French Fridays with Dorie: A Very Dorie Thanksgiving

I’ve been absent from French Fridays for about a month. Between work and prepping for the big Italy dinner, a lot of my normally free time has not been free. And even after the big dinner was over, I just couldn’t seem to find the time to even write up the menu and share some pictures! That has changed this week with Thanksgiving: five nearly work-free days in a row including a holiday where we give thanks for our blessings, which in our case includes our friends and family, each other, the Packers winning season, and lots of good food.

Every FFwD recipe this month has celebrated the foods and flavors of fall such as squash, pears and duck and has a notable shift to heartier dishes, all of which are perfect for a Thanksgiving for two. In addition, no matter how well I plan (and you all know sometimes that’s not very well!), there are always odds and ends in the fridge left from cooking dinner for 30 that need to be used up ASAP. With that in mind, here was our menu of Dorie dishes:

T-day Brunch:

Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs

Thanksgiving Dinner:

Spiced Squash Fennel and Pear Soup

20 Minute Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts

Cauliflower Bacon Gratin

Mushrooms with an egg on top? This has D and I written all over it.

Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs

Dorie describes the necessity of this meal due to finding she was missing the peas that were intended to go into a pea, mushroom and egg dish as a starter. I think of the resulting dish, intended to be served over toasted brioche, as the perfect brunch or lunch dish: flavorful with the taste of a variety of mushrooms, evoking the earthiness of a fall walk in the woods after a rain. Its hearty with poached eggs cooked until they are still runny inside, but at the same time not too filling as are egg dishes that include lots of cheese or vegetables. As usual, we skipped the bread and found that serving the eggs on a bed of creamy mushrooms with a side of lightly dressed arugula made the addition of toast unnecessary. Notes:

  • The mushrooms are a combination of baby bellas, shitake and oyster mushrooms left in the fridge from a pasta dish that never got made for the Italy dinner. Oyster mushrooms are delicate and almost completely dissolved in the cooking, but added a depth of flavor.
  • I reduced the shallots by more than half and omitted the herbs: I’m not a fan of strong herbal or “oniony” flavors first meal of the day. If this was served at dinner, I’d increase the shallots and add some fresh thyme.
  • Those are bacon bits added to the dish. Yep, bacon does make things better.
  • I cooked about 3 to 4 times as many mushrooms as called for in the recipe and increased the butter and cream accordingly. (The necessity for me in making this was to use up a massive amount of mushrooms and free up some fridge space.) The leftovers may be used for more egg dishes, or possibly as a topping for burgers or steaks. Yum.

We had fresh from the farm eggs (thanks Maureen!) but I don’t think that I will go through the trouble of making the ruffled eggs, poached using plastic wrap tied up into bundles, the next time I poach. Too much work for the result. Regular poaching always leaves a mess and I’ve been looking at silicone poaching cups and really think this is the direction to go in – let me know if you have used them and your opinion of how they work!

Spiced Squash Fennel and Pear Soup

There is not a single ingredient in this soup that I don’t love: I can’t quite say the same for D. In previous posts I’ve mentioned D’s dislike of dishes that combine sweet and savory items together and includes spices one associates with “sweet” dishes like cookies or cakes. This soup which includes roasted squash, pears, fennel, aromatic vegetables and spices like nutmeg and dried ginger, falls right into that camp. In addition its a pureed-smooth soup (yea, immersion blender!), which I like, where D prefers soups with some texture that are more like stews and you can taste the individual ingredients. I relished the perfect balance of sweet and savory, with the spice flavors taking a prominent but not overwhelming role. One other intriguing aspect that will make me make this soup again: it was difficult to identify each separate ingredient (perhaps other than the squash) but as a whole the flavors enhanced each other adding up to one tongue pleasing dish. The French and French-influenced dishes in “Around My French Table” are a lesson in French contrasts: many heavy with “fatty” items like cream, cheese and butter others full of vegetables and using almost no fat – it was pleasant to contrast this thick, but “light” tasting vegetable soup with the rich dishes that followed. Notes:

  • Slices of larger cooking pumpkins are available at our local Asia market, but I took a shortcut and used peeled and cubed butternut squash (2 pounds worth), roasted with a small amount of olive oil at 425 degrees for less than 45 minutes – more like 30.
  • Given that I was cooking this at the same time as three batches of mushrooms and having a conversation with D about my ongoing struggles to decide what to do about my non-working phone, there *may* be a little bit of mushroom in the soup and a little bit of onion in the mushrooms. Ah, Kitchen Mayhem.
  • The soup is finished with a tiny bit of sour cream and some toasted pinenuts left from the Italy dinner. It was just as tasty without the additions.
  • Vegetarians take note: I used a vegetable “no-chicken” bullion and water as the stock base.

