Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks: Our Tiny Feast

It's always nice to have a bit of time away during a holiday weekend... time off from work, from life, from the computer.  But, now we're back -- and it seems fitting that we reflect a bit on our feasting, however humble it might have been.

We were married the day after (American) Thanksgiving in 1998. As a result,  the holiday has become a relatively intimate affair. No huge family gatherings. No record-breaking turkeys. No controversy over whole cranberry sauce versus cranberry jelly. No battle between the white and dark meat folks. And no copious leftovers.

Instead, Thanksgiving day ends up being just the two of us chatting and sipping a bit of wine as we cook up a little feast.  Often, we do slightly more adventurous dishes -- rabbit ragu, turkey mole, roast duck.

This year, we decided to create a variation on the usual Thanksgiving theme.  First, it was our goal to be as local as possible -- so we started off by visiting the Milwaukee Winter Market for our ingredients. We procured a delicious little pheasant from the GBM Elk Farm, a pound of fresh brussels sprouts from Jen Ehr Family Farm, and some delicious Wisconsin cranberries, fresh Italian sausage, and  from Outpost Natural Foods.  I grabbed a few leeks out of our backyard garden, took the stone ground corn meal from Great River Organic Milling out of the fridge.

We put together a delicious savory bread pudding with homemade corn bread, cranberries, Italian sausage,  fontina, and leeks.  By far one of the best recipes I've come up with in a long time -- this bread pudding/dressing was even better as a leftover and simply perfect reheated and eaten for breakfast over the holiday weekend!

We brined our pheasant, and then roasted it with a few strips of Beeler's bacon on top, resulting in a very tender, flavorful bird.  My one complaint about the dish is that the brine effectively masked a good percentage of the pheasant's natural flavor, so I'm not sure I'd use it again on a pheasant.  But, I'm definitely interested in using the recipe on my next turkey.

Recipe: Wisconsin Brine

And we braised our brussels sprouts with apples in a bit of apple juice seasoned with crushed juniper berries. This turned out to be one of the most interesting dishes of the day. We were definitely surprised by the flavor the juniper berries brought to the dish (more sweet and peppery than piney) -- and we'll be sharing the recipe with you soon, since it's definitely a dish to experience.

Definitely an awesome local feast!

Sometimes I miss all the excitement associated with a big family holiday. But, I'm also grateful for the simple opportunity to reconnect with Peef and reflect on the wonderful life we've built together.

I hope each and every one of you had a fantastic Thanksgiving (for those of you in the states who were celebrating) and/or weekend!  Rest assured, one of the things we've been thankful for over the past year is your friendship, readership, and great advice.  Blogging has changed the way we live, cook, and eat. And it's all because of you!
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  1. Congrats on your anniversary! Your T-day menu looks scrumtious.

  2. This looks absolutely delicious! What a way to celebrate your anniversary.

  3. Happy Anniversary, Lori and Paul. Thank you for sharing your beautiful feast with us! XoXo Julie

  4. Wow, that looks good. Pheasant forever will remind me of the first book I ever read aloud with my Pop, "Danny the Champion of the World" by Roald Dahl. Though it's been a few years since I've read it, I'm certain it would entertain an adult audience as well.

    However, I've yet to eat one, and I've yet to be unbusy or in town on a Saturday to get to the Winter Market! Maybe in 2 weeks I'll finally have some time, and I'll look to you for pheasant inspiration.

    and...Happy Anniversary! What a nice time of year to be married!

  5. Happy Anniversary and happy Thanksgiving!
    Can't wait till you share the Brussels sprouts recipe! I love Brussels sprouts!

  6. that does look like a great thanksgiving dinner, especially that bread pudding!

  7. Sounds like an incredible meal! I love pheasant, and the bread pudding looks delicious. Can't wait to see the brussels sprouts recipe.

  8. What an amazing meal, thanks for sharing your experiences over the holiday. I like that you cooked the pheasant with bacon on top, sounds tasty.

  9. Congratulations on your anniversary! Your thanksgiving meal looks excellent, I love the idea of cooking pheasant instead of the traditional turkey, yum!

  10. Sometimes with all the craziness of my big family, I really do long for a quiet, small holiday with really good special food. I'm thinking of just having 4 people at Christmas and doing a feast just like this one. Your holiday sounds just wonderful.

  11. Congrats on your anniversary! You guys had one hell of a meal for it. After this post, I definitely think I am going to have to get my butt down to the Winter Market this weekend!

  12. a sweet post - happy anniversary. we had a crazy/over-familied thanksgiving. it's nice to hear some people got to relax and eat some delicious food (pheasant - YES!).

  13. was this your first pheasant encounter? I really enjoyed the flavour and texture of the meat - how 'bout you?


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