I see your turkey (and braise you a pork)
Forty-three Thanksgivings later, I have decided to try something new. It's time to think outside the box. So for the first time ever, I will not be eating turkey next Thanksgiving Sunday. In case you're looking for menu ideas, here's what I'll be working on:
My approach here is generally to make life easy for myself. And the purpose of cocktail hour is to tease and get the taste buds hungry for more. Not to satiate. All you need is a couple of simple nibbles:
These are sweeter and more moist then regular almonds. Make sure to buy them salted and to dress them up a bit either sprinkle them with paprika or fry them with rosemary.
Slice up some spicy salami and serve with sliced cucumber (skin on).
I’ve never been one for fancy cocktails. I like a perfect Martini, champagne or prosecco, red and white wine and beer. And usually that list of options will quench your guests’ thirst. Of course you’ll need to have non-alcoholic options on hand too, as well as filtered water.
And if you want to offer something extra special to celebrate the season, apple cider with Bourbon and a squeeze of lemon juice is a festive and easy choice.
Personally, I’m always forgetting to fill people’s glasses so I start every get together by showing guests the bar and advising them to help themselves! Trust me, people love having something to do.
The Main Event
Cider brined pork loin roast
Check out the cover of this month’s bon appetit magazine. This is a super easy recipe and the most labour-intensive part can be done the night before. I made it a week ago as a test and it got rave reviews. Juicy, flavourful and makes a grand presentation.
Tip: the recipe calls for wrapping the protruding bones in tin foil to prevent burning. I didn’t have any so used bacon instead. It makes for a nice crunchy extra bit of pork and all the fat drips down into the roasting vegetables. Divine. Don’t forget to serve apple sauce on the side. Since this recipe also includes roasted potatoes and onions, you’ll already have your first side all taken care of
I love sides. Sometimes I make an entire meal out of just side dishes. I guess that makes them tapas. A celebratory meal is a great time serve an extra or two and is a particularly good idea if you don’t know all the meal preferences and restrictions of some guests as this will give them more options.
Roasted russet potatoes and onions
See recipe above.
This meal can’t be entirely without tradition of course. I used to loathe Brussels sprouts. As in, I couldn’t even swallow one. Now, I could make a meal out of them when they’re done like this:
- Cut Brussels sprouts in half
- Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a pan
- Turn up heat to medium high and throw in sprouts
- Try to keep them all cut-side down for the first 5 – 7 minutes or until they start to brown
- In the meantime fry some cut up pancetta or bacon in a separate pan and add it when you add the butter (next step)
- Add a knob or two of butter and sauté for another 10 minutes or so
- Finally, drizzle about a tablespoon (or more) of olive oil over the sprouts at the very end, and season with salt to taste.
Buy French beans if you can find them. Blanche the beans in advance. Combine about 3 tablespoons each Parmesan cheese and parsley. Add grated rind from one lemon and one or two minced garlic cloves. When ready to serve heat a knob of butter in a fry pan, add beans and toss to warm up and coat in butter. Sprinkle Parmesan gremolade over top. Mix and transfer to serving plate. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts on top, and season with salt to taste.
I’m all for serving cheese after a meal. It’ll always be better received than when served at cocktail hour (when its too filling and overwhelming).
Try 2 to 4 different cheeses; some should be hard, some soft, and come from different animals. Cow’s milk cheeses are usually crowd pleasers. Goats milk cheeses have a bit of a sour taste (in a good way) and personally, I’m a big fan of sheep’s milk cheese. Serve with dried apricots and fancy crackers (keeping in mind that a lot of people will eat cheese and pass on the cracker)
I suppose you could make a pumpkin pie or some other dessert that requires a great deal of effort. But time and time again I find that by this point in the meal, people are exhausted by food. Make no mistake, they’ll want something sweet, but there is no need to go to extremes here. I prefer to bake when the baking is the main event. Say, when you’re having your friends over for tea. On Thanksgiving I’ll be serving a selection of chocolates and cookies that I’ll pick up at the bakery down the street!
Don’t forget to have Scotch and Port on hand for those who want to keep the party going. Happy Thanksgiving!
Top photo: Le Living & Co./Flickr