We haven’t spent a Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. for nearly 15 years now.
That’s not to say we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.
In fact, Thanksgiving is more important to us now that we live where they do not celebrate.
I remember the first Thanksgiving in London – I had to work.
My boss, the inimitable Jackie, had two dozen yellow long stem roses sent to my office that day, in a sort of apology for my having to work.
Having labored in the service industry during my early U.S. career, I often had to work both the Friday and weekend after Thanksgiving (for those fashion retail sales days) as well as the day after Christmas.
But no one worked on Thanksgiving.
This changed when we moved to Europe.
After that first year, we got used to my working during the traditional US time off; but we made up for it on the weekend – paying special attention to spending it together and cooking up a storm.
It’s actually one of the few times I used to cook before I retired.
We’ve graduated to roast goose, though, not turkey. Full grown turkeys are hard to find before the Christmas holiday in the U.K. And we learned early how to order a goose, foie gras and even turkey from our local butchers. There are some incredibly good butchers in the west suburbs of London.
Our favorite is H.G. Walter – across the road from Baron’s Court tube station run first by Grandfather, then father and sons.
Okay so goose for Thanksgiving. Always stuffed with oranges and apples. Always basted with Calvados.
Always Brussels sprouts. Sometimes wild rice when we can find/afford it. Cranberry sauce, when we can find cranberries.
This year we’re getting a little fancy.
Since we’ve been watching Master Chef Australia, we’ve been experimenting and becoming bolder (that means I have become a little bolder).
Now that we have Thomas Keller’s book, Bouchon, I’m feeling more confident in my cooking.
Now that we have Amy Thielen’s book, The New Midwestern Table, I’m revisiting some of the best food I ever ate when I was a kid, living in Michigan and visiting Minneapolis for Thanksgiving.
And we’re adding all of this learning to today’s Thanksgiving Dinner menu:
Thanksgiving Dinner at Chata Diviak 2013
Baby romaine leaves, orange and ground walnut vinaigrette
Roast goose, Calvados baste
Sautéed goose neck stuffed with veal sausage
Blanched Brussels sprouts in a crème frèche Dijon mustard sauce
Shoestring sweet potatoes, cumin salt
Pommes “Scott” with “jus hus”*
Cranberry with Port wine tart and whipped cream
Chateau Topolčianky Sauvignon 2012
Porto Alegre Ruby
This was not a day to get up at 4:45 a.m. but a day to enjoy ourselves in the kitchen.
We did have a short recess to go find Sisi, who ran off into the woods after a rabbit or a deer. She does that on occasion. I wish for her never to be off the leash.
Back to food.
The tart was first. It needs to be served at room temperature and I did it for the first time today. First time I made tart dough where I had to ‘press’ the dough into the tart pan. The pan’s too big as well, and there isn’t that handy bottom you can push the tart up out of the tin. We’ll see.
Is that a great color or what?
Scott started some stock early too – bits from the goose innards and the neck added to some stock already started earlier this week. This is for his ‘jus hus’* – a French-Slovak hybrid term for goose juice, or gravy (hus is Slovak for goose).
Stock done. Tart done. Goose in the oven.
Surprisingly, the sweet potato (not yams) French fries were easy and tasty.
And Scott creates the salad vinaigrette:
(leave an hour or so here while we do the rest)
Well. That was a lot of work.
But we’ve learned how NOT to over-produce if we’re just doing it for two.
Today was especially good since we had to work in tandem – and share the stove, the oven and the pots and pans. It was GREAT!
Scott even made me draw up a diagram of what the finished platter would look like.
We had to put the sprouts in a separate serving dish because it wouldn’t do for the mustard sauce to seep into the other stuff.
The goose legs were GREAT. The breast was just too dry – like a good shoe leather.
The sprouts were good, the pommes Scott were GREAT (really creamy buttery mash). The sweet potato fries were fun and surprisingly tasty, especially with the cumin salt. The turkey neck sausage was too dry – because we cooked the veal first before stuffing it. Then it was sautéed to brown the skin then it sat in the oven to keep it warm. Too dry. But the flavor was still really good and we learned how to stuff a turkey neck skin!
We have a difference of opinion on the tart for dessert. I was unpleasantly surprised that it was so, well, tart. Scott loves it and thinks it’s one of the best tarts he’s ever had and requires me to cook it for our friend Annabel who will join us next week.
Okay one last thing: instead of the sorry and stale next day dish of turkey soup, I am making a goose pot pie, using the leftover celeriac and sweet potato, hoping the goose will soften and get juicy again simmering in stock and cream. Fingers crossed.
Okay so the pie is really good.
As a result, we are going to alter our 15+ year tradition of roast goose on Christmas.
Christmas Eve we will take all that gorgeous goose skin and stuff it with appropriately spiced ground veal. This will be accompanied by sweet potato French fries and the Thomas Keller version of Brussels sprouts in Dijon mustard sauce.
Christmas feast will now consist of a goose pot pie.
And of course the cranberry Port wine tart will be dessert for both days, and any further days that it still exists (Scott may eat it all tonight)
To you, our friends and family in the U.S.: Happy Thanksgiving. We are so very thankful to know and love you. As expat Londoners, to you, our friends and family in the U.K: we are so very thankful to know and love you.