The summer of 2009 ended up being an intersection of sorts. I had read the book Julie and Julia and had been introduced to a world that, for me, had not even existed – an individual person blogging! And cooking through an entire cookbook as a project!! The following year, I started blogging myself when I joined the group French Fridays with Dorie. Before that happened, however, We had a French adventure of our own.
In August of 2009, we went to see the movie Julie and Julia based on the book, and the idea was born – a “Julia” Thanksgiving. You see, since the mid-80s, I’ve been creating Thanksgiving menus for our family gatherings. They always include quintessential elements, but the menus change from year to year – some bringing back childhood favorites, others a departure. This was going to be a “big” year, all of my brothers and their families would gather with us. It was going to be an all-out feast.
I had a number of Julia Child cookbooks – of course notably Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not every recipe is from that book, but the lion’s share are, or at least they are a riff on something that I thought Julia might make. I also always send out a document with the menu and recipes (the entire menu and recipes are linked). It’s fun to think ahead, and since not everyone can get together every year it’s also fun to share.
The real stars of the show were the canards, the potatoes and the dressing. Even with a French menu, the sides steal the show. This was an all-day affair to put this together, and there was a lot of help – though to be honest, the ducks were really a one-person dish.
It was a beautiful fall day, so my sisters-in-law were able to enjoy the sunshine while prepping potatoes.
Others spent time chopping pecans, baking pies and tarts, and prepping the massive amount of garlic for the potatoes. I can always count on my sous chefs; brother Clark, and nieces Kelsey and Jillian. Chris can be counted on for a grilled turkey
The soup as a starter was a hit. and the meal itself was amazing. It was worth all of the effort to make the potatoes – and don’t be put off by the amount of garlic. Simmered and with the butter and cream. Divine!
The duck was a challenge to make, but so much fun. I’ve de-boned what seems like a zillion birds over the years, but ducks aren’t meaty, so not quite as forgiving as a turkey, but it all worked out. The bird itself is steeped in cognac and port, the filling is a savory meat filling (really, it is a terrine), with more booze and lots of spices. Finally, the duck is encased in pastry and baked. We needed two (!) to serve the crowd, and we planned on serving them warm, though classically I think it’s really served cold. Of course, being Thanksgiving, we had to throw in a bit of flourish with fall leaves decorating the pastry crust.
We made a couple of kinds of pie as well – an apple galette and pumpkin praline pie – I thought that the praline would add just enough the right note of “French”.
I don’t have pictures of it, but the dressing was fabulous – a mixture of mushrooms along with herbs and brioche. There were plenty of shenanigans, along with a lot of help. A true family effort.
And of course, we had to have some French table settings too.
We had such a fun time and even with the massive quantities, I think we went through most of the food (plenty of young appetites ready for a great meal after a hike!) it was all so delicious.
So, this was my start down the French Friday path. We had such a great time making this absolutely amazing meal. And it wouldn’t be long before I started my own blog. So, Thanksgiving and blogging collided. As we wind down cooking through Around My French Table, I thought I’d share with you the menu for this amazing meal. Maybe you’ll find something to inspire your own French Thanksgiving – Julia style.