Saturday, November 24, 2012


Friday 23 November
When you're cooking dinner for a family of sixteen, you go with a good solid one-pot stew.  And when the family comes from New Mexico, you make posole
Garrett is now a vegetarian, so one pot was without pork; and cilantro is too strong for Laura, so we set aside a plate for her before it got added.  And we are pleased to say that, though the green chiles had to come from a can, the cilantro was picked the day before yesterday in our own garden, and survived the trip to Illinois in a water-filled yogurt container just fine.
Dessert was a surprise: Kindereggs, the last load we smuggled across the Canadian border.  Everyone had a terrific time with them, too.


Thursday 22 November
The extended Parker clan, 16 in all plus Eric our guest, gathered in Carbondale for the Thanksgiving feast.  Not only did the Shaffers find room for everybody to sleep, but the two turkeys could be shipped out to find oven-room in the church kitchen, where they were barded with bacon and roasted brown and moist.

Along with them went the classic accompaniments: mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar topping; cornbread and sausage dressing; mashed potatoes; rolls; and three kinds of cranberry sauce. 

We had to wait a while, and there were a few tryptophan naps, before we were ready to tackle dessert.  Having gone to the trouble of pooping that pumpkin two nights before, Holt made a couple of pumpkin clafoutis on the spot; this one fit perfectly in Becky's pi plate.

JoDee and company had brought luscious apple, fudge, and pecan pies, plus a platter of Martha Washingtons, while Jo Linn provided her version of Uncle Plem's famous buttermilk fudge.  Thus the family tradition of the unlimited dessert buffet was fulfilled - with whipped cream on the side, and alternating games of dummy rummy and reruns of The Gilmore Girls for those who could stay awake that long.

Happy thanksgiving to all!

The Drive to Thanksgiving

Wednesday 21 November
Due to classes, meetings, cleaners, and packing, we couldn't get away early enough for our 5 hour 30 minute Thanksgiving commute to Carbondale IL.  So around 5 PM we gobbled down some leftover spreads from last night, on slices of baguette ditto; and when we got there, they had a bowl of tasty  Italian wedding soup ready to be reheated for us.

Holt's Birthday Feast

Tuesday 20 November
Holt actually likes to cook a big dinner for other people on his birthday.  So we rounded up a group of good friends: Julie; Diane; and Kathy and Russel, who actually have the same birthday as each other, and it's only a day before Holt's. 

Planning went on for weeks before the day itself, especially once Holt decided to get a whole beef tenderloin and make Beef Wellington.  Here's how that went together.

The appetizer course was more opportunistic: Lauren had brought us a tasty local St. André cheese, Patrick had brought us a whole foie gras de canard, and Holt made a salmon paté (with cream cheese, scallions, lemon juice, and white pepper) out of the smoked King salmon that Andi and Joel sent us.  And a toast of bubbly Chandon that Kathy and Russel provided.

The fish course was pretty elegant: pickled shrimp on a bed of zucchini fettucine (thanks, Benriner!), accompanied by home made pickled daikon, red onion confit, and fan-sliced cornichons, plus store-bought pickled ginger.
But nothing could beat the elegance of the main course: the big Beef Wellington in browned brioche dough with assorted mushroom duxelles, served with poufs of pommes duchesse and roasted asparagus.  The meat was perfectly cooked, and the Bandol Holt brought up from the cellar (yes, it's really a cellar) was perfect with it.

Of course, we had to have a birthday cake, or rather, individual cakes: our favorite Australian friands, scattered with raspberries and blackberries in triple-sec, and a dab of lemon curd.

A great meal, and time, was had by all.

Dinner with Gerald and Kathleen at La Poste

Monday 19 November
After a stimulating lecture by Gerald Finkielsztejn on his site of Marisha, Kathleen took us and the speaker out to dinner at La Poste, a favorite of ours for food and convenience (it's two blocks from our house).
They ring seasonal changes on their standard menu.  So our appetizers were old favorites: scallops on rye toast (with wilted greens, chopped egg and gorgonzola, and bacon vinaigrette) and a pretty fair crabcake (with corn salad, greens, orange segments, and tarragon aioli).
And for mains, a huge lamb shank on creamy polenta (most of which we had to take home in a doggie bag), and a nice spiced duck breast on root vegetable hash.
Dessert was their seasonal (apple) crumble with Graeter's vanilla ice cream; and since Gerald loves ice cream, after dinner Kathleen took him across to Graeter's for further tastes.

Meanwhile, we went home and prepared the second of our Long Island Cheese Pumpkins for the Thanksgiving doings in a couple of days.  Note the dewy juices that gather on its cut surfaces, the light color, and how easily it scrapes out, without as many tough fibers as your normal pumpkin.