This year, we had an intimate Thanksgiving. I dreaded it. But, it turned out to be one of the the most special Thanksgivings in my memory. As it was a small gathering (just the three of us, and Beej), we had a small spread. I started preparing food on Wednesday evening and worked on the feast all day on Thursday. It’s amazing that after all those hours of preparation, we were finished eating after about ten minutes. It was still worth it. I’m glad that I’m not constantly cooking like that, but on occasion, I’ll gladly rise to the challenge. And, I’m not going to take all the credit, either.
On Wednesday, I started thawing the duckling, simmering the giblets and neck in Chianti and water with eel meat and juice, and boiling a collection of turkey skin and bones to make a load of turkey stock. I made sure to turn off the fire before we went to bed so I wouldn’t reduce these to ash, like the last time I attempted to make turkey stock. (That was a bad, bad thing…) I cleaned and cut the potatoes as well. Thursday morning, I was skinning and sectioning the duckling to go into the marinade, and perfecting sauces.
Of course, I’m a sucker for raw vegetables, so we had our selection with ranch dressing. The raw veggies weren’t quite as fresh as I would have liked, but they were still a good addition to the culinary pieces.
As for cooked veggies, we selected two yellow squash and two zucchinis that I cut into <1/8-inch slices and two bell peppers, one yellow, one red, that I cut into about 1/4-inch slices. The thought was that I wanted the squash to cook quickly, and I wanted the peppers to remain crisp. We melted 2-tablespoons of bacon grease and half a stick of butter into a pan, and Jenni sauteed them until the squash was just barely translucent.
We boiled 5-lbs of red potatoes with the skins on. I don’t believe in removing perfectly good skin from potatoes unless they have so much dirt and grit on them that it can’t be avoided. The Kiddo smashed the potatoes with 1-tablespoon bacon grease, a stick of butter, and a splash of heavy whipping cream.
I had never actually made gravy before yesterday, but Jenni helped me – a lot. The gravy we made for the potatoes consisted of 1-tablespoon of bacon grease (detecting a pattern?), 1-quart of our turkey stock (there was another gallon and a half that we bagged and froze), duck neck meat, about 1-cup heavy whipping cream, and organic flour. It took about 1.5-teaspoons kosher salt and a generous helping of fresh-ground pepper to finish it up.
The duckling itself was my crowning achievement for the meal. I brined the bird for about 16-hours prior to any other preparation. As I wrote above, I skinned and sectioned it, saving the fat for rendering at a later date. I put the sections into a vacuum bag and marinated them in Konig Hoven Quadrupel ale for about six hours. The pieces were smoked with fruitless mulberry wood. For the sauce, I continued simmering the above-mentioned concoction of chianti, water, neck and giblets, and eel. I removed the solids (fed the entrails to the dog and cats, and saved the neck meat for the gravy), and continued simmering the juice with the addition of 1-tablespoon of raw sugar, 1-teaspoon kosher salt, and 1-cup of Konig Hoven Quadrupel. Once the flavors had blended nicely, I thickened the sauce with corn starch. Once the meat came off the grill, I drizzled this exquisite sauce over the top.
It was quite lean, and very flavorful!
To wash it down, we had Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel (except The Kiddo who had milk), which we had regulated to the perfect serving temperature in holes drilled in a +60-lb chunk of sandstone. We served in Riedel ‘O’ Syrah tumblers after briefly decanting. (Beej tends to have bad luck with glasses, and we thought using stems would tempt disaster.)
Beej brought some excellent cheesecake brownies for dessert, which we drizzled with dark chocolate syrup. Kiddo and I decided to make chocolates earlier in the day. We started with Ghirardelli 100% cacao bar. We sweetened it with raw sugar that Kiddo powderized by mortar and pestle. On his suggestion, we flavored the chocolates with Spanish saffron.
It really was an outstanding meal, and well worth the work involved. Everything was perfect. We shall see what happens for Christmas, but I’ve really raised the bar for New Year’s Eve…