After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.
~Oscar Wilde

Most of us have all been there. La famille, je vous hais (de temps en temps), especially when these days, uncomfortable conversations emit from the table. You might imagine the awkward talk that was uttered between Trump and Romney at Jean Gorges.

Now, we know the Curse of the Billy Goat has perished ending an over a century (some 108 year drought) spell of haplessness as the Cubs finally won the World Series in Game 7 of 2016 in a rather surreal extra inning ending. But, a “W” is a “W,” and as a native Chicagoan I am elated and intensely wished to be at a local watering hole in Chitown — have been to Final Fours before and found that neighborhood venues were the best.  The food is often better, not to mention there are replays galore, both behind the plate and elsewhere in the field.

A reveler here.  Damn, the Cubs won! One for the ages. No room for pessimism now — an epic season, series’ and games.

Ben Zobrist’s run scoring double in the rain delayed 10th inning marathon, and Joe Maddon as well as a glorious cast behind them made sure. Must admit that Zobrist (the World Series MVP) and closer Mike Montgomery used to be Kansas City Royals so the result was even sweeter.

This happened to be regular fare on “Turkey” Day, partially leased from Julia Child, and plan on serving the same this Thanksgiving. No turkey, not traditional, but goose as the main course with apps and sides as the real deal.

Goose fat (the same with duck) is remarkably superb as a basting medium, so be sure to render the fat from inside the bird. Once rendered, the leftovers will keep for weeks in the fridge too. A sublime brown goose stock, for sauce, is made with the chopped gizzard, neck, heart, and wing tips, so make sure that this offal is kept, not discarded.

A 9 lb. goose takes about 2 hours to cook while a 12 1/2 lb. bird just takes about 30 minutes longer.  Your best bet is to choose a 9-11 lb. honker. A 9 lb. bird takes about 2 hours at 425-350 F and an 11 lb. goose takes about 20 minutes longer. Cook until the drumsticks move slightly in their sockets and when the fleshiest part is tined with a fork, the juices run a pale yellow.

Note: do remember that goose is roasted much like duck except that goose has the skin pricked and is basted with boiling water and/or wine and/or goose and/or chicken stock (or a mix thereof) every 15 minutes or so.

ROAST GOOSE WITH FOIE GRAS & PRUNES (OIE ROTI AUX FOIE GRAS ET PRUNEAX)

Thaw goose to room temperature. Dry well.

Goose stock
Chopped goose neck, gizzard, and heart
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 T rendered goose fat

Prepare brown goose stock in advance. In a heavy medium saucepan with olive oil, place chopped goose neck, gizzard, and heart as well as sliced onion, carrot and rendered goose fat, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf.

Allow to simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours or so, skimming as necessary. Strain through cheesecloth and a chinois, and the stock is ready to use.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Prunes
40-50 prunes
Soak the prunes in hot water for about 5 minutes and pit. Simmer prunes in a covered saucepan for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain for goose now and reserve cooking liquid for later.

Goose Liver Sauce
1 C dry white wine
2 C brown goose stock
Goose liver, minced or chopped
2 T shallots, peeled and finely minced
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 C port wine

Simmer white wine and goose stock slowly in a covered heavy saucepan for about 10 minutes, with the wine or stock for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain and reserve.

Simmer the goose liver, shallots, unsalted butter and port wine in a small heavy skillet for about 2 or so minutes and scrape into a small mixing bowl. Put both together with a whisk.

Foie Gras
1/2 C of foie gras or similar pâté
Good pinch or more of allspice and thyme
3-4 T stale bread crumbs, freshly zapped in the Cuisinart or blender
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauté goose liver and shallots in butter, using a small, but heavy skillet, for about 2 minutes and then scrape into a mixing bowl. In the same skillet, boil the port wine until reduced to 2 T, then scrape into the mixing bowl with the goose liver.

Now, blend the foie gras and spices, et al., into the mixing bowl with the sautéed goose liver. Sometimes, carefully place the foie gras, bread crumbs and goose liver into center of the prunes, then stuff.

