Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving is the best holiday on the American calendar. Others are enjoyable, but they all suffer from a lack of pretense. Thanksgiving is all about family, friends, giving thanks, and good ol’fashioned gluttony. It’s a mess of good food, good company, and loving memories. It’s a holiday that values the intangible.

Some of my favorite memories from childhood are of Thanksgiving. We had three traditions that we would cycle through. Some Thanksgiving’s were spent local, with friends filling the house and sharing the food of many kitchens. Other Thanksgiving’s were spent in the mountains, at my families little cabin, hoping to catch one of the first snowfalls of the season. But the best Thanksgiving’s were always in Virginia, on my grandfathers farm. He owned a classic Victorian with a wrap-around veranda, and too many dogs. We would convene on the kitchen and cook up a storm, then sit outside on the veranda to eat and watch the thunderstorms roll across the Appalachian mountains. Those Thanksgiving’s out in Virginia, taught me how important it is to celebrate family and gratitude during these holidays. In a perfect world, we’d celebrate family and gratitude every day. But that’s what I love about Thanksgiving. The memories, old and new, that come from those who matter most.

Cooking

Last year, 2015, was my first time taking the lead on Thanksgiving. In the past I have helped with the standard kid tasks - mashing the potatoes, making cranberry sauce, taste-testing the gravy, and stealing extra pieces of the oh-so-delicious turkey skin from the serving plate. Now, I’m the one dressing the bird, planning side dishes, and coordinating/sidelining my family. My parents are more than happy to take the back-seat, but my dad is still in charge of the gravy and stuffing, and my mom always commandeers the oven to make a few homemade pumpkin pies.

This year, we out-did ourselves.

We oven-roasted a turkey, pan-roasted some duck breasts, made wild mushroom risotto using Gordon Ramsay’s recipe, and spent far too much time chopping and arranging courgettes, eggplants, and tomatoes for the ratatouille from Ratatouille.

The Turkey

For Thanksgiving this year we roasted a 17lb organic heirloom turkey. I made a mix of white wine (Two-Buck-Chuck Chardonnay), lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, and avocado oil. Mixed it up to emulsify the oil and wine, then used a basting needle to inject the liquid under the turkey’s skin. This helped flavor the meat itself, and crisp up the skin in the oven. The result was flavorful, juicy, and delicious.

The Risotto

The risotto is a bit of a favorite in my home. My girlfriend loves the dish, my brother has tried his hand at making it a few times, and my parents were blown away. Gordon Ramsay’s recipe is a stunning take on a classic Italian dish, and is perfect for autumn. Trisha took the lead on cooking it for Thanksgiving, and made the best batch we’ve ever had!

The Ratatouille - Confit Byaldi

And now we get to the ratatouille from Ratatouille, Thomas Keller’s Confit Byaldi.

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This is the single most involved dish I have ever made, and it stole the show on the Thanksgiving table. It’s a tour-de-force of fall colors and flavors, overflowing with fresh courgettes, eggplant, and tomatoes. Thomas Keller’s take on this seminal French dish includes the addition of a fresh bell pepper pipérade beneath the veggies, and a vinaigrette for the top. I loved every minute of preparing this dish for the Thanksgiving table, and I can’t wait for an opportunity to make it again.