Next week, most Americans will be gathered around a table of some sort to celebrate Thanksgiving, and by “celebrate,” I mean stuff their faces until a button or four pops off any variety of shirt, pants, blouse, or skort. And when it comes to gut-busting food, no one does it better than Ina Garten. That’s why it was only logical that my clique would convene yet again for our third Barefoot Contessa potluck night, this time in honor of Thanksgiving. Yes, we assembled a small pre-Thanksgiving Thanksigiving and enjoyed some of Ina’s best seasonal offerings. On the menu: turkey, stuffing, veggies, salad, pumpkin stuff, dip, and, of course, booze. How bad can that be?
If you’re looking for inspiration for next week’s big feast, you’ve come to the right place. Check out our Mayflower celebration — replete with a real life American Indian! — after the jump…
(additional pictures by jash — ie. the ones that clearly came from a better camera)
We arrive at sunset. The backdrop is so lovely (especially given that we’re in the VALLEY) that we’re motivated to take pictures even earlier than usual. Sly and jash smile for the camera. So far they’re not strangling each other, which is something to be thankful about indeed.
Entering Greg and Andrea’s house, we discover that the decorations have already fast-forwarded beyond Turkey Day and directly to Christmas. This is no surprise to any of us as Andrea has been chomping at the bit to play Christmas music since at least the Fourth of July.
Meanwhile, I totally photobomb this picture of Andrea and jash.
Honing their inner Gartens, Greg and Andrea engage in a loving moment. Andrea does not, however, then leave her arm on Greg’s shoulder and escort him out to an herb garden for scallops and panna cotta.
In attendance are me, Sly, jash, Greg, and Andrea. We’re also waiting on a sixth member, our token Drag and Drop Asian (to tag in for Malibu Judie, who is absent once again). Unfortunately, Drag and Drop Asian is in charge of cocktail hour; so while we await her libations, we do what any group of people would do: take endless photos.
Greg preps Ina’s roasted Brussels sprouts — as seen just twenty-four hours earlier on her latest episode, “Thanksgiving 2.0.” However, in true Ina Garten spirit, Greg “hotrods” the recipe and adds bacon. How bad can that be?
Kudos to Greg and Andrea for arranging a lovely table. Miguel would be proud.
Note the pumpkins. Also from “Thanksgiving 2.0.” We don’t mess around.
Meanwhile, we dig into Sly’s first contribution of the evening: Ina’s smoked salmon spread. Totally delicious. I should note, however, that after the last potluck’s CÅ“ur Ã la CrÃ¨me, Sly made an emotional plea for there to be less cream and cheese in this menu. And so what did she make? A smoked salmon dip with CREAM CHEESE AND SOUR CREAM. This bait and switch most certainly was NOT in the spirit of Plymouth Rock (but given that it tasted so good, all was forgiven).
I’d like to note that I wore my autumnal sweater for the occasion, and as such, I blended right into the color scheme of Greg and Andrea’s kitchen. IT’S LIKE MY HEAD IS FLOATING MID-AIR!
As we’re all a bunch of alcoholics anyway, we decide to open up some bubbly while Drag and Drop Asian is en route. Note the look of glee on our faces.
Of course, the moment we take our first sips of bubbly, Drag and Drop Asian arrives. We’re encouraged to see that she’s brought an entire giant box of cocktails and various related goods.
This could only end well.
Sly holds sway at the table as the promise of a stiff cocktail raises her spirits immensely.
On the cocktail menu are Ina’s pomegranate martinis, as portrayed here quite literally by jash.
OOOH. Behind the scenes of the previous picture! Exciting!
Sly, meanwhile, has no patience for this pomegranate folly. If she doesn’t have alcohol in her glass in ten seconds, she’s liable to flip the table. (Or at least threaten to before sighing deeply and stating that such a display of frustration would require entirely too much effort.)
Luckily, the martinis are soon ready. From this point on, there’s a steady stream of them over the next several hours. Just the way the pilgrims did it.
Behold the artistry. Ina’s friend Barbara Lieberman has nothing on us.
Continued toasting. I don’t remember what or who we toasted to, but I can assure you it wasn’t Barbara Lieberman.