Prunes Anon
Prune cooking juices
1/2 C port wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 T unsalted butter, softened

(See below*, for finish)

Goose Fat
Chop lose goose fat from inside the goose carcass and chop into 1/2″ pieces. Simmer in a covered heavy saucepan with about 1 C water. Uncover the pan and bring to a boil. Once finished, the fat will be a pale yellow, use some to bulb over goose and then strain some of the liquid for goose now into a jar for use later.

The Goose
1 – 9 to 11 lb. goose, room temperature and dried well
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover sparingly with pancetta slices, for moisture and flavor.

Boiling water and/or wine and/or chicken stock (or a mix thereof), for “braising” or “bulbing” every 15 minutes so as to keep the bird moist during the roasting process.

Salt & pepper the cavity of the goose and stuff loosely with prunes. Skewer the vent and secure the legs and neck skin to the body with trussing string. Prick the skin over the thighs, back and breasts, then dry thoroughly and set the bird breast up in the heated roasting pan.

Brown the goose for 20 minutes or so and then turn on its side (breast side to the rear) and lower heat to 350 F to continue roasting.

Do not forget: baste every 15 minutes or thereabouts with boiling water, stock or wine, sucking the excess goose fat with a bulb baster.  At the halfway mark, turn goose on the other side, yet continue basting.

When done, discard trussing strings, place the pancetta into a glass bowl, and set the goose on a carving board or platter to rest. As with all meats and poultry, this step is truly important.

Below* — In the interim, tilt the pan and spoon out the fat, leaving behind the brown juices. Pour in the the prune cooking juices and port. Boil down, until the liquid has reduced and correct seasoning.  Take off heat and swirl in the the softened butter, then pour into a sauce boat, sort of au jus.

After resting, serve by pulling or severing off legs, thighs, back and what remains of wings and slicing the breast somewhat thin but more thick than a turkey, then coating with goose and prune sauce.

Remove prunes, foie gras, port wine, spices and herbs for dressing into a bowl.

Below’s menu is nothing like the “first” Thanksgiving given the murderous raids, scalping, beheading and slave trading of indigenous ones, “heathen savages,” by white folks — no, not really warm & fuzzy. Later, African Americans, because they were too busy serving white people on Thanksgiving Day celebrated the holiday somewhat later, often in January to accord when Abe uttered the Emancipation Proclamation. There is a common thread here: conquering whites and their profound prejudices.

As an aside despite a couple of journals written by whites during the “original Thanksgiving feast,” no mention is made of turkey being served.

A PROPOSED “MODERN” THANKSGIVING MENU:

Appetizers (Da bomb)
Gougères and/or Arancini with Balsamico di Modena & Aioli
Deviled eggs, of varied ilks, but local pasture raised (duck rillette, proscuitto, caviar, for instance)

Beef tartare and/or sushi(purchased on the way home from your favored fish artist)and/or oven roasted oysters and/or Pa Jun (savory Korean pancakes)
Varied cheeses & proscuitto/serrano platter, local homemade pickles, capers, cornichons & toasted artisanal bread

Seared scallops with apple cider vinegar or calamari au vin or octopus tapas or tuna and avocado ceviche or moules marinieres and/or lobster bisque or oyster & brie soup

Main & Side Courses (Somewhat Non-Traditional Fodder)
Roast Goose (Oie Roti aux foie gras et pruneaux) or Coq au Vin or Braised Lamb Shanks or Braised Beef Short Ribs and if you go chicken, lamb or braised short ribs, try the sauce with the root veggies
Prune & Foie Gras “Dressing” with the goose

Caponata alla Sicilina
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Currants and/or Walnuts
Roasted Shallots
Smashed or Puréeed Potatoes or Gratin Dauphinois or Potatoes Aligotes with Comté ou Gruyère or Rice Pilaf or Arroz a la Mexicana
Oyster Casserole with pie crust, crème fraîche, leeks, bacon, thyme & gruyère (if you did not use oysters above)

Desserts (One Fine Finish)
Fresh pecan or date pies, bars or cookies and/or seasonal fruit crisps and/or
mousse au chocolat or chocolat truffes — always dependant upon guests

This list does not take into account egg nog with rum and other liqueurs, older charonnays, pinot noirs, zinfandels, red meritages and cognacs throughout the day — always remember, though, in vino veritas.

Whatever is chosen, deep sighs for souls, still.

