Our menu consists of two ducks. Ha ha ha.
I laugh because my wife is a combination of French chef, Italian lover, and Irish temperament. This means she cooks heartily, is passionate about all things, and will certainly take it personally if I get anything wrong in this blog. It also means that “two ducks” does not make a meal, and there must be plenty of side dishes. In her philosophy, there should be no chance of running out of part of the meal.
So normally Eleanor cooks for a small army regardless of how many people we have coming for dinner. This year, in response to my pleas for a reasonable amount of leftovers, she has promised to keep the portions small. So, without comment, I will now list the ingredients she has accumulated over the past few days, all of which will be in our “small” Thanksgiving dinner:
mixed gourmet petite potatoes
haricot vert (green beans)
various rice and grains including wild, white, red, barley, pink lentils, Israeli cous-cous
onions: cipolini, pearl, spanish
various mushrooms: white, crimini, and dried (porcini, shitaki, morel)
pears (3), pomegranate, green apples, persimmons, carrots, celery, leeks, ginger, lemons, blood oranges
garlic, capers, fresh ginger
herbs: chive, oregano, sage, thyme, mint, basil, cilantro, Italian parsley, rosemary
dried fruit: figs, cranberries, tart cherries, Thompson & Golden raisins
raw nuts: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, chestnuts
fresh cranberries, sour cherries
ground veal, ground pork
apple smoked bacon (4 strips)
maple syrup, maple sugar, and dark brown sugar
orange juice, pomegranate juice
white wine, red wine, Madeira (medium dry), Cognac, brandy
stocks: chicken, beef, vegetable
white truffle oil
unsalted butter, evaporated milk and cream (light & heavy)
various spices including Kosher salt, black & white peppercorns
All of this was impossible to gather at any single store, so Eleanor spent much of the day at Safeway, Albertson’s, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, in addition to raiding the pantries of both the Airstream and the house. Her food gathering instincts have been let loose, and that’s an impressive thing, much like releasing the Kraken. I don’t want to know what all of this is costing. Today at Whole Foods I had to restrain her from buying a $25 jar that contained exactly three truffles. We’ll “make do” with a bottle of white truffle oil instead.
This morning we retrieved the ducks from the Airstream’s freezer (where we have been storing all of the “overflow” ingredients). Defrosting them will take at least a day. Before they went into the house refrigerator, we personalized them, as you can see above. Duck #1 will be the American duck (code-named “Keli”) following the Cook’s Illustrated technique of steaming before roasting to reduce the fat. Duck #2 will be the French duck (code-named “Pierre”), prepared using a modified version of the classic poëlé technique described by Escoffier, et al. The steaming process will happen on Saturday, a full day before the actual roasting.
With 48 hours to mealtime, we are already accumulating a list of people who are interested in sharing the leftovers. Fellow Airstreamer Rob, who lives only a couple of miles away, dropped by and eyed the list of ingredients hungrily. But remember, this could turn into a complete debacle. Sometimes experiments go wrong — just ask Dr. Frankenstein or any Marvel comic book villain. Fortunately, if the ducklings turn into dumplings we won’t starve, thanks to the friends of Keli & Pierre: those extensive side dishes. I’ll have more to write about those as they begin to take shape this weekend.