Thanksgiving Week 2011

The duck story has come to a successful conclusion.  Both Keli and Pierre emerged from the kitchen in fine form.

Eleanor started the final cooking marathon at noon on Sunday, with Emma standing by to chop vegetables.  This early phase was a little dull for me, but this is the best time of year for cycling in Tucson so I pumped up the tires and ran a couple of errands to the nearby grocery stores.  Eleanor was quite unhappy with her store-brand kosher salt and I was able to pick up a better kind while out with the bike, along with a package of pie crusts.  (People gave me curious looks as I was stuffing groceries into my bike bag.  I don’t know why.  When we lived in Massachusetts many years ago I used to run errands with my bike all the time.  I should try to do it more often here in Tucson, since the city is more bike friendly that any place I’ve ever lived.)

Most of Eleanor’s day was spent making the side dishes, of which there turned out to be 13 in total, plus incidentals like Matignon and stuffing in Pierre.  Even for her that’s a fairly ridiculous amount of food for three people, and that may be why she separated our feast into two menus:

The Keli Menu

Steamed & rotisseried duckling
Roasted butternut squash with pears, maple sugar, and gorgonzola cheese
Boiled red & blue potatoes with thyme, rosemary, and sage
Mixed grains with wild mushrooms, figs, currants, and persimmon
Crimini mushrooms stuffed with veal, apple, and onion
Crisp salad of romaine with pomegranate dressing
Cranberry cherry pie

The Pierre Menu

Classic roasted duckling
Roasted petite golden potatoes with pearl onions and white truffle oil
Roasted carrots, onions, and apples with bacon
Cipollini onions and chestnuts marinated in cider syrup
Pork & apple stuffing al la frittata
Haricot vert with cranberries and buttered walnuts
Pumpkin soup
Fresh blackberries with syrup de Cassis

In the midst of all of this our neighbor Mike showed up, drawn perhaps by the smell of cooking.   We kept him for over an hour, sampling the dishes as they come out of the kitchen.  He left around 8:30 with a little of Eleanor’s syrup de Cassis to make his own blackberry dessert.

We sampled the goodies too, so that by 9 p.m. when all was finally done (except Pierre), none of us were particularly hungry.  But we ate anyway … and ate … and ate … so that by 10 p.m. we were all like Winnie the Pooh, nearly large enough to get stuck in Rabbit’s doorway.  And then Pierre came out of the oven, so we had to try him.  And then there was pie.

I took far too many photos to show here. If you want to see more of the food, check out my Flickr album.

Here’s the duck synopsis:  Keli the American duck was prepared by steaming and then browning in a rotisserie.  She came out absolutely succulent, still with a fair amount of fat under the skin but not much more than you’d expect from a rotisserie chicken.  There was not a hint of dryness, and the meat was delicious.  Since she was not stuffed or layered, Keli represented a fairly straightforward duck, but if we were to prepare duck again I think we’d probably use this technique.

Pierre the French duck was seared in a pan, then stuffed, laid atop a base of vegetables, coated with the Matignon (fine diced vegetables), and layered with bacon.  You can see him ready for the oven at left.  Pierre came out even juicier than Keli with large quantities of fat under the skin and in the meat.  This made him tasty but also rather rich, even though we separated the fat on our plates.

The bottom layer of vegetables was almost decadently delicious, and the Matignon was … well, let’s just say that if all vegetables tasted like smoked bacon we’d probably eat a lot more of them.  The green apples stuffed inside tasted of spice and je nais sais quoi.  Fabulous, but eating any part of Pierre and his side dishes gave me the sensation of arteries clogging as I chewed.

Last night’s meal was superb but it was late and we were all a little tired, so we are going to re-boot tonight with the entire spread again.  In preparation, I had no breakfast and only a little cottage cheese and fruit for lunch.  Frankly, I wasn’t really even hungry.  By dinner we should all be ready for a more relaxed version of the feast.  I have declared this “Thanksgiving Week” in our household, to eat at leisure what we used to gorge on in a single day.  It will certainly take that long to consume everything that is currently packing our two refrigerators.

We may never do a big duck experiment again, but I’m glad we did because it has already made Thanksgiving Week 2011 one of the most memorable ever.  Of course, for the rest of America, Thanksgiving is still a few days off.  I hope you have a great holiday, and I hope that our experience has given you some ideas, inspiration, or at least an appetite.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go for a long bike ride.