Well as promised (and by popular demand..) here are my posts on last weekend's Thanksgiving dinner. I have gained a tradition of co-hosting Thanksgiving dinners with my friend Noel, which started with a lavish affair in her apartment in Athens. This year was a smaller gathering of close friends, and being the quality freaks we both are, we both pulled out all the stops to make this Thanksgiving one to remember.
Firstly there was the bird; not just any old fowl here, but an organic free range beauty that got some rather special treatment. This was supplied by my butcher, Paul at Wyndham House who prides himself on the fantastic meat and game that he sells, all free range and organically reared.
Having got the bird home, my first job was to set about making a chicken stock that would not only be the base for the gravy, but also becomes a wonderful soup base to make Asian inspired broths (where you can use up left over Turkey..) complete with lime juice, ginger, spring onions, chillies, shredded cabbage greens, coriander and a healthy splosh of nam plah. Once I had the stock, I next got to work on the stuffing - two kinds here (one to fill the neck of the bird, the second cooked seperately in a dish), the first being composed of sourdough bread crumbs, dried cranberries, a finely chopped and caramalised bulb of fennel and two banana shallots, the zest and juice of an orange, tarragon and a good pinch of saffron. I added some good olive oil to these ingredients and plenty of seasoning, then mixed this into a firm, sticky mass with my hands. The second stuffing was much more traditional in flavour and theme and included sausagemeat, caramalised apple and shallots, chopped chesnuts, fresh thyme and sage leaves and a good grating of nutmeg. With this done, the bird was ready to be stuffed and adorned with various aromatics. Rather than following tradition, I decided to jazz things up a bit and create a festive scented bird with the help of quince, cinnamon, star anise and bay leaves. These would infuse a gentle flavour rather than overpower the bird, and as the bird is sat upon slices of quince and the aromatics - these then become aromatic, soft and sticky with juices, the prefect compliment to the rich turkey meat, particularly the dark meat of the thighs and legs. The cavity was part filled with a few quince slices, slices of orange, as well as bay, parsley and thyme sprigs loosely bundled into a bouquet garni. The final anointing came in the form of liquid (which helps the bird to steam cook, and creates luscious, moist flesh) which was 100ml of chicken stock and 50ml of Noilly Prat or Vermouth. The bird was the covered in foil and cooked (initially breast side down for for the best part of two hours, then turned back up for a further hour - we had a 5 Kilo bird to contend with), with the last 45 minutes reserved for burnishing the skin by removing the foil and basting constantly. Once cooked, the bird was allowed to rest (covered in a foil jacket) for 30 minutes before carving.