Thanksgiving – French Style

Assembling the gratins.

About eight years ago my mom, sister, and I were trying to plan the usual Thanksgiving dinner when it came out that all three of us weren’t huge fans of turkey!  I know – it’s practically un-American.  Once that was revealed my mom decided to vent her frustration with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  The entire dinner takes hours and hours to cook and is consumed in less than 30 minutes, after which everyone collapses into a food coma.  That’s obviously a bit of hyperbole but I think it pretty much sums up the weaknesses of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  Now there are so many great traditions that make up the larger picture that it really isn’t fair to summarize it that succinctly but that was our conclusion.  So we decided to do something different.  My mom hit the nail on the head when she said, “I know, we’ll do a Babette’s Feast!”  Now Babette’s Feast is a long-time family favorite – a Danish movie made in 1987, I think I first watched it when I was 8 or 9.  At the time quite a bit went over my head due to the fact that the subtitles went by a bit fast for my little eyes to get every line.  As I’ve grown older my appreciation of this movie and its wonderful messages increases.  On the surface it’s the story of how great food can bring different people together and feed not only your body but your soul.  On a deeper level it’s about religiosity and legalism overcome by grace and selfless love.  It’s about how food prepared with care and sacrifice creates community and tears down the defenses we hide behind.  I’ve watched this movie on a fairly regular basis and like it more and more with each viewing.  So when Mom came up with the idea of putting on our own Babette’s Feast we were all excited.  That was about eight years ago and our Babette’s Feasts have taken on a few different forms.  This year we decided to do it again and my mom and I quickly got busy planning the menu.

Here’s how it all played out.

First Course:

  • Foie Gras Crostini with French Sea Salted Butter paired with French Pears and Fuji Apples
  • Pairing: Veuve Cliquot Champagne

Second Course:

  • Escargot with French Sea Salted Garlic and Parsley Butter served in Shells
  • Pairing: Veuve Cliquot Champagne

Third Course:

  • Mixed Baby Salad Greens with French Endive, Roquefort, Avocados, and dressing made with French White Wine Mustard
