I have never been particularly fond of turkey. Particularly not when they become the festive star of the show and take over television, magazines, news, and kitchen conversation. To me, the thought of a dressed turkey and all the trimmings evokes an image of my mother, buying one because they are on sale and, quite practically, remarking that they really do just feed so many darn people. Why do we want our turkeys so big? Where we binge on size, we lose on flavour, this much is clear. We understand that these birds have been force fed corn, mistreated and generally nutramined to death. And yet we are unsatisfied by anything smaller than a stuffed bird the size of my youngest cousin.
When I make Thanksgiving dinner, I roast a leg of lamb. I try to buy organic, hormone and antibiotic-free lamb. I let it marinade all day while I clean the house and prepare other dishes. My friends all come with tasty food in their hot little hands, revelling in the feast that is about to befall us. We drink wine, I check on the meat in the fridge and eventually the oven reaches the right temperature for me to blast the roast quickly, searing in the heat before turning the oven way down and pouring myself another glass of red wine. This is how Thanksgiving ought to go.
The traditional fare tends to highlight seasonal produce anyway, the harvest offering up such ingredients as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples, carrots, beets and nuts and seeds.
Play with these foods! Surprise yourself with how brilliant nature is by giving you all these things to combine and savour together. I like to roast my lamb leg with sweet potato, carrot, parsnip celery, garlic, onion or shallot, and apple. Then I toss them all in olive oil, apple juice, maple syrup and sage, oregano, rosemary, and freshly ground black pepper
I wish I had pictures to show you how good this meal tastes. But unless you were there, enjoying this fine company, however delicious the food may be, it will always be just a bit thinner in my memory than as it was in that moment.
This food is so good because I brought the season and company into an experience that resided in my taste buds as well as my happy eyes and flushed cheeks. I may not like turkey, but I think I am in the minority. Love turkey, that's great. But really love your turkey and do your dinner guests a favour and be bold. Stand up for what you believe in. In my case, it's food that was made with as much care and respect as I have for it. And I trust in my ingredients so fully that no matter what I do, they work together and showcase one another and try to help each other taste their best when it is their turn to shine.
Most importantly, when you are cooking a meal of this scale, take your time. Give yourself the day. IF that means marketing the day before or even a week before, don't leave yourself scrambling to pick things up when you should be in your kitchen, taking care. The best way I have found is to include a splash of wine in our marinade. Once the bottle's open... Your day is now shared with a whole bouquet of company.