Pourboire: Admittedly, I often braised the goose about half way up with red wine and stock (much like coq au vin), throwing in some root vegetables yet still keeping the prunes and foie gras inside. Then again, you can go the route of Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker Magazine who once commented that “turkey was something used to punish students for hanging around on Sundays,” and treat your guests to pasta carbonara (with guanciale and perhaps some pancetta) or lay out a medley of differing pizzas. You know they may be tired of poultry (turkey too). They will likely be grateful.

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Of course you know, this means war.
~Bugs Bunny (a friendly rival of Daffy Duck)

Foie gras is salty, sweet, and unctuous, with luxuriant buttery notes. Decadent, almost prurient stuff.

Foie gras, simply translated as “fat liver” in French, are fattened livers of geese and ducks. This is done via a method called gavage, feeding the animals through a tube several times a day for a few weeks, which fattens their livers to about 10-12 times normal size. As renowned food chemist Harold McGee once described, “it’s a kind of living pâté, “the result of “constant overnourishment.”

Lamentably, foie gras is at the center of another tedious and unsavory political polemic. On the one hand are producers, restauranteurs and epicures; on the other are animal activists and legislators; in the middle are the birds and lawyers. Passions have run high, and at times have been rabid. Mon dieu!

California Senate Bill 1520, a statute originally enacted in 2004 but effective July 1, 2012, prohibits the “force feed(ing of) a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size” along with the sale of products that are a result of this process. The foie gras law, as it is so affectionately referred to by some and vilified by others, calls for a $1,000 per diem fine for any violations.

Foie gras has gastronomic roots dating back to ancient Egypt and the Jewish diaspora. Outlawing this indulgently oleaginous fare, however, is not novel. Several years ago, a similar ban in Chicago was rescinded after chefs either ignored or evaded it and city inspectors were simply unenthusiastic about enforcement. The foie gras prohibition was first established in Norway and similar statutes were adopted by Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, and Israel. The California ban is the only one of its kind in the states. Groups such as the Humane Society, the ASPCA and PETA have joined forces to oppose foie gras consumption, claiming that ducks are subjected to tortuous and inhumane treatment. A nationwide prohibition is sought. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has sued the USDA, calling foie gras a diseased product unfit for human consumption. Hearings are pending.

Ironically, foie gras production in the United States is miniscule compared to other animal husbandry. There are less than a handful of American foie gras farms, all raising ducks rather than geese, who sell not only these treasured livers but also breast and leg meat, sausages made with scraps, and down from the feathers. Just imagine the outrage, political fallout, and lobbying efforts from laws demanding humane treatment for other beasts such as cattle, sheep, pigs or chickens in this land of carnivores.

The foie gras quarrel has now shifted to the courtroom. C’est la guerre. A lawsuit has been filed by the aggrieved plaintiffs in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking, among other things, temporary and permanent injunctive relief. The complaint maintains that the California foie gras law is unconstitutionally vague and treads on Congress’ exclusive right to regulate interstate commerce. The suit also contends that the law unfairly places the burden of knowing a product’s origin on the distributor, restaurant or salesperson. So far, District Court Judge Stephen Wilson has denied a request by restauranteurs and producers for a preliminary injunction until matters are resolved in court.  Judge Wilson also rejected a motion to intervene by the ALDF in this litigation which likewise foreclosed the participation of Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and the Marin Humane Society, citing judicial economy concerns.

Not so much a postscript…it should be noted that Dr. Jaime Ruiz, director of Cornell University’s Duck Research Laboratory (who does not support or oppose foie gras production) stressed that “the farmers that I know here in New York and France handle the birds carefully, not feeding them above the physiological limits of the birds.” He also noted that force-feeding, done correctly, does not cause pain nor is an enlarged liver a diseased one. His opinions are shared by many.  An avowed omnivore and francophile, but ever scornful of proven animal abuses, you may have some inkling where I stand.

Rancor aside, think about melding foie gras with fine butter and slathering some on a toasted slice of artisanal bread, over the top of a freshly grilled steak or lamb chop or slipped in to impart sublime flavor to a simple sauce.

