By its very nature, Charcuterie is a slow food. Preparing to make it takes time, actually making it takes time and it takes time to wait until it’s ready to eat. There is nothing about the process that can be considered quick. Just think about it, even making the least time-consuming sausage takes a couple hours, lots of energy and counter space.
This past year has been a year of enlightenment and great tactile pleasure in the creation of our own Charcuterie. Even the failure of the first Duck Prosciutto taught us a great lesson on procurement and quality of the starting ingredients…after all, without a good start, the end can be no better.
What the year of Charcutepalooza has taught me most has been patience. There is so much waiting in the act of creating a work of charcuterie; yet, waiting brings rewards. Patience is rewarded. But what the year rewarded me most with was the courage to actually try to do these things and friendship to make it so.
By its very nature, Thanksgiving is a slow meal. It’s one of my family’s favorite times to get together; it always has been. This year, though, we were all very aware that this would likely by the last holiday season with our dad at the table. You see, by its very nature, Alzheimer’s is a very slow, destructive disease. My dad has been battling it for over 12 years and he’s losing. He’s losing everything and we’re losing him. The final challenge to create a celebration using what we learned in Charcutepalooza was likely a little harder to prepare because of that, but I was so grateful for the ability to squeeze more love into each and every thing we served; because that’s how I am. The more I love my family and friends, the more I want to create beautiful food for them and this challenge was perfect for that.
For years, my family has asked if we could have a Turducken on Thanksgiving. After all, John Madden loves them and if the greatest Raider coach of all time thinks it’s a good idea, us Raider fans better agree. Usually, though, their suggestion is countered with something along the lines of, “Yeah, right! When pigs fly!”
While the pigs didn’t actually fly, but over the year they were cured, ground, smoked, dried, stuffed, stretched and by November, they made me believe I could put together a proper and edible Turducken. Edible was key, because we usually have 3 different turkeys for Thanksgiving but this year we only had the skinny Bourbon Red (affectionately called Carl, as all our Heritage birds are called) and the Turducken. It was go big or go home, and I was already home.
Boning the Turkey was much easier than the chicken, it turned out. While not much to look at, that’s the turkey layered with Merguez dressing, roasted red peppers, spinach and the chicken on top.
Second verse … same as the first; except for the lovely duck breasts I’ve had stashed in my freezer (which is now duckless.) Another layer of the Merguez dressing, red peppers and spinach topped it off. The thought of slimy, uncrisp duck skin (and chicken skin, for that matter) in the middle of the bird had me taking all the skin off of those pieces. I think this was a key move.
With Frankenbird stitched up, he got to rest awhile. Not too long, though. I cooked both Frank and Carl on Wednesday. This, by the way, was a brilliant move. I will never cook a turkey on Thanksgiving Day again. Revolutionized my whole holiday!
Frankenbird, in all his glory; warmed back up to safe temperature and looking like a normal, every day kind of bird.
I have a pretty small kitchen, but we were all jammed in there waiting to see what Frank would reveal. The oohs and ahhs were pretty rewarding, but not nearly so much as actually taking a bite. Nobody in our group had ever had a Turducken before and Frank proved to be an amazing addition to our dinner; one that is already being requested for next year. Not sure if those pigs will be able to talk me into it again, but I may be jaded.
Here’s most everyone sitting pretty, waiting for dinner. By now, it’s dark outside. The feasting has been going for hours, so you’d think everyone was pretty sated. The photo below was taken just moments after the first photo; apparently, there was still some room left.
So, when it was all said and done and the wine was drank, it was a beautiful celebration. While this may have been Dad’s last Thanksgiving at our table, there was no dwelling on the future, not even any morose thoughts of years past. We didn’t forget that the future was coming, but what happened was what always happens at our family celebrations…laughter, food, more laughter, wine and completely new memories for us to take forward into the next year.
Porcini Polenta with Melted Gorgonzola and Agneau de Noix
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups Polenta or medium grind cornmeal
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. rehydrated porcini mushrooms, chopped (save the water used to hydrate)
- 1 c. shredded Manchego Cheese
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Gorgonzola Cheese
- Thinly sliced Agneau de Noix or Jambon de Noix