The last week in November here Chez Nous went really well; we were graced with family and friends coming together to celebrate something that we Americans hold quite dear: Thanksgiving. Now, no, not just an excuse to eat but a moment in time where we stop, look back on what has gone on over the past year, give thanks for what we recieved and then look forward to the next year. That's the custom in my family, and it reaches back as far as I can remember, in a mostly unbroken chain throughout my life.
My family are Christian; on my Mother's side it stretches back to the first Quakers who came to the American colonies, my great-great-something Grandfather and great-great something Grand-Uncle. My Maternal Grandfather was a farmer and a preacher in rural Alabama from just before the turn of the last century. I went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible school from the year dot. I was baptised and confirmed. My Father used to run Bible Studies in our huge living room during the 60's. I sang in the church choir every Sunday morning for years. In fact, my parents met each other in the church choir in Chattanooga, where my Mother was working for the TVA and my Father was helping to run my grandparents' hotel and restaurant business.
So you could say we were 'Churchy', I suppose, and you might be right.
We, (my Mother, Father, Sister, Aunts, Uncles, cousins and I,) always celebrated the Christian Year and I can say this quite matter-of-factly, I have my Faith and it's private to me.
However, it has always been accepted in our family that one should 'lead by example' and that the quintessence of a person is discovered by how they act and behave towards their fellows in real life, not the words they spout. Also that a person's Faith is highly intimate and private to that particular individual. Consequently, I won't try to convert you to my way of thinking and you shouldn't try to convert me to yours. It's just not respectful. It's like saying the way YOU think, or what you believe to be true is inferior to my mindset so I need to *fix you* and change your own 'personal to you' way of thinking or your belief system, and well, excuse me, (and I look at quite a few door-knockers out there) as far as I'm concerned, that's just not on. Therefore, if you are ever curious, you may ask me about my Faith, but - I won't offer unprompted. That's just the way I am. Period. End of discussion.
So there you have it. That's my 'Religious Rant' for the year over. Thank you for listening.
The ten of us for Thanksgiving dinner turned to nine at the last moment when one of the guests on the morning of the party was diagnosed with the A1H1 virus, (which has been given the charming sobriquet of 'Swine Flu' by the media,) and they wisely but sadly had to send regrets. They were very sorely missed by all who attended, but with this Influenza Pandemic and how it has been touching so many in the local area, their choice was the best taken. So as to partially make up for their lack of partaking of the feast, a goodly portion of food was wrapped up and sent home to them, which they were then able to nuke and enjoy a few days later.
Now the turkey was, by French standards, massive; a rather astonishing 11.5 kg (or just shy of 25 1/2 pounds in Old Money) of very well-fed bird. The crop still had a few bits of whole dried maize and wheat berries inside. Charming.
(I'll point out now you never run into the crop and other bits such as the feet and ALL of the neck with the dangley head still attached when you get an American frozen Butterball turkey or even a fresh Free-Range Bronze turkey. So let's deduct 500g for the bits that went straight into a pan, did not pass go, did not get used for stock but were cooked in a small covered saucepan for our two cats to happily dine upon afterwards. Both Angel and Triskel were very thankful indeed and spent the night purring in laps, with happy cat smiles affixed.)
Now I would really like to show you the pictures I took of Monsieur Dinde covering most of the 45 cm oven top since you will remark, "How the devil did you get that thing IN there?" but since I have misplaced my lead to transfer the images over, we'll all just have to imagine LARGE turkey, tiny oven. (When I find the fool usb-thing, I have oodles of fun stuff to Blog about.)
So, let's just get on with the recipe, I think.
I have used a variation on this recipe for years; it's how my Mother did the stuffing or dressing for the turkey. (Stuffing if it's cooked in the turkey, Dressing if it's cooked outside the turkey. Your mileage may vary, but that's how we define it.) The Epicurious recipe found here is a great place to start... or just use it as is!
So here we are, into the new year and I got such a hankering for stuffing I was beginning to even consider roasting another damn turkey. Plus the girls love it. And I have all these bits of fig and walnut bread left over from our Champagne and foie gras orgy on Christmas Day. What to do?
I know! I'll concoct some kind of yummyness by using 6-8 large eggs, some milk and chicken stock, rather creating a kind of custard to pour over the bits of bread, oven-roasted marrons or chestnuts; smoky lardons of bacon and fresh sausage meat (both meats pre-cooked first before assembly); quartered whole mushrooms sautéed in demi-sel butter with chopped celery, chopped Roscoff rose onions instead of leeks, a sprig of minced fresh sage and a couple peeled and chopped Granny Smith apples; a couple handfuls of dried cranberries and some chopped toasted pecans; fold this all together and dump into a large buttered glass baking dish and call it Savoury Bread Pudding! It actually worked really well, and the only thing I'd do differently would be to skip the milk and just use the chicken stock and eggs... but then it isn't really bread pudding. Also, it's rather nice after it's cold, just sliced and eaten as a snack, as I'm doing now.
Try that stuffing recipe from Epicurious, you'll never consider Paxo ever again... or Mrs. Cubbinson's.