I’m the only one up; it’s frosty and sunny outside. Not one wild creature is visible – just dead grass, tangles of bare crabapple branches, and the naked birch trees starkly white down the meadow. For breakfast this morning, I’m making potato pancakes from the leftover mashed potatoes with poached eggs on top. I think they’ll be good with salt and pepper, a little buckwheat flour, an egg to bind them, and some browned minced onion. And I was recently taught how to poach an egg, after more than 50 years of not knowing how easy it is. The secret is to add kosher salt and a little vinegar to the water.
The turkey’s been stripped to its chassis. The Brussels sprouts and kale salad are gone. The rest of the sausage-sage-bread crumb stuffing went back to Brooklyn with Rosie. I ate the last piece of persimmon pudding for breakfast yesterday. Rosie’s curried butternut bisque with butter-fried sage leaves and crème fraiche is a distant, dreamlike memory, as are Rosie’s and Jami’s voices. We did not stop talking all week except to laugh, eat, or drink. How did we have so much to say to one another?
Yesterday, late morning, after we dropped Jami off at the airport, we took Dingo for a walk on the Eastern Prom and then went to J’s Oyster, a warm, loud little place on the wharf, to meet pals of Rosie’s, fellow eaters and drinkers and appreciators of mollusks and bivalves. The five of us crowded around a little table in the back corner. I had a double rye on the rocks. Rosie and I sat shoulder to shoulder with our little paper cups of melted butter and feasted on steamed clams, after pulling the black condoms off their necks and swirling them in hot water to wash off the grit. We ate big, knobby, clean-tasting raw oysters with cocktail sauce. Then we ate whole lobsters, small and lurid red and just the slightest bit tough but incredibly delicious, dismantling them with nutcrackers, picking every fleck of meat from their body cavities. When I finished, melted butter was running down my chin, and I felt feral. Rosie looked exactly the same way. We grinned at each other. I had poppy seeds in my teeth from the coleslaw, and I didn’t care.
We dropped Rosie off at the airport and drove the hour or so back to the farmhouse. We arrived just after sunset. The silence felt deeper than it usually does. We built a fire and, miraculously somehow hungry again, ate turkey sandwiches on hot toast with cranberries, chutney, and mayonnaise. Brendan mixed a batch of Autumn Bonfires, Rosie’s invention: one part each whiskey, applejack, and apple cider with a dash of bitters, shaken over ice and garnished with an apple slice. We drank these and polished off our sandwiches and reminisced about how much fun it had all been.
I love Thanksgiving. I love the endless day of cooking. We woke up early on Thursday morning to the smell of sausages and onions frying and came downstairs to find Rosie’s stuffing underway and a hot pot of coffee on the stove. We opened a magnum of cava and drank mimosas; we listened to “Blood on the Tracks” while I made buckwheat blini for breakfast. We ate the first batch with creme fraiche and salmon roe and chives, and then the rest with some spectacular cheeses, a soft mild cow cheese and an ash-veined goat.
I steamed persimmon pudding for two hours in a Bundt pan set into a big pot. Rosie stuffed the turkey with all the odds and ends in the pantry, part of an apple and part of an onion, other fruits, some herbs, and put it into the oven with a big knob of butter perched on its top. We savored the term “knob of butter” out loud to each other for a while.
While Rosie cooked, Jami, Brendan, and I walked Dingo down to the lake, through the dense woods to the dock and big rock we jump off to swim in the summertime. As he always does in that spot, for reasons that are wholly mysterious, Dingo went into paroxysms, there’s no other word for it, of joy, leaping about and grinning and panting and behaving like a humpy rabbit, curving his whole body into flying apostrophes of excitement. He never falls off the dock into the lake, another mystery.
At home, Brendan and I wrestled a béchamel into existence with a lot of vigorous whisking and judiciously careful pouring of gluten-free flour into melted butter, then hot milk into the roux. Brendan added the boiled pearl onions. I steamed a heap of trimmed, halved Brussels sprouts, then set them face down into hot pork fat with a whisper of maple syrup to caramelize, then tossed them with crisp bits of pancetta. Rosie pulled the turkey out and we all admired its crackling, golden-brown doneness. Her stuffing was photographed and pronounced magnificent.
The meal was not mishap-free. Brendan was unhappy with his pumpkin pie with walnut crust. We turned the oven too high after the turkey came out, so my yam chunks burned, and so did Rosie’s japonica-liver-pomegranate stuffing. I put too many raisins in the kale salad and there was possibly a bit too much lemon vinaigrette. The turkey, a free-range Vermonter, was not as epically delicious this year as it was last year; the meat was a bit diffuse, or something.
But still, we had nothing at all to complain about. This year was one of intensely hard work for all four of us, and it seems to be paying off, all around. We sat around the table and toasted one another and gave thanks one by one and then feasted, our plates heaped and mounded and brimming to their edges, the kerosene lamp lit. Then, with plates of cakelike, moist persimmon pudding with whipped cream, we lounged on the couches and chairs in front of the fire with after-dinner wine, still talking. We talked and talked into the night, as if our words somehow repaid to the world the pleasure we’d just had in eating.
The next day, of course, we awoke to find leftovers to eat and so much more to say. And that night, too, we sat by the fire all together, talking.
And now, back to real life, potato pancakes, and turkey soup.
Sounds like a perfect combination of food and friends. I have wondered where you had been since no posts were coming. I figured you were wrestling with a book, or something.
You don’t have to add BOT salt and vinegar to poach eggs. One or the other will do. Vinegar is my preference. Another thing about the eggs is that you can make them a day or two in advance. This is particularly helpful if you are doing a large meal and need 20-30, or in my case once, 1,200. Keep an ice bath nearby and plunge the just poached eggs into the cold water. Once cold, arrange neatly on a baking sheet that has a clean kitchen towel on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap, and reheat in a pan when required. They will last for a few days that way.
I am off to China to resurrect my food writing. One way to Shanghai 🙂
Have a safe and happy winter…
1200??? you are obviously a pro! good advice above–Alton Brown has a pretty great video on the whole process, too..Love his teaching.
What a wonderful post. I always enjoy reading this blog and look forward to seeing how it continues. You have a gift for capturing and verbalizing food-related memories.
Also – what recipe do you use to make your persimmon pudding? I tried last year and failed miserably…
Oh, thank you. Here it is! It’s great with chopped walnuts on top.
Fabulous – thanks!
Oh yes, I second the notion of sharing your persimmon pudding recipe please!
Eve, I posted it above but want to make sure you get it, too. XOXOXOX
About a cup of leftover stuffing (any kind) and some fresh diced apple—chopped into a hash with a bench scraper (my new fave tool)–heated well in a non-stick 6″ skillet—place two whole eggs on top, cover, and heat until eggs are to your liking–very much like poached, it turned out for me—liberally seasoned with S & P—NOt bad for the morning after—
This post is another feast. Lovely!
Oh, thank you! That sounds incredible.
we did leftover mashed potato cakes, too–that may become a new tradition.
just read the paragraph about J’s Oyster aloud to my partner; it made both of us grin and lust for some seafood. always, love how you make the seemingly insignificant the very focus. Thanksgiving is my favorite, too.