Can you see the Eiffel Tower peaking out from under the sliced turkey?
Another Thanksgiving, my 51st one, has come and gone. The relatives have departed, leftovers are stacked in the refrigerator, most of my college-age son's clothes are washed, and we even braved the Black Friday shopping at the mall for an hour or so this afternoon. Birthday boy asked for a new pair of jeans from American Eagle and we actually found a parking place without circling the mall a dozen times and getting aggravated. The Christmas decorations are up and Santa was in place, waiting for the little ones (and not so little ones) to come sit on his lap and have their photos taken. I must admit that we never took the boys to the mall for a photo with Santa. They admired him from afar but wanted nothing to do with him up close. Okay with me.
I am quite proud to say that my first turkey was a success. I was a bit nervous about whether or not it would thaw in time and if I could manage to get it done enough but not too done. We've all had dry turkey and while it will not make you ill the way undercooked turkey will, you do feel as if you will choke on it trying to get it down, n'est-ce pas? I kept my eye on the "doo-dad" (a technical term, you know) and used my brand new kitchen thermometer.
We started our repast (from the French word for meal- repas) with shrimp sauteed in butter with garlic, crudités or and dip, chèvre from Elodie Farms (the Durham Farmers' Market was open Tuesday afternoon), and onion tart. We toasted with a lovely bottle of champagne my sister-in-law gave us a few months ago. My father-in-law fell in love with Dave's fig and honey goat cheese spread. I even made the ultimate sacrifice and sent him home with the little bit left over... Every time I said I'd love to have a little farm and a goat, he and his bride of 53 years laughed. They have been there and done that way up in the northwest corner of Nebraska and know that it is not quite the romantic idea that I think it is. That's okay, though, and when I have my little farm in the south of France they can still come visit and milk my goat if they become nostalgic for the old days. Our nephew only had one carrot-- he insisted that he was saving himself for the big meal. I did admire his will power in the face of the garlic shrimp that smelled divine.
My sister-in-law brought a sweet potato apple dish, cranberry-orange relish and rolls. Our nephew added cupcakes he had made himself. My mother-in-law brought pumpkin pies, homemade fudge, cherry cheesecake and the fixings for stuffing (she also brought homemade cinnamon buns that we consumed for breakfast with coffee from the new Mr. Coffee coffee maker).
I made a cranberry apple dish (recipe handed down by the BFF's mom), mashed potatoes and green beans (the weakest part of the meal- just not green bean season). My mother-in-law makes awesome gravy so I left her to that after the turkey came out of the oven. My sister-in-law and I had vowed that we were going to pay careful attention and learn how to make it ourselves, but we failed miserably. I know it involved corn starch and pan drippings and that's it. Oh well. I chose the bottle of Le Garrigon, a red Côtes du Rhône the BFF had given me (from The Wine Authorities), to accompany the onion tart, but it turned out that only my brother-in-law and I were drinking red so it also accompanied my turkey. My mother-in-law is a white wine drinker so I opened a bottle of Paul D. 2008 Grüner Veltliner, also from WA, for her.
I was disappointed that neither of my sons would even try the onion tart. I thought that the just-turned 22 year old would at least take one bite. But he just couldn't seem to grasp the concept of a savory tart. Pie, in his mind, should be sweet, involving cherries or pumpkin. I tried, really I did. I promised myself that I would not give up on him-- yet.
After dinner, I talked several of them into playing Bananagram with me. I discovered this game last week and love it. It involves words and I am a self-proclaimed word-nerd. I love crossword puzzles, spelling bees and Wheel of Fortune. It is a really cool game, kind of like Scrabble. Stocking-stuffer idea if you have any word-nerds on your list...
We entertained our out-of-town guests with a visit to downtown Durham and a stroll around the American Tobacco Campus. We are very proud of our city and love showing it off. The day had started off very foggy, but by the time we drove downtown, the fog had burned off and the skies were blue. The day after Thanksgiving, we went to the Nasher Museum at Duke to see two exhibits, Picasso and the Allure of Language (my third visit, but by far the most thorough) and Andy Warhol's Polaroids. Our post-Thanksgiving lunch involved calling Brian and locating the OnlyBurger truck. My nephew, who is in grad school at Carolina, had read my latest article in the Herald-Sun about OB and wanted to try it out. Fortunately, we found them on our side of town and brought home bags of burgers and fries. No one was disappointed, I am thrilled to report. Everything, down to the last fry, was consumed. Thank you, Brian and OnlyBurger, for a little break from leftovers.
It was another beautiful, sunny day. I have so much to be thankful for. It is now quiet, there are no dirty dishes waiting to be washed, Duke is beating UConn in basketball, Nebraska is beating Colorado in football, my boys are upstairs, and my un-ex and I are downstairs content in the satisfaction of a couple of days spent laughing with family members and our first Thanksgiving together in five years. Oui, la vie est tellement bonne... Life is indeed good.
My Caramelized Onion-Chèvre Tart
One pastry shell (I buy the refrigerated store brand that rolls out), see recipe for blueberry tart if you wish to make your own
3 onions, sliced
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
Soft, fresh goat cheese, 3-4 ounces
Honey-Fig goat cheese spread, if desired
Spread the pastry shell into a 9 or 10 inch pan.
Caramelize the onions by melting the butter, adding the olive oil and then adding the onions. Lower the flame to med-low, add the thyme, to taste, and be patient, stirring the onions occasionally. This will take 30 minutes or so. When they are golden brown, remove them from the heat.
Crumble the goat cheese into the bottom of the pastry. Spread the onions on top of the cheese. Sprinkle the honey-fig goat cheese spread on top, if you wish.
Bake for about 20 minutes at 425F or until the crust is browned.
Helen's Cranberry Apple Dish
3 c. tart apples (I use Granny Smith), peeled and diced
2 c. whole cranberries
1 c. granulated sugar
Mix together and put in a 10 x 13 pan.
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. melted butter
Mix together. Put on top of cranberry-apple mixture.
Bake at 325F for one hour.
Serve hot or cold.
Bon appétit, Thanksgiving!