Checking on the oven action: stuffing, gratin, and Brussels sprouts all seem to be doing well. I should note that once again we were inundated with smoke. We weren’t sure if it came from the bacon in the Brussels sprouts or merely leftover gunk from the last Barefoot Contessa potluck. Either way, we were getting quite accustomed to the tradition of fanning the air.
Dramatic recreation of the smokey kitchen. I’m sure Barbara Lieberman would have a snippy comment about it.
Soon the Brussels sprouts emerge, looking quite amazing I should note.
Meanwhile, Ina’s turkey roulade rests on the countertop. Thank God Barbara Lieberman isn’t there. She’d tear right into it, being the animal that she is.
A sneak peak at the spinach gratin (one of my contributions). Devotees might remember that this dish was a last minute cancellation at our last potluck, thanks to an unfortunate incident involving chocolate and an inquisitive French bulldog. Luckily, it made it to the table this second time around.
Sly’s second contribution of the night: Ina’s roasted butternut squash salad with warm cider vinaigrette.
Note the charming giraffe utensils. It’s quite appropriate as Sly is often likened to a giraffe in certain circles (ie. our own).
Andrea prepares the buffet. Anticipation builds.
VoÃ¬la! From left to right, we have Sly’s salad, then celery root and apple purÃ©e (courtesy of me), the brussels sprouts, stuffing (courtesy of Andrea), and the gratin.
We decide to start with a salad course while the turkey continues to rest. Note the irony here: ME, the white man, serving jash, an American Indian. Oh how the tables have turned!
Andrea, excited to dig in, quickly rushes to the table and waits for us to gather ’round.
The salad is quite beautiful and tastes shockingly great. It may not look like it, but each bite packs a powerful punch of flavors and textures. A huge surprise. Plus — and this was a big deal for me — the salad featured candied cranberries, and rather than push them to the side like normal, I willingly ate them with NO PROBLEM. A major step forward in my culinary development (I hate berries).
Greg carves up the roulade with remarkable precision (except for the pieces that he messed up on, of which there were several in the middle).
And now we move on to the main course.
My plate. Delightful noshing ensues.
A random Santa interlude.
Maggie the dog is magnetically drawn to the dinner table.
Her curiosity is soon replaced by a sudden and rapturous desire to roll around on her back.
This ultimately ends with some spirited shaking.
Greg and Andrea once again get all Geoffrey and Ina on us.
It’s not long before Andrea is two sheets to the wind. Most certainly NOT like Ina Garten — bitch can hold her booze.
Soon jash unveils his dish for the evening: pumpkin mousse parfait. They were quite lovely, even if the serving was ENTIRELY too much after that big meal (not that I didn’t finish it. I most certainly did).
Meanwhile, tension mounts as jash tries to steal Sly’s martini. Note the mixture of rage and concern in her eyes.
Soon Sly migrates to the floor where she can be one with the dogs.
And the verdict? Once again, Ina did not steer us wrong. Everything was totally delicious, even those items (the stuffing, the salad) that had sneaky cranberries in them. We tried to pinpoint which dish was the best, but as usual, it was nearly impossible to pick a favorite. The gratin was cheesy awesomeness, the turkey perfectly moist, the stuffing rich and complex, the celeriac unexpected and bright, the Brussels sprouts simple yet delectable, and the pumpkin mousse a lovely alternative to the usual pie. And let’s not overlook the martinis and the salmon dip – both stars in their own way.
However, if I had to pick the one standout, the dish that lingered in my mind long afterwards, it would have to be the salad. I think it was the surprise factor that got me. I really didn’t expect it to pack so much flavor, but the dressing — made from reduced cider — and the roasted butternut squash totally elevated the entire dish. I don’t get the impression that it’s a salad one can just toss together five minutes before dinner, but for entertaining, it should be a no-brainer.
I think I speak for everyone when I say all these recipes would be perfect additions to the Thanksgiving table next week. Once again, here they are:
â€¢ Pomegranate Martinis
â€¢ Smoked Salmon Spread
â€¢ Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
â€¢ Turkey Roulade (& stuffing)
â€¢ Spinach Gratin
â€¢ Celery Root and Apple Puree
â€¢ Roasted Brussels Sprouts
â€¢ Pumpkin Mousse Parfait