I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.*
~ Jon Stewart
In the way that nice ideas sometimes drop in without an invitation, the idea of having a Thanksgiving dinner sailed through the door of my mind one evening a few weeks ago. And so it is that around 15 of us celebrated Thanksgiving last Saturday (yes – on Election Day, but I won’t elaborate on that right now) at my place, many of us for the first time. Aside from the lack of football, family members and sweet potato/marshmallow pie, I think we did pretty well ;-)
Friday turned out to be a long day at work, and I only got to hang out with my turkey after 10.30pm. Thank you Nigella Lawson, because without your fabulous-smelling turkey brine, I’m not sure I would have felt like taking taking out giblets**, neck and liver from the turkey instead of going to bed…
And yes, I had to place him*** and Nigella’s brine in a (very clean) bucket because he was way too large for my largest pot. The bucket then sat in the fridge for a night, so Steven-Thomas** could soak in all the goodness.
Of course, we had the all-important pumpkin pie – prepared by an honest-to-goodness American, no less. Also of note: this was made with hand-smashed pumpkin, in the absence of canned pumpkin purée in NZ! A most admirable and delicious effort (thanks Brad!).
I don’t think I’ve ever tried pumpkin pie, and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of pumpkin in a sweet dish! It made an excellent addition to my mental taste library.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I have been charmed by Ottolenghi’s recipes more than once. So of course I turned to them for help this Thanksgiving! This recipe for sweet potato wedges with lemongrass crème fraîche (crème fraîche not pictured) comes from their book “Plenty”. Unfortunately, the man at the farmers’ market didn’t have lemongrass – so I added more lime and ginger to the crème fraîche. I also used a giant farmers’ market pepper in place of a chile. Loved the way the zest and zing in the crème fraîche combined with the coriander and salt-flavoured baked sweet potato wedges, and the Christmassy colours of the pepper and parsley.
Here is one of the fastest “dishes” ever to assemble – a few sliced juicy tomatoes, a heavenly ball of Clevedon Valley buffalo mozzarella, some torn basil, salt, pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar – a 30-second plate to put together, so handy for gatherings!
I have no idea how this tasted, but I poached a few stalks of white and green asparagus with a bay leaf in white wine, then added some feta and lemon zest on top. Hopefully it sort of worked…
Here is an impromptu watercress and tangelo salad, served with a (not pictured) balsamic, olive oil and orange blossom water dressing on the side. Thanks to the wonderful Ian for making this look so pretty, and while I am doing the thanking thing – I was pretty grateful for the takeaway coffee he presented me with while I was cooking!
G brought these crazy delicious roasted pears with red onions… mmmmm! Sweet, soft, smile-inducing… yum yum yum. I had a few servings of these!
She also brought a most charming gift – a bunch of herbs from her garden with a note! Love it. Thank you, Miss G!
A second round of thanks to Brad for doing a marvellous job with carving the turkey! It is definitely not as easy as he made it look. Not all of us have that level of competence with knives…
My vivacious friend Emily brought this sweet pumpkin pie cheesecake – on a gingersnap crust, sweet and very nice, though I wish we could have let it sit in the fridge for a tiny bit longer to set properly!
Dinner was a real team effort, and everyone pitched in so cheerfully and kindly. Fiona got super strong plastic cutlery that didn’t even flinch when used to cut turkey slices. Anna brought juice and yummy savoury pumpkin. Ian chopped vegetables with precision and without complaint. Kath brought wine and a vase for my flowers. Jacq brought carrots and capsicum – a pretty medley of red and orange candy cane shapes! Stacey bought a generous tray of potatoes. Emily brought (in addition to the cheesecake above) some very good Swedish meatballs which we devoured with cranberry sauce. R and K brought more wine. I nearly had to physically kick a few people out of my kitchen (when they insisted on doing the dishes) – I really could not have asked for better guests!
Oh yes, and – this cheesecake! My family couldn’t make it to dinner, so Dad baked a cake and my brother dropped it off at my place! Way sweet, and I’m not just talking about the cake, which was fluffy, designed to melt in the mouth and just rather madly good.
So it was lovely to have friends meet other friends, and share conversations and food and flowers and laughs… though I certainly missed a few friends who could not make it that evening! We shared what we were thankful for (some more seriously than others). We had a Thanksgiving toast. People washed plates when we ran out, and took photos for me when my hands were too greasy to touch a camera. The night flowed smoothly like a glass of red… and I was a little sad that the night seemed to end so quickly… but then the smiley MANDY arrived (visiting from Singapore!) and we went out for a late night of bubble tea and cards and got stitches from laughing. Always the case when she’s around!
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers who celebrate it!
* Only points #1 and #2 of Jon Stewart’s quote above happened in my home on Saturday – my guests are still alive. To the best of my knowledge.
** Does anyone have a good recipe for giblet sauce? I was going to try making it but couldn’t find a recipe that sounded realistic and good.
*** The turkey was christened “Steven-Thomas” at an informal ceremony in my kitchen.