Canadian Thanksgiving Feast

Back home from his travels DonQui decides to get cooking again.

Today being Canadian Thanksgiving, he decides to put together a Thanksgiving feast. Central to this has to be a turkey which is a little difficult to find in the UK at this time of year.

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Fortunately his friendly local butchers — Mills & Sons & Daughters are able to find him a lovely small bird. DonQui finds that smaller turkeys have much better taste and with this one at just over 4kg (9 lbs) he won’t be stuck with leftovers for weeks afterwards.

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Another essential for DonQui is wild rice which comes from the great lakes of Canada and the northern USA. Many packets of wild rice in the UK are sold mixed with white rice. This is a silly combination as wild rice requires much longer cooking than ordinary rice. If you want to mix the two they need to be cooked separately or otherwise you will end up with one still too hard or the other too soggy.

Traditional accompaniments would be sweet potato and squash or some other autumnal vegetables. DonQui’s guests had requested roast potatoes and peas. He is happy to oblige even if they are not the most authentic of Thanksgiving side dishes.

Cranberry sauce is another important addition to a turkey feast. This time he uses a store-bought jar although he has made it himself before. Cranberry sauce is quite easy to make and DonQui’s recipe can be found here.

DonQui decides he will stuff the turkey. As this entails quite a bit of work, it is not something DonQui does as a matter of course. Due to the time it takes he prefers to prepare the stuffing the day before, making it much easier on the day. He also pre-prepares the gravy base for the same reason.

Here are his recipes to serve 4-6 people depending on appetites and the desire for left-overs

Stuffing Ingredients
A handful of chopped turkey and/or chicken livers (about 6 whole livers)
Half an onion finely chopped
A good bunch of chopped parsley (about ½ a cup)
A good teaspoon each of fresh chopped sage, rosemary and thyme (reduce the amount if using dried herbs)
A bit of grated nutmeg
6 slices of stale white bread cut into squares leaving crusts on
a handful of chopped dried cranberries (optional)
a handful of chopped chestnuts (optional)
a splash of milk
salt and pepper to taste
butter for cooking (mix with a little vegetable oil if desired)

Stuffing method

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Gently pan fry the onion in butter until soft and it begins to colour

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Add the chopped livers and stir fry over a low heat until most of the pinkness is almost gone. Add the herbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper and continue cooking over a low heat until well mixed.
Set aside to cool

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Put the cut bread into a bowl

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Moisten with a little milk and kneed it together with your hands until the volume is reduced and the bread becomes almost dough-like but not too soggy. Squeeze out any excess liquid.IMG_0444 2.jpg

Mix in the liver/onion/herb mixture along with the cranberries and chestnuts if you are using them. This time DonQui uses only the cranberries. They add a delightful taste burst to the finished stuffing.  You can start this off with a fork but to get it really well mixed you will need to get in there with your hands.

IMG_0446.JPGWhen it is throughly mixed it should have the look and constituency of a course paté. Set aside for at least a couple of hours or overnight

Preparing the Gravy base.
Place the turkey giblets (neck, kidney and heart but not the liver) along with a roughly diced carrot and celery stalk in a roasting pan along with a quartered onion leaving the outer skin on. DonQui also likes to clip the wing tips off the turkey and add these also. The liver goes in to making the stuffing.

Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place the roasting pan in a pre-heated oven at 160º and roast for about 1 hr until the vegetables have begun to brown but not burn.

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Deglaze the pan with a splash of dry white wine and transfer everything into a large pot. Add water to just about cover, along with a bay leaf and a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Simmer the mixture for at least an hour until all the flavours combine. For a deeper taste use chicken stock (or better yet turkey stock if you have it) in place of some or all of the water. This could be cooked up in the roasting pan but DonQui prefers to use a pot. Its narrower base makes it easier to cover the ingredients with liquid.

Strain and reserve the liquid until ready to make the gravy. Discard the solid ingredients. DonQui does this the night before to reduce the number of activities on the day of the feast.

The Wild Rice
Properly cooked, wild rice expands to almost 4 times its dry state.

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Soak a cup of wild rice in 4 cups of water and leave overnight. The grains will burst at the ends, exposing the white insides.

About 1 hour before serving, drain the soaked rice and place in a pot with three times its volume of salted water. For an even better taste substitute about 1/3 of the the water with chicken stock.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender.

The Turkey

Take the turkey out of the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.

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Stuff the neck end (back) of the turkey with the stuffing and close the skin back over it. DonQui tends to secure the neck flap with a wooden cocktail stick but this is not essential.

Place two halved citrus fruits (lemons or clementines) inside the main cavity of the turkey along with sprigs of fresh rosemary and/or thyme. DonQui also adds half an onion (optional). These will steam the inside of the turkey as it cooks and add greater flavour to the gravy.

Warm some butter in your hands then rub and massage it all over the bird. Then sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Cover with tinfoil (aluminium foil). Place in the oven and roast at 180º C for 25-30 minutes per kilo. Remove the tinfoil for the last 40 minutes of cooking. This will give make the skin turn a nice crispy golden brown.

Take the bird out of the oven. Use large tongs, or tongs and a carving fork, to tip the bird up to let the juices from the cavity pour out into your pre-prepared gravy base. Then place it on a carving board, cover with tinfoil and a couple of tea towels (dishcloths) and let it rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours). During this time the bird will continue to cook.

If you are worried whether the turkey is properly cooked, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a sharp knife or skewer. If the juices run clear then it is done. If you like to use a thermometer (DonQui never does) then the internal temperature should be 65ºC. Be careful of overcooking as the breast will dry out.

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While the bird is resting, get on with cooking the vegetables and finishing off your gravy.

Finishing the Gravy
After pouring the juices from the cavity of the turkey into the gravy base, bring it back up to the boil and let simmer.

Pour off all the fat and oil from the empty roasting pan, place onto the stove top at a moderate head and deglaze the pan with a good splash of white wine.

Scrap up all the brown bits with a wooden spatula and then strain the juices into the simmering gravy base.

Thicken the gravy either with a roux of flour and butter or cornstarch mixed with water. DonQui likes to use a roux and he describes his method of doing this in his recipe for rich meat sauce.

If you do not pre-prepare a gravy base then you should add chopped carrot and celery with a quartered onion to the roasting pan along with the turkey. After deglazing the pan as above add 500ml of chicken or turkey stock and add this to the juices from the cavity of the cooked turkey.

After resting, more juices will have accumulated on the platter or in the runnels of the carving board. Add these to the gravy before serving.

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DonQui was most pleased with the way his Thanksgiving feast turned out.

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The empty plates and dishes afterwards bore testament to the enjoyment of others. All are agreed that the early October Canadian date for Thanksgiving is much more sensible than the US November one. It is, of course, more suitable for northern climes but it also gives a nice separation from Christmas.

Fort Lauderdale

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Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is not the sort of place one would usually expect to encounter DonQui. Yet he had a very enjoyable week there despite the vagaries of a particularly severe hurricane season.  September-October is not the best time to visit Florida but DonQui had his reasons, arriving after Hurricane Irma and dodging Hurricane Maria.

 

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The east coast of Florida managed to escape the worst of Hurricane Irma although cleaning-up operations were still going on. Piles of palm tree branches clogged the smaller streets awaiting clear-up and crews were still busy taking the sand from the roads and spreading it back on the beaches.

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Like so many North American cities, Fort Lauderdale has been concreted over to make way for the ubiquitous automobile. Wide roads and spaghetti junctions carve up the city leaving very little charm.

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Even the much touted Las Olas Boulevard feels like it is struggling to hold its own against the encroaching office blocks.

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The little strip along the beach at the eastern end of Las Olas does make for a good stroll with many bars and restaurants offering a lively atmosphere along with mediocre live music.

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The beach itself is quite wonderful with easy public access despite the many high rise hotels which line the front.  During the week the beaches are almost deserted…

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… yet on weekends and holidays they rapidly fill up.

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It is the water which makes Fort Lauderdale so much more than a concrete jungle. In addition to the beautiful beaches there are many canals which are best appreciated if you can take a boat — even if it is just one of the water taxis.

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Only a 30 minute drive to the west, the everglades begin and an airboat excursion there is very well worth it as DonQui has previously described.

 

Burgers and Beer

There was a time, not that long ago, when finding good beer in the USA was just about impossible. Now, thanks to the craft beer revolution, DonQui is able to find a decent brew in the US almost as easily as he can in Europe.

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At the marvellously ramshackle Le Tub, in Hollywood, Florida, DonQui makes the acquaintance of a rather pleasant Yuengling Lager. Claiming to be from the oldest brewery in America it has a slight amber colour and more taste than your average lager. Apparently Mr Yuengling is a Trump supporter so although he enjoys the brew, DonQui will not make a habit of drinking it very often.

 

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With its eclectic furnishings…

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…and great view over the Intra-Coastal Waterway,  Le Tub seems the perfect place for a burger and beer.

Apparently Le Tub’s burgers were at some point voted by readers of GQ Magazine as the best in America, so DonQui decides to sample one. With 13 ounces of meat, the burger is not for the faint of heart but it is truly delicious.

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Although a bit out of the way to the south of Fort Lauderdale, DonQui is very glad to have been guided to Le Tub.

It is a perfect place to while away an afternoon in the Florida sun.

Water, Reeds and Alligators

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Ever since having seen James Bond zip around the everglades, DonQui Oaty has rather fancied giving it a go for himself.

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Finding himself in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, DonQui gets his chance. At the Sawgrass Recreation Park — only 30 minutes from Fort Lauderdale — he hops on board an airboat and is whisked out over the sea of sawgrass and bullrushes (or cattails as they are called here).

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It is not long before he spies an alligator approaching.

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The curious reptile comes right up to the boat…

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…along with a snapping turtle.

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The able and informative ‘Captain Bob’ steers the airboat through the reeds. At times the boat zips over top of them, Bond-like, on a cushion of air. At other times the boat slows so that DonQui can take in the flora and fauna.

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In all it is a most enjoyable hour out.

Crêpes Suzette

Before leaving his culinary tour of Domaine de Barive, DonQui wishes to mention one more outstanding experiences at their restaurant. This is their Crêpes Suzette.

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Crêpes Suzette may be a little bit old fashioned but then so is DonQui.  Although they are mostly renown for the flashy at-table presentation, the taste of pancakes with citrus, butter and Grand Marnier, is pretty hard to beat.

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They are prepared at DonQui’s table by the skilled, experienced waitress who takes her time. She concentrates more on making sure the pancakes are perfectly prepared, rather than the accompanying theatre.

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That is not to say that the preparation is without theatre at the time of flambéing.

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On the plate the dish looks simple and it it. The taste, however, is sublime.

Cheese, Wine and Beer

No matter how good a meal has been, for DonQui, a good cheese course is often his favourite part of a long leisurely dinner.

Cheese and wine simply go together. It is for this reason he always takes cheese before desert, prolonging the savoury tastes and finishing off the wine at the same time.

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DonQui’s previously mentioned the superb cheese board at Domain de Barive’s Restaurant des Epicuriens. Before leaving he wants to try it again and he asks the sommelier to choose a glass of wine for him to accompany his cheese.

The sommelier peers over the cheeses DonQui has selected, thinks for one moment, pauses for a second, then makes a most interesting suggestion.

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Given the wide variety of cheese flavours DonQui has selected, the sommelier says that no one wine would go perfectly with all. What DonQui needs is three different accompanying drinks. DonQui silently tots up his alcohol tolerance, bearing in mind he had a glass with a previous course and a beer before the meal.

The sommelier reassures DonQui, telling him that for the price of one glass he could have three small ones. This seems like something worth trying.

DonQui had anticipated the sommelier would appear with red wines with his cheeses, or perhaps two reds and one white. He could not have been more wrong.

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To go with his local cheeses (on the left of the photo), he is brought a honey-coloured ‘biere du garde’ — a special ‘keeping’ brew from northern France which is reminiscent of some Belgian Trappist beers. There is champagne for the soft goats’ cheese (centre of photo) and a white wine from the Pyrenees to go with the Italian provolone and creamy Pyrenean white cheese (right of photo).

It all feels very indulgent but then DonQui likes to indulge himself. Left to his own devices he probably would have gone for a familiar hearty red wine for his cheese. He is glad that he did not. Not only were the sommelier’s choices absolutely perfect but they opened DonQui’s eyes to other new possibilities.

Great Food and Wine

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For his second meal at Domain de Barive’s Restaurant des Épicuriens DonQui has the time to experience the full set menu. It is utterly superb – each dish an absolute delight.

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After as relaxing Leffe beer on the terrace, which comes with a selection of tasty nibbles, DonQui makes his way to the restaurant where he orders the Menu Château.

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The meal is preceded with a ‘petite touch de salé…’ or ‘amuse-bouche’.

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Along with this there are a selection of breads and two different locally produced butters.

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DonQui chooses the Melon with Maroilles (a local semi-soft white cheese) as his starter.

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Then comes the Scorpion fish with polenta and a tomato-basil sauce.

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Followed by the most exquisite duck breast.

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Feeling that the expansive cheese board would be a bit too much, DonQui opts for the Faisselle (a soft fresh cheese). There are two options for this — savoury, with herbs and shallots, or sweet with fruit coulis. DonQui goes for the sweet option.

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Finally comes an incredible apricot desert.

Each course is a  absolute delight. The amounts are just enough to savour the tastes but not so much as to feel too full afterwards. Apart from the bread there are few carbohydrates. This allows DonQui to fully enjoy every course and not feel bloated afterwards.

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Des Épicuriens offers a wide selection of wines by the glass. DonQui leaves the choices up to the young sommelier who suggests a different wine to suit each of the courses DonQui has ordered. His choices are excellent and DonQui is very glad that he went along with the sommelier’s suggestions. Despite a reasonable acquaintance with French wines, many of those on offer are quite unknown to DonQui. This allows him to sample wines that otherwise he may never have tried. The pairings with each course are perfect.

Personally DonQui is better than some which can show off a Michelin star or two. Too often he finds the food at many starred places a bit too fussy as the chef shows off his clever tricks. Here one gets an excellent modern take on great classic French food, alongside very knowledgeable and friendly service, in an atmospheric setting.