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.

Repeat that again…for it has the distinct ring of a pleonasm. A word excess that resonates from screens across the country during NFL Inc.’s couch potato dance. After each disputed or scoring play this distracting phrase echoes over and over again.

Pleonasm: (pli:ənæzəm), n, the use of more words than necessary to express an idea; redundancy. In English, it appeared first during the late 16th century, and was derived from Late Latin pleonasmus, from Greek pleonasmós (“too much”), from pleonazein (“to be more than enough”), from pleon (“more”), comp. of polys (“much”). Neoplasms are antonyms of oxymora. A few examples–advance reservations, basic fundamentals, commute back and forth, consensus of opinion, join together, advance warning, surrounded on all sides, regular routine, merge together, unexpected surprise, wept tears, various and sundry, proactive planning, ATM machine.

Because Thanksgiving is more a culinary celebration and is not quite so mired down in religious overtones or lavish shopping odysseys, it is my favored holiday. Although there is that deserved guilt associated with decimating, exploiting and transforming an entire Native American culture…extinguishing entire indigenous populations across millions of square miles of land. A shameless conquest of epic proportions that has been buried in our history texts and banished from our collective conscience. Anglophilic revisionism again perseveres.

Consider serving this side dish of gratitude as part of your T-Day feast.

GRATIN DAUPHINOIS WITH POTATOES, CELERIAC & LEEKS

1-2 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
Butter, unsalted

2 large leeks, cut lengthwise, cleaned thoroughly, white and pale green parts sliced thinly crosswise
2 T unsalted butter
1 t dried thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 lbs baking potatoes, preferably russets, peeled and very thinly sliced crosswise
1 celery root, peeled and very thinly sliced crosswise

2+ C grated gruyère cheese
1+ C heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Melt butter 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add sliced leeks, thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until leeks are tender and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Set leeks aside in a bowl.

Thoroughly rub a shallow gratin or baking dish with a crushed garlic clove, and then lightly butter the dish with the end of a stick of butter. Arrange one half of the sliced potatoes and celeriac slightly overlapped in a single alternating layer. Strew half of the cooked leeks over the potatoes and celeriac. Sprinkle with half of the cheese and then evenly douse with half of the cream. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange a second layer of potatoes and celeriac followed by the remaining leeks. Top again with the remaining leeks, cheese, cream and season with salt and pepper. Lightly grate some fresh nutmeg on the top layer to finish.

Place the baking dish in the center of the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 1 hour. Should the top begin to brown too rapidly, simply cover with aluminum foil. Check for doneness with a fork. Remove from oven, let rest for at least 10 minutes, and then serve.

For ….we can make liquor to sweeten our lips
Of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut tree chips.

~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Another seasonal dish that poses noël well on a family table. This year, I may even bow to the temptation of offering a merry, merry menu for the upcoming fête. That festive notion almost attains Martha-like disquietude. Chalk it up to another one of those poorly intuited late night passing thoughts which so often fall well short during saner deliberations over a sunrise cup of joe.

Speaking of darkness, the other night it was hard to overlook a gaudy, flashing front lawn display across the street from a recent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve meal. Eerily splayed across the yard were santas, sleighs, reindeers, angels, snowmen, et al., all mechanically flickering in red and green yuleish disunion. More disturbing was the inexorable xmas dirge droning from the yard speakers to all the neighborhood until late into the night…as if they assumed that everyone would jollily join lockstep in their personal plastic fantasy. What have we done to render these holidays so dysfunctional?

On to food (a convenient escape). A root vegetable closely related to the carrot but even richer in vitamins and minerals, parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) indeed look like a pale colored, fat, broad-shouldered version of their brethern. Native to the Mediterranean basin, parsnips have been relished for centuries and may have been cultivated in ancient Greece. The word parsnip derives from the Latin pastinum, a kind of fork, because they produce short tine-like roots. The ending was modified to -nip as it was incorrectly assumed to be botanically related to the turnip which is actually a member of the mustard family.

Choose parsnips that are firm with a good creamy color without spots, blemishes, cuts, or cracks. They should have a good, uniform shape (about 4″-8″ in length) and should not be limp or shriveled. Avoid ones that are particularly large since they may prove to be tough.

Parsnips have a similar sweetness to carrots and impart a lovely nutty flavor to the potatoes. The sage lends an earthiness.

MASHED POTATOES & PARSNIPS WITH SAGE

3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
1 lb parsnips, centers cored out, peeled and roughly cut into chucks

8 whole sage leaves, finely chopped
6 T unsalted butter

1/2 C milk, warmed
1 C heavy whipping cream, warmed
4 T unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan over medium high heat, melt butter. When it stops foaming, add chopped and whole sage leaves. Cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

When done, drain potatoes and parsnips well, return to pot, add milk, sage butter, additional butter, salt and peppers, mashing vigorously until almost smooth or smashed until slightly chunky—whatever is your preference. The butter, milk and cream amounts may need to be adjusted to suit the texture of your liking. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Pourboire: For an even finer and spry texture, finish these off with a hand held (not mechanized) dough hook.

The plan is to soon discuss that heralded yet often untold and misdirected story called Thanksgiving. Some mental notes have even been collected. As if you truly care. This culinary holiday has been historically butchered ever since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed turkey day a national holiday in October, 1863—the birthplace of and starting point for “surviving the holidays?” It has always been mystifying how Thanksgiving could be established right during the chaos of the Civil War…sandwiched between the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga and during the siege of Knoxville. A siege and a feast do not seem overly compatible.

I would surmise that Hallmark and other marketing and retailer wunderkinder played a central role in that ill conceived nexus between this week and Xmas. “Black Friday” 3 days henceforth? Sounds like a dark pilgrimage which is rather faux.

Before I launch into the Plymouth Rock conquistadors of 1621 A.D., this hasty side dish will have to suffice.

SWISS CHARD & SHALLOTS, ET. AL.

3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 plump fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 t red pepper flakes

3 bunches Swiss chard, rinsed well and dried
3 T apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut off and discard chard stems and any tough center ribs. Thinly slice leaves into ribbons.

Heat olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium high heat. Add shallot, garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add chard, vinegar, salt and pepper, then continue cooking, tossing often, until wilted and softened, about 3-4 minutes.