FOIE GRAS BUTTER

1/2 lb foie gras, at room temperature

1/2 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil and unsalted butter

8 T (1 stick) high quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 T Madeira
2+ t quatre épices (see below)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium glass bowl, mash the room temp foie gras with a fork removing any veins, bits or stringy tissue. Place in plastic wrap, and shape, roll into a tight log about 6-7″ in length, securing the ends. Refrigerate until firm.

In the meantime, in a heavy, smaller sauté pan heat a dollop of olive oil and butter and cook shallots until just translucent, about 2 minutes.  Drain on paper towels, place in a small glass bowl, and set aside.

Bring a medium, heavy saucepan of water to a boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath. Poach the wrapped foie gras until soft and the fat just begins to melt, about 1-2 minutes. Retrieve and briefly place in ice water bath to cool.

Dry foie gras log, remove plastic wrap and place foie gras in the bowl of a food processor. Add softened butter, Madeira, shallot, quatre épices, salt and pepper. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process in pulses until smooth and silky, scraping down sides as necessary, about a minute or so. Scrape the mixture onto a new sheet of plastic wrap and form into a 6-7″ log. Wrap tightly, secure the ends and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

To serve, remove the foie gras butter from the refrigerator and slice into even disks. Wrapped well, the butter can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for several months.

Quatre Epices
1 T allspice berries
1 T whole cloves
1 T nutmeg, freshly grated
1 T ground cinnamon

Grate the nutmeg. In a coffee mill or spice grinder, grind the allspice and cloves. Combine all of the spices in a bowl, stirring to mix. Use as needed, then store remainder in a tight, glass container in the cupboard.

Pourboire: consider adding some chopped figs or prunes to the log before rolling.

I think men who have a pierced ear are better prepared for marriage. They’ve experienced pain and bought jewelry.
~Rita Rudner

When walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with my youngest son this spring, we could not help but notice the slew of padlocks in varying shapes, sizes and hues each etched with initials, maybe an image and sometimes brief vows.  Apparently, the keys had been hurled into the East River while the padlocks remained hooked on the bridge as symbols of perpetual locked in love.  We even took pics of them.  At first, it seemed cute but in retrospect, it seemed a tad odd.  Then, when we celebrated my oldest son’s and fine woman’s nuptials last weekend, th0se images recurred yet hopes were revived and thoughts about love, like the wine, flowed freely.

Apparently across the pond, on Paris’ most iconic bridges, such as the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l’Archevêché, visitors have similarly affixed padlocks to the metal railings and fencing.   Once done discreetly by night, many began acting brazenly in broad daylight, two by two and sometimes more, filming faces in front of  colorful locks, and videoing the throwing of  keys into the Seine. Natives and local politicians alike expressed concerns about aesthetics and the architectural integrity of the festooned bridges.  Although many denizens consider the locks an eyesore, others find them charming. One night, someone actually cut through the wires and removed all the locks on one of the bridges and discarded them.  But in just a short while, the locks reappeared, this time more conspicuously than ever.  For many tourist couples, these locks and the keys tossed into the romantic river that courses the City of Light were symbols of that often elusive everlasting amour, of abiding adoration.  Pas là, pas de tout — as many French find such declarations less than amorous.  To use lock and key as a metaphor for eternal affection seems strangely antithetical there and bespeaks of confinement. 

In Paris (and elsewhere), love is understood to be tinged with risk. That sounds a touch incongruous, as little in this world is more difficult yet more valuable than love…the very boon of humanity, and there can be nothing more bewitching or treasured.  At the same time though, love can be fragile and unsettling, and early romance can be clothed in uncertainty.  Love can be hazardous, sometimes on the brink of agony, and often vulnerable and insecure.  Even damned lonely.

So, the notion that love is locked up forever by tossing that key in the drink, is thought a vacuous rite, a childish fantasy that can even enslave.  Soulful love is not to be imprisoned or controlled, and the goal is not to entrap or ensnare one another.  Rather, love’s sublime fragility should be embraced with each urging the other to be free.  Love is to be shared simply and fervently, without pride — where each is gazed at head to toe often in poor lighting and yet somehow, despite conspicuous faults and frailties, each passionately embraces and patiently cherishes one other.  True lovers do not just appeal to the eye, they look beyond into mind and imagination.  Empathy, which derives from the Greek empatheia (“passion”), should reign and must be rekindled throughout the shared voyage. 

