We may never host a traditional Thanksgiving again.
The days leading up to Thanksgiving Day in the states is always a comedy. Days before in grocery stores are swarms of frantic people clutching shopping lists, looking for the produce or canned goods they’ve always used for this annual repast — or use twice a year, since in many families the same menu is unwaveringly served at Christmas.
This year we decided to have dinner on Saturday, and called it “Friendsgiving.” Originally it was to be a “Moveable Feast” like last year, but one person had t0 bow out because of family commitments, so we decided to do the entire thing here at Annefield. The timing was perfect — polishing the silver occurred weeks ago; a few dishes (the ice creams) were prepared a week ago; we spent Thursday afternoon setting the table; a few dishes more were prepared on Friday (the sweet potatoes and curried pumpkin soup), and Saturday morning left cooking the two turkeys, the oyster stuffing, the quinoa stuffing, baking bread, preparing the beans and snow peas, and re-heating the sides prepared the day before.
We needed to press the wood cookstove into service for the extra burners, and we used it as a big warming plate. The pace was perfect, with no last minute harried moments of forgotten dishes. Our friend Sandy did the appetizers, salad and the carrot cake, and Jeanene brought other desserts, so admittedly we had less to do than normal. The brined turkey was especially aromatic, and very tender, while the Butterball was just as tender and delicious. It all came together to make a magical evening, though the monumental dish washing afterwards has us shopping for dishwasher-friendly fine china. Everyone pitched in after dessert (and between some courses), so it wasn’t that difficult.
Mini Crab Cakes
2011 Annefield Vineyards Chardonnay
2011 Annefield Vineyards Rosé
2011 Annefield Vineyards Viognier
NV Barboursville Vineyards Brut
NV Etienne Dumont Brut
Oyster Cream with Caviar and Mignonette
NV Veuve Cliquot Brut
Curried Pumpkin Soup
2009 Kistler Vineyards Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Vine Hill Vineyard
Arugula and Fennel Salad
2010 Hunting Creek Vineyards Royal Blush Rosé
Roasted Turkey Two Ways: Traditional Butterball and
“Spruced Up” Turkey (Brined à la Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington)
Creole Oyster Stuffing
Quinoa Stuffing with Squash and Dried Fruit
Steamed Jasmine Rice
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
Candied Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon
Green Beans with Snow Peas and Chives
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
2010 Ankida Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir
2010 Kistler Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Carrot Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Warre’s Otima 10-year Old Tawny Port
Blandy’s 10-year Old Madiera
The Amuse-bouche took much thought and a little experimentation. The Oyster Cream is a inspired by a very old recipe published by Mary Randolph in The Virginia House-wife (Washington: Davis and Force, 1824) (facsimile published by the University of South Carolina Press, 1984). The book exhibits a surprisingly modern sensibility, with easily adapted recipes. Others who have written about it call it “Oyster Ice Cream,” which calls to mind dessert, so better to not go there and stick with Mrs Randolph’s terminology. Here is her version:
Put on two quarts of oysters, with three quarts of water, three onions chopped up, two or three slices of lean ham, pepper and salt; boil it till reduced one half, strain it through a seive, return the liquid into the pot, put in one quart of fresh oysters, boil it till they are sufficiently done, and thicken the soup with four spoonful of flour, two gills of rich cream, and the yelks of six new laid eggs beaten well; boil it a few minutes after the thickening is put in. Take care that it does not curdle, and that the flour is not in lumps: serve it up with the last oysters that were put in. If the flavor of thyme be agreeable you may put in a little, but take care that it does not boil in it long enough to discolor the soup.
Make a rich soup, (see directions for oyster soup.) strain it from the oysters, and freeze it.
We reduced the quantity and made some modifications — namely omitted the flour since one of our guests has gluten issues; besides, it isn’t needed for ice cream. ”Two gills” is about one cup. Here’s what we did:
Oyster Cream with Caviar and Mignonette
- 1 quart water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 24 oz oysters in their liquor
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 oz ham steak
- six large egg yolks
- 1 oz Caviar (your choice — see note below)
- Classic Mignonette (recipe below
Special equipment: egg cups or espresso cups for serving
- In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, bring the oysters, oyster liquor, water, milk, whipped cream and ham to a simmer until reduced by half, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Strain mixture through a fine sieve, discard (or eat) the oysters. Gradually whisk the mixture into the egg yolks.
- Return the entire mixture to the sauce pan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to let it boil. Strain mixture into a clean bowl, let cool to room temperature.
- Cover and refrigerate until completely cold or overnight.
- Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze.
Assemble for serving:
- Fill the cups with the mixture after removing it from the ice cream maker, filling to 1/4 inch below the rim. We used egg cups, which hold approximately 1 1/2 ounces; espresso cups would work, too. Fill to 1/4 inch below the rim. Cover with plastic wrap, then freeze.
- When ready to serve, remove from the freezer, remove the plastic wrap.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of Mignonette.
- Carefully mound 1/2 teaspoon (or more) of Caviar in the middle.
- Allow to thaw at room temperature for approximately 15 minutes before serving.
Note: A two-ounce container of Caviar was sufficient for our group of 14. One ounce is enough for eight servings. We selected domestic Wild Paddlefish Roe from Balducci’s (this was as local as we could get — this particular fish is harvested in the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, and the Eastern part of the Tennessee River watershed is in Virginia). This recipe produces enough Oyster Cream for 16 servings.
Mignonette is a traditional accompaniment to oysters on the half shell, and perfectly complements the briny Caviar and smooth, subtle Oyster Cream with a refreshing acid bite.
- 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dry red wine
- 1/4 cup shallots, minced (or substitute white onion)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Stir together all of the ingredients in small bowl. Let stand 20 minutes to allow the shallots (or white onion) to soften. Season with black pepper to taste. Refrigerate, and serve with the Oyster Cream and Caviar.