Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Free Turkey Day

Well, I did it. I didn't burn down the house, and, most importantly, my Thanksgiving meal came out close to perfectly. This is a feat because I'm usually the one eating and critiquing and not the one cooking. I have next to zero training and only cook once or twice per year. The only advantage I have over many people is how lucky I've been to experience so many great meals and flavors.

Would you like the recipes? Yeah, so would I. My recipe for success was a near complete disregard for recipes. But here's a few hints, tips, and ingredients that I found along the way yesterday.

Based on the experience I had last night, people should eat more quail. It's not cheap, but it's not horribly expensive either. At $29 for six little birds from Branded Meats and Deli here in Henderson, the fun of eating these diminutive delicacies alone is worth the tariff. The birds I got were cleaned and had just the wing and leg bones still intact. For me, and most amateurs, this is probably the best way to go. I simply rubbed the birds inside and out with butter, salt, pepper, and thyme before broiling them for about seven minutes breast up and about 3 minutes flipped over. They had great flavor and were very juicy and tender.

I'm going to put a pear demi-glace on everything I eat from now on. I know that doesn't sound like the cheapest condiment, nor the easiest to come by, but it may be the best. I used about a cup of chicken stock, three cups of pear juice, onions, salt, pepper, thyme, and a Glace de Poulet base and reduced it all down to about a cup. It was rich and had the essence of pear without being sweet.

I suppose my dad does have a good idea once in a while. His biggest contribution to the meal was the recipe for a creamy lemon-scented polenta for the birds to rest on. I nearly followed the recipe. I would be a terrible baker, but the polenta was a great flavorful addition to the plate. My homemade pomegranate vinaigrette went nicely with the arugula, shallot, pomegranate, and glazed walnut salad my dad and I came around to for my vegetable.

If you're going to sear foie gras at home, open a window or two before the liver hits the pan. Make sure the pieces are about 3/4" thick for best results. The foie was tasty but cold by the time I actually got to it, oh well.

Yes, I did make my famous homemade butternut squash soup and cranberry sauce (which I embellished with a little pear juice to great effect) as well, but we were so satisfied with the dinner as it was on the plate we didn't even get to these more traditional Thanksgiving accouterments.

For about $100, including wine from Valley Cheese and Wine, I could have easily fed four people with this spread. So if you want a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner that will knock the socks off your guests next year, this menu wouldn't be a terrible idea. Just don't expect me to cook it for you.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.

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