20 Minute Honey-Glazed Duck Breasts

Its not unusual for us to eat duck for Thanksgiving since we don’t always spend it with family; when its just the two of us an entire turkey would mean too many turkey leftovers (Though I do love coming up with turkey dishes, just not two weeks worth of them.) Duck breasts are a real treat, but also an excuse to take the leftover duck parts and make duck confit – a D absolute favorite.  And Dorie is right – they cook quickly and are easy enough to make on a weeknight. The only thing stopping me from eating them weekly is the price. 😉 I really enjoyed the sweet-tart flavor of the sauce, with the fresh assertiveness of lime, the mellow depth of the balsamic vinegar and the honey’s sweetness. Notes:

  • Although Dorie suggests serving some bread with a little of the leftover duck fat, I find that after sauteing 4 breasts at a moderate heat the fat has an almost burnt flavor and should not be re-used. (Though I have plenty of rendered duck fat in the freezer to use for this purpose or others. 🙂
  • The times for cooking that Dorie suggests work well for the level of doneness. I cooked ours to medium as D likes them more well done, but I could have done mine more rare. Mmmmm, next time.

Cauliflower Bacon Gratin

This is the second time I’ve made this side dish and I hope it turns up on the FFwD cooking list soon so I can see what the other Doristas thought. Cauliflower is low carb and adaptable to a lot of dishes that would have used potatoes or rice, so it gets a lot of play on our stove. This week I had two heads of cauliflower (one white and one purple) and some leftover zucchini to use up. This baked vegetable side dish with its cheese, eggs, bacon and cream is quite rich – the cheese and cauliflower flavors dominate but work well together. In hindsight, it would be better served paired with the squash soup alone as a lighter meal or served with a leaner meat like chicken breast or flank steak, rather than the rich duck breast. D thought the that sauce from the duck worked nicely with the flavors of the cauliflower and cheese, and I agreed: the sauce’s acidity did help cut through the richness of the combination of dishes. Notes:

  • In place of all purpose flour, I used a low-carb flour mix I’ve mentioned in a previous post. It works well here, as any unusual flavor is masked by the vegetables and Gruyere cheese.
  • The vegetables will not cook in the short baking time that it takes the custard/gratin to set up, so both the cauliflower and the zucchini chunks have been steamed until fork tender, though separately as the cauliflower takes longer and the zucchini should be steamed lightly and still somewhat firm.  I have never shocked the cauliflower in ice water when making this: in order to keep as much water out of the custard as possible, I slightly under-steam the veggies, then place them in the baking dish to cool while I whisk the custard. They will continue cooking a bit more, before cooling, but then do not need to be patted dry.
  • For the amount of vegetables, I used 1.5 times the other recipe ingredients, though if I had more eggs on hand, I could easily have doubled it.
  • I have never baked this on a separate baking sheet; my stoneware baking dishes have high enough sides that I don’t need to worry about the ingredients bubbling over the sides, though if you are trying to reproduce the bountiful look of the photo in Dorie’s book, I suggest using a baking sheet.
  • Post script addtion: I completely forgot that I added a heads worth of roasted garlic cloves, chopped/mashed up, which were also leftover from the Italy dinner, to the custard before pouring it over the veggies.

The French Friday with Dorie group is not publishing recipes. I’m enjoying my copy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan and hope you pick one up and enjoy it too!


About Tasty Mayhem

Love to eat, cook, write. Try to think of witty things to say about the world but my thoughts are consumed by food. Mostly.
This entry was posted in Breakfast, French Fridays with Dorie, Low/er Carb, Main Dish, Side Dish, Soups, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to French Fridays with Dorie: A Very Dorie Thanksgiving

  1. mike says:

    A fantastic menu! I also made cauliflower “potatoes” this year – a big hit. Everything looks delicious!


  2. I used the free time for some Dorie make up as well. Now I’m craving some creamy mushrooms and eggs. Yum.


  3. Great make up! I’ve replicated this meal twice now and love it! Easy for entertaining and full of great flavor. Will try the eggs – your photos make them look really delish!
    Happy French Friday!


  4. Four recipes in one day! Now that’s dedication. Of the four dishes, I am most drawn to the eggs & mushroom. I can just imagine the earthy flavours of the mushrooms playing so well with the poached eggs. Thanks for posting your changes to each recipe and concise feedback. It really helps when I try the recipes later.


  5. Elin says:

    Great makeup of Dorie’s recipes 🙂 Great job! Have a nice weekend 🙂


  6. You’ve done a lot of recipes in one time. I didn’t make any of them either in the last couple of weeks. But the duck does sound really nice.


  7. Cher says:

    That’s quite the roundup!
    We have made the cauliflower gratin several times in our house & it is a HUGE hit here. It’s a great variant from the standard potato gratin (which I love, but sometimes you just need something different…)
    Have a great weekend.


  8. What a great ffwD bonanza!


  9. Alice says:

    wow it all looks so great! I think you are the only one that did three recipes! So ambitious! 🙂


  10. Jill says:

    I have to be in the right mood to enjoy a sweet + savory dish, but that soup sounds perfect! Wish there was a bowl of it in front of me for dinner tonight.


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