Thursday, November 25, 2010

For Marti and me, today marked our 19th Thanksgiving celebration in Paris -- not counting November 23, 1989, during our first trip here. On that occasion our Thanksgiving dinner was consumed at the swanky Jules Verne restaurant on the second level of the Tour Eiffel. No turkey on the menu, but a spectacular meal nonetheless.

We always look forward to using our vintage Wild Turkeys Native American pattern dinner plates (Windsor Ware made in England by Johnson Bros).

The plates were a wedding gift from my late Aunt Catherine (back row, center), shown here with her siblings and my maternal grandmother Efthalia (at left). Stella, my mom, is at her other side. In front left to right are Bette, Charles and Anne. This appears to be an early 1960s Christmas at my boyhood home in East Longmeadow, Mass.

At noon today Marti and I picked up the free range turkey we’d ordered from our neighborhood butcher. He clocked in at 5.1 kilos, about 11 lbs.

Our festivities kicked off around 8:30 this evening. Cheddar cheese and sunflower seed crackers, accompanied by Gosset Grande Reserve Champagne.

My bride set a lovely table.

First course: Mr. Phil’s New England Clam Chowder. Different every time. Always a winner.

The main event featured Roast Turkey with Gravy, Alice Waters’ Brussels Sprout Gratin (recipe from our pal E*), Marilyn Monroe’s Stuffing (see below), Thanksgiving Feast Maple Yams and Sister Mary’s Zesty Carrots (also see below).

The next turkey Marti and I cook will be served on a Wild Turkeys platter, which I mail-ordered this morning. It’s nearly impossible to find the highly collectible original release version, but last year Johnson Bros. produced a reproduction from the same pattern.

We’ve always been big fans of the gobbler. This is Claude Monet’s wonderful painting of white turkeys behind his home at Giverny. It hangs at the Musée Orsay here in Paris.

Whenever we visit Monet’s gardens at Giverny I say hello to the white turkeys that still reside there.

Now about Marilyn’s stuffing. A new book entitled Fragments contains various letters and other writings by the Blonde Bombshell.

Among the finds are these recipe notes which detail MM’s comprehensive and unique sourdough-based stuffing. Her ingredients range from turkey livers or hearts and ground round to parmesan, hard-boiled eggs and raisins. This is no slapdash affair; it takes a full two hours to prepare. Blonde aficionado that I am, I couldn’t resist taking it out for a test drive.

It was well worth the effort. We love it!

One of my Thanksgiving standbys is another, even older, dish. Sister Mary’s Zesty Carrots get their zip from a creamy horseradish sauce.

Marti and I first tasted the carrots on a visit to Hancock Shaker Village in the Massachusetts Berkshires in the 1980s.

We attended what the Shaker Sect called a "world dinner" in the elegantly austere Believers' Dining Room at the restored colony.

The roast turkey served that evening included the remarkable carrots.

Sister Mary’s Zesty Carrots.

I found the recipe in the 1985 edition of a Shaker cookbook from Hancock Shaker Village. The tart flavors are a welcome counterpoint to traditional sweet Thanksgiving fare such as yams and cranberry sauce.

Also on tonight’s menu: Pomegranate Cranberry Relish and Fannie Farmer’s Cornbread.

We drank a marvelous 21-year-old Pauillac from our "cave," a generous birthday gift I received several years ago from our pal Jean-Yves, who knows his way around a wine cellar.

It ain’t Turkey Day without football. On the HD Flat as we prepared dinner: the Patriots, who beat Detroit 45-24. That’s what this New England boy is talkin’ about.

Music to dine by. Arlo Guthrie’s "Alice’s Restaurant." Of course.

Continuing the theme -- Charles Ives, "Three Places in New England: III. The Housatonic at Stockbridge." One of my favorites.

Our friend Helen Merrill’s wonderful collaboration with Clifford Brown topped off tonight’s dinner playlist. The gold standard in vocal jazz.

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for all our dear friends (and selected family members), good health and my exciting life in the City of Lights, the brightest of which is my beautiful bride of nearly thirty years.

Marti’s the light of my life. And she makes me crazy delicious pumpkin pie to boot!