Monday, October 11, 2010

giving thanks for this time of year

I have so much to be thankful for.

I have people to love who love me. We share interests, exchange ideas, help to make each other better, and hold the memories to a lifetime together. These people also happen to give and enjoy good wine. I am certainly thankful to friends who bring over nice wine when they come for dinner (or anytime for that matter).

I am supported in my choices by this same network of love and trust and it seems to continue to grow and strengthen as I get older and have more interesting impulses, ideas, and things to say. I hope they know that I thank them every day for this ongoing support.

I am extremely thankful that I live in a place that has clean water and air and my food is relatively safe to eat. I am not, for example spending my Thanksgiving exposed or in limited shelter, escaping from a deluge of red poison. I send my prayers to anyone who is not warm and being made welcome at someone's table this weekend.

And, of course, I am thankful for the food that I get to cook and eat - let me not forget to acknowledge my thanks to the people who have grown and cared for the food that I try to prepare as artfully as I may. I am also thankful to have friends and family to cook for and eat with, which is a joy to me always.

On Saturday I hosted my very first Thanksgiving meal since returning to the prairies. It was actually the first real sit-down dinner party (and I think probably the largest of it's kind) that I've ever hosted here. I will not take full credit for the success of the evening. My sister, Sarah, and the every constant and culinarily inclined Joey were the secrets in the sauce. Thanks to all of my friends and readers who came over. You're the best. Seriously. Someone compared the first few moments of the meal to that scene in Chocolat with Juliette Binoche - you know, the one where everyone suddenly starts eating silently and in slow motion and then they all break out into laughter. It was, admittedly, reminiscent of that scene.

Thanks to Marius and Four Whistle Farms for cutting me a beautiful leg of lamb. Weighing at almost 6 pounds it was enough to feed the fourteen of us and then some. I made slits in the meat just under the fat and inserted fresh organic garlic from Peas on Earth farm and big rosemary leaves from our own garden plants. Then I applied a rub made from grainy mustard, extra virgin olive oil, copped garlic, garden rosemary and oregano, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and a splash of maple syrup. I was actually quite rushed to prepare all of this in the 45 minutes between leaving the market and having to get back in the car to run to work for my 3-hour Saturday afternoon shift. So I know that this can be done quite quickly. I placed the meat in a roasting pan under 4 red onion halves, wrapped the dish tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerated it for about 4 hours.

My other major cooking triumph that night was the vegetarian shepherd's pie. I got the idea when I was on the bike at the gym (watching food tv, of course). Hrm, side note, must get back to the gym after this weekend....
Chuck Hughes hosts the show Chuck's Day Off. I've never seen him before but I certainly approve of the butter, cream, and chevre that are used in the mashed potato part of the recipe. Switching lentil for ground beef is easy and super cheap and healthy. Lots of fresh wild mushrooms from the downtown market really gave the dish its character and texture. I roasted the spaghetti squash and garlic the night before to save time. It was possibly my favourite part of dinner and I still had tons to send home with friends and for my own leftover supply.

Joey made mashed yams with a maple candied walnut top. There was none left at the end of the night. And he made as much of it as I made of the shepherd's pie. Sarah and her boyfriend brought wine and made an arugula salad with dried currants. So many friends brought cheese - proof, if ever I needed some, that they love me.

Oh yes, and there were incredible devil's food cupcakes that Joey's friend made. Apparently she got the recipe from Joy of Cooking. They were so good and I got so many compliments about them I am planning on making sure she starts working at a bakery very soon. Has anyone seen help wanted signs at any nice little bakeries in town?

Other dessert items included a late night apple upside-down cake that I cranked out with roasting, cleaning, setting, and generally stressing the night before. There was also the requisite pumpkin pie, and other super sweet cakes and goodies.

If you were there, tell me what your favourite dish was. Or tell me what you’re thankful for. If you weren’t there, tell me what you had at your Thanksgiving this weekend. Or what of this harvest you may be thankful to receive this year.

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