of the biscuits. Although the Brussels sprouts weren't my favourite way I've eaten them, they were pretty darn good and a fresh green medium for the rest of the meal.
We knew we wanted pumpkin pie. Alix found a Lucy Waverman recipe on the Internet for Pecan Pumpkin Pie; yes that's right, a marriage of our two favourite holiday pies. Oh my! It was heavenly: chopped pecans in the sweeter-than-normal filling, and creamy pumpkin, topped with candied pecans, dolloped with more whip cream than appropriate. And she did a damn fine job with the pastry as well.
And then we all sat back, bellies full, refilled our wine glasses, had a bit more pie, a bit more whipped cream and sighed. What a wonderful way to start in a new home.
PS Here's a shout out to my mother for equipping me with beautiful table cloths, place mats, napkins, and dishes. You have taught me well, and it turns out that I do care about those sorts of things! And, everyone commented on how beautiful the table looked, rustic, but still, beautiful.