Monday, October 10, 2011

Could I have some more, please?

     This week has been a little hectic with the lead up to the big day, Thanksgiving. The official holiday is today but depending on time, travelling etc people celebrate all weekend. Big gatherings around great food, what is not to be thankful for.

     I was a little down I wasn't going home this time but my friends here in the city came to the rescue and a few emails, Facebook postings and phone calls later, an intimate gathering of 15 emerged. An "orphans of Thanksgiving" bash.  The promised "Oliver" inspired soft shoe routine with jazz hands and sparkles in both official languages didn't materialize  (Erin?) but it was a memorable occasion none the less. As a matter of fact the whole week leading up to last night has been fun.

     It started with numerous emails back and forth with the above mentioned Erin. She helped coordinate the event, getting the word out, who was bringing what, menu planning; basically keeping me sane and on track because I had a busy week at work.

     A trip to the farmers market on Thursday provided menu inspiration, beautiful ripe pears, cranberries, loads of fresh fall fruit and vegetables. One eighteen pound turkey, then a ham (delicious Cook's hickory smoked ham, fall off the bone tender, big hit), a couple of cases of beer, some wine and we were ready to go.

     Friday night was last minute shopping, preparing the sides, getting my pie dough done, ready for the next day and the vegetable "Battle Royale".

     I had originally planned to make my aunt Jean's delicious, if waistline unfriendly, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots baked in cheese sauce. It's one of my favourites and Ferd's as well. While pitching random food ideas back and forth, Erin vetoed the dish substituting an amazing marinated vegetable and bean salad. Ferd was not impressed, " She can't do that, I'm vetoing her veto" and so the rest of the weekend progressed with snipping, "Why don't you just call Erin, maybe she'll veto that too."

     The rationale behind the decision was this, Sarah and Lindsay were bringing "cheesy" goodness for starters, Erin, Rauri, Erin was making a cheesecake, so veggies in cheese sauce was maybe too much. We didn't want to be "over-a-cheesers". That still makes me laugh.

    Saturday, Erin once again, showed up at my house and we cooked, started then forgot about the mustard for the ham, cleaned the backyard, dredged the fountain then took a well earned break having a few libations and soaking up the sun in the now considerably cleaner back yard.  That night, I baked some pies, grievously wounding myself on the first one, I now know my pot holder has a hole in it, got the Torta Rustica together, and prepped the stuffing/dressing.

The grievous wound, but I carried on brave soldier that I am

     Sunday, the big day dawned sunny and a gorgeous 27 degrees. Definitely not the norm for October here. The turkey went in, cooked far faster than I thought, then the ham, took longer than I thought, potatoes were peeled and Ferd and I did the last minute cleaning around the house. That's when I found the mustard. The 2  hour soaking had now been closer to 24, oh well. Undaunted I continued on and by 3:00 we had everything ship shape and ready for guests. The only decision outstanding was, "Do we move the dining room table outside or not?" We never did resolve that issue.

The star of the show, ready for the oven

     A couple of hours and a short nap later, the guests were here and it was time to eat and did we eat. There was;

Cheese topped with strawberries and fresh figs on rice crackers and cheese ball in phyllo pastry to get us all started, thank you Lindsay and Sarah, it really was cheesy goodness
Turkey with roasted corn stuffing
Cranberry, pear, red wine compote (delicious)
Ham with lemon sage mustard (the mustard was amazing)
Gravy with roasted garlic
Mashed Potatoes
Vegetarian torta rustica
Broccoli, cauliflower and garbanzo beans in mustard vinaigrette- tasty and healthy, thank you Erin
Coleslaw with my grandmother's home made salad dressing
Marinated mushrooms
Pickled spiced crab apples
Mustard bean pickles

Vegetable Totra Rustica

Marinated Mushrooms

Followed by

Chocolate and pumpkin marble cheesecake- awesome, thank you Erin, Rauri, Erin
Pear, apple and blackberry pie
Strawberry rhubarb pie with pecan crumble top
Sour cherry pie
Sweet potato tarts-incredible, thanks Monica
All topped with whipped cream, sorry Tom, we forgot about the iced cream. I'm sure Ferd and I won't let it go to waste

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Pecan Crumble topping

Sour Cherry Pie
The one responsible for my injury

     A feast worthy of any family gathering, even if we were just a bunch of "orphans". We spent the evening outside, by the fire, thank you Llijah for finally getting it started, enjoying good food, wine and lots of good company. As I tottered off to bed around 5:00 this morning, bidding my last guests farewell, I was perfectly content, well fed, maybe a little too well watered and blessed with an awesome group of friends.

Random, trying to get the whole group, shot

Erin, my cohort, down in front in the blue
Those amazing fig and cheese starters, on the silver tray 

Ferd, well, being Ferd and Erin's smile
We all crammed around the patio table outside to enjoy the warm night
We should have moved the damned dining room table

      As I woke later this morning to a different type of gathering, I'm still basking in the warm afterglow.

A different gathering, the empties

And the dishes, chairs, etc
I don't care I've got all day
It was well worth the effort

     I hope everyone has as much fun this holiday as I did. Enjoy and give thanks.


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