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Thanksgiving Duck


Yes, I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner. Of course I’ll share my menu. No, I don’t like turkeys – alive, dead, cooked, no matter. I decided instead to make duck. I’d never done a whole duck before and thought it would be way fun. Nearly everything on my menu was a new recipe for me to try. I know most people go traditional, but what were those pilgrims doing if not trying to persevere in a new frontier, right?

I bought a whole duck at the farmer’s market – and used this as a guide. In homage to citrus (and my home state of Florida) I also stuffed a few oranges in the duck. Hello, Sunshine State.

On the cranberry sauce front, I went with a chow recipe that included orange zest as well as small diced fennel and toasted walnuts. It ended up being my favorite dish of the evening.

Here’s the whole menu:

Roast duck – in honey -orange-molasses glaze

Fennel walnut cranberry sauce

Radicchio, sliced apple, fennel, and celery salad (thought it would add a crispness that would pair nicely with the richness of duck. Got the idea from the duck & radicchio salad served at a favorite Minneapolis spot, the 112 Eatery. )

Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips (I also roasted a few potatoes and parsnips in the duck fat.)

Kabocha squash with maple syrup (kind of nod to those who like their sweet potatoes)

Melted leeks (a personal favorite from Ballymaloe – leeks cut into 1/3-inch rounds and cooked in a little butter, salt, pepper in a casserole dish with a tight lid. Surprisingly, the heart of this dish is a mild and true sweetness. )

Popovers (shout – out to Minnesota! They’re a crowd-pleaser… just something about height and hollowness, I guess.)

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms (See, I did have stuffing.)

Pumpkin pie (w/bit of cashew butter + normal butter crust)

Maple syrup pie (w/leaf lard crust)

Brandied pears & caramel ice cream

I was a bit disappointed with my store-bought caramel ice cream – probably because I was spoiled for over a year living near Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco. Will there ever be an ice cream as satisfying as their version of salted caramel? As I wrote that sentence, two ideas came to mind. One was that since leaving SF, the best ice cream I’ve tried has been Van Leeuwen’s sour cherry & currant — and, since I have leftover molasses from making my duck glaze, I wonder if I might try making a molasses-inspired ice cream….Hmmm….

Be honest, are you wondering about the leaf lard? I saw it for sale at the Brooklyn Larder, and felt I had to, just had to, give it a try. Leaf lard is a type of lard that comes from the fat around a pig’s kidneys. It is purportedly a baking treasure – and helps to create flaky pie crusts. I did a mix of leaf lard and butter for the crust. I don’t think I reached the pinnacle of pie crust perfect, but it was up there. The whole maple syrup pie was an experiment and another nod, this time to a friend at my Thanksgiving dinner who is Canadian. I cooked down Grade B maple syrup (which you/I can buy in bulk) and added a steady stream of cream, then added that to beaten eggs, and after pouring it into my crust, topped it with freshly ground nutmeg.

Sure, my menu was about feasting and flavor — and not getting too far from the dishes people expect when they have this particular meal. However, it was also about Thanksgiving — cherishing friends, places, and innovation. Hope you had a wonderful holiday!


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