Above all, avoid getting too serious about things like love locks.  Mates must always laugh together, as when humor is lost, so is footing.

Ok, so enough sap and on to food.  For lovers should ever delight in the sensual and revel in lust.

SEARED FOIE GRAS WITH WHITE WINE REDUCTION & APPLES

3 T unsalted butter
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 T apple cider vinegar
1-2 T honey

4 – 6 oz slices of fine grade foie gras, about 3/4″ thick
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 C freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 C good quality late harvest white (the rest chilled for a toast)
Equal parts of orange, lime and grapefruit zests
1/4 t fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1/4 t fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 T unsalted butter, cut into smaller pieces

4 slices brioche, 1/2″ thick

Melt the butter in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the apples, apple cider vinegar, and drizzle with honey. Cook, stirring occasionally, turning once, until the apples are golden, soft and tender, about 5-8 minutes. Drain, arrange on a platter, tent with foil, and set aside.

Gently score the foie gras slices with a diagonal pattern on one side only. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium high. In batches, place foie gras slices in the pan and sear until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside to rest.

Pour the excess pan drippings out of the pan, reserving about 3 tablespoons of drippings for the reduction. Deglaze the pan with the grapefruit juice over medium high heat, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula. Simmer until the juice is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, orange, lime and grapefruit zests, rosemary, thyme and simmer for about one minute or so. Add the butter, remove from the heat, and whisk until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler.

Using a 3″ round cookie cutter, cut the brioche into rounds and place them on a baking sheet. Toast under the broiler until golden brown on each side.

To assemble, place the brioche toasts in the center of serving plates. Lay the foie gras slices on top of the brioche. Arrange the golden, almost caramelized apples around the foie gras toasts, and drizzle the reduction sauce over the top of the foie gras.

Serve by candlelight, clothing optional, with a grand Bordeaux and loving partner.

My idea of heaven is eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.
~Sydney Smith

Is there a food stuff that causes more audible moans than foie gras? And these are the genuine, euphoric, bone deep type—not the staged purrs of a cleavaged Giada undulating under hot lights popping risotto balls and sucking her fingers.

Foie gras has been the subject of a recent food fight, courtesy of animal rights advocates…almost like the new fur. The controversy rose to the level of having these delicacies outlawed in the Windy City in a move much akin to a ban on sex or wine. A two year prohibition on serving these heavenly morsels, which was openly flaunted by restauranteurs, was repealed by an overwhelming vote. There seems to be nothing more entertaining than the ever shifting dramas orchestrated or stumbled upon by Chicago’s aldermen.

Most American foie gras is gleaned from Moulard ducks which are a cross between the Muscovy and Pekin species.

SEARED FOIE GRAS WITH FIGS, PORT WINE & LAVENDER HONEY

1 whole duck foie gras, about 1 1/2 pounds, slightly chilled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T unsalted butter

1 T extra virgin olive oil
6 fresh black mission figs, halved
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
6 tarragon leaves, chopped
1/2 C port wine
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T orange juice

2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 T lavender honey (warmed) or raw unprocessed honey
1/2 t orange zest
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse the foie gras and pat dry with paper towels. Carefully pull apart the 2 lobes of the foie gras and with your fingers remove the veins that are lodged between them. Cut away any extraneous fat and green spots and pull away any membranes. On the inner side of the small lobe, carefully pull away the large vein that runs through the center and remove any smaller veins that branch out from it. With the larger lobe, locate the larger central vein and remove it with any attached veins.

Using a sharp knife dipped in boiling water, slice each lobe into 1″ medallions. Score the top of each medallion in a diagonal pattern and season with salt and pepper. Add the butter to a heavy skillet over medium head and sear the medallions for 30-45 seconds per side. Please be careful not to overcook or you will be rewarded with a puddle of expensive melted fat. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels to drain and tent.

Lower heat to medium and pour out a bit of the rendered duck fat. Add the figs, cut side down, then add the shallots and tarragon, cook until figs are brown, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with port, apple cider vinegar, and orange juice, cooking about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and vigorously whisk in butter, honey, orange zest, salt and pepper. Spoon over foie gras slices which are arranged over a slice of grilled or toasted toast and surrounded by figs.