thanksgiving, with no turkey, and no picture of the meal

I don’t have a picture of our Thanksgiving dinner.

I guess we were too distracted by our guests: I forgot to snap the first course, and then, although I remembered to photograph the second, I forgot there isn’t quite enough light in the dining area we use for special occasions: Even with the light raised, the pictures came out blurry,

I do however have this image above, of one of the best parts of this dinner, a very simple sweet potato gratin, and I’ll use the lack of others as an excuse to upload more before pix than I usually do.

The potatoes were probably as close to anything that is conventionally served on this holiday, although they were very spicy. Otherwise, there were no marshmallows, there was no turkey, no stuffing, no gravy, no cranberry sauce, no celery sticks, no mashed potatoes, no butter rolls, no creamed onions, no Brussels sprouts, no pumpkin pie, and no Republicans.

What was shared on this Thanksgiving were smoked Atlantic mackerel with a Columbia County crème frâiche and Suffolk County fresh horseradish root mayonnaise, seared Hudson Valley duck breasts, spicy chutney of Ulster County quince fruit, helpings of Dutchess County sweet potatoes in a chipotle au gratin, Delaware Valley collards, and, for dessert, a 23rd Street pecan pie

The mid-afternoon meal began with smoked fish.

  • four 3-ounce servings of Ducktrap River of Maine‘s ‘smoked peppered’ wild mackerel fillets from Chelsea’s Whole Foods Market, served drizzled with with a little excellent Frankies 457 Sicilian olive oil, and accompanied by dollops of local Ronnybrook Farms crème fraîche that had been mixed with a generous amount of grated Holy Schmitt’s local homemade fresh horseradish, both some zest and juice from an organic Whole Foods Market lemon, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, a bit of a finely-chopped grenada verde pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, and some chopped fresh dill from Stokes Farm
  • a number of leaves from 2 small heads of lettuce, one from Tamarack Hollow Farm, the other a miniature romaine from Stokes Farm, dressed lightly with Frankies 458 olive oil, a sprinkle of juice from a Whole Foods Market organic lemon, Maldon salt, and freshly-ground black pepper
  • slices of a She Wolf Bakery toasted sesame loaf of whole wheat bread
  • the wine was a very good California sparkling, W. Donaldson 6th Anniversary NV, from Naked Wines

The main course at least referenced many of the traditional dishes that are served on this holiday.

  • two 15-ounce duck breasts from Hudson River Duck Farm, the fatty side scored in tight cross hatching with a very sharp knife, the entire breast rubbed, top and bottom, with a mixture of sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and a little turbinado sugar, then aside for about 45 minutes before being pan-fried, fatty side down first, inside a small oval enameled cast iron pan over medium heat for a total of about 9 minutes, turning once, draining the oil after the first few minutes (the fat strained and used in cooking at another time, if desired), the breast removed when medium rare, cut crosswise into 2 portions and checked for the right doneness in the center, which means definitely no more than medium rare, and maybe even a bit less, left sitting for several minutes before it was finished with a drizzle of lemon juice, sprinkled with roughly chopped rosemary from Alewife Farm, and drizzled with a little Portuguese house olive oil from Whole Foods Market

  • quince chutney, made the day before, to more fully develop its flavors, using this recipe, using a red shallot from Norwich Meadows Farm, a Rocambole garlic clove from Keith’s Farm, quince from Troncillito Farms, dried sweet cherries from Manhattan Fruit Exchange in the Chelsea Market, fresh ginger from Lani’s Farm, and a local apple cider vinegar from Race Farm

  • in order to simplify my job when guests were around, on the day before the feast I took 2 pounds of fairly small Japanese sweet potatoes from Alewife Farm, washed and scrubbed well, left unpeeled and sliced thinly, seasoned with salt and pepper, arranged in 4 layers, each separated in succession by a quarter portion of 2 cups of Ronnybrook Dairy heavy cream that had been mixed in a blender with one canned chipotle pepper (plus a bit more this time around, which made the gratin fairly spicy) and a small amount of adobo sauce, inside a 8″x12″ glazed ceramic casserole dish, baked inside a 350º oven for about one hour, or until the cream had been absorbed and the potatoes browned, then placed it inside the refrigerator [this gratin recipe, one I’ve used many times, is from ‘Bobby Flay’s Bold American Food]; on Thursday I removed the pan from the refrigerator and allowed it to come nearly to room temperature before placing it again inside a 350º oven and heating it for about 20 minutes

  • one large bunch of collard greens from Keith’s Farm, stemmed, washed and drained 3 times, (some of the water retained and held aside to be added, as necessary, while the greens cooked), cut roughly and braised gently until softened/wilted inside a large, heavy enameled cast iron pot in which 4 cloves of Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic had been heated until softened, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, finished with a small drizzle of olive oil

Dessert was simple, and southern, as were other parts of the meal, in a nod to our guests who had grown up in Kentucky, and to Barry as well, who had sort of fled Arkansas, now long ago (also. this time the image is almost in focus).

  • I had expected to serve another course or 2 first (various potential combinations of cheeses, maybe toasts, fresh and dried fruit, all accompanied by appropriate liquids), but the vote was to go directly to the pecan pie we had all been anticipating; I can’t say much about it, other than that it was incredibly delicious, that it was gently heated, that each slice was served with a scoop of Ciao Bella ‘Madagascar Vanilla’ gelato from Whole Foods Market, and that it was baked only a few doors down from our own, at Big Booty Bakery