My first Thanksgiving away from home. I was hosting an intimate dinner for four at my apartment and was nervous as to whether I'd be able to pull it off, turkey-less. Would I be able to capture the true essence of Thanksgiving sans turkey? Was it even possible? With pescatarians in attendance (one to be exact), I decided to go with butter poached lobster (a la Thomas Keller) for my main course. I served it with a baby arugula salad and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.
I picked up three lively 2-lbs lobsters from Santa Monica Seafood. B was my hired lobster assassin. I would have done it myself, but the team work was key here, since I had to steep the lobsters one at a time (pot issues) and remove the partially cooked meat while the lobster was still hot. The lobster meat finishes cooking in a pot of beurre monte for the most buttery, luscious lobster. My hands were sore from handling the hot lobsters and the relentless shells, but this labor intensive exercise is well worth it. I promise.
I also made a wheatberry salad with hearty mushrooms, meaty pine nuts and sweet corn. I simply prepared the wheatberries in a rice cooker. It doesn't get much easier than that. Once they were ready, I sauted onions, corn and mushrooms and added the wheatberries to the mix. I topped it off with toasted pine nuts and hand ripped parsley leaves. Who needs stuffing when you have a savory wheatberry salad?
Now it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without some mashed potatoes and gravy – my personal favorite. Since this was a day of gluttony, I didn't hold back. My lovely helper, B, ran my russets through a tamis to get the smoothest, most lumpless potatoes. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I do like that rustic style smashed potato, but today I wanted my guests to really be wowed. I added butter, creme fraiche and milk to bring my mashed potatoes together. I prepared a beef gravy by braising beef shanks and red wine. For the vegetarian option, I made a shitake and cremini mushroom gravy with tons of chopped thyme and parsley. I thickened both up with the addition of a bit of cornstarch slurry right before serving. I could eat these everyday.
Here's the whole set up right before we dug in to stuff ourselves silly…
(Going clockwise from the top: Butter poached lobster with baby arugula salad, grilled asparagus, spinach torta, rustic homemade apple pie, broccoli au gratin, wheatberry salad, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, beef gravy)
Though I missed mom's T-day feast this year, I'm thankful to have such wonderful friends to spend Thanksgiving with. Seems as though the true essence of Thanksgiving can be captured with or without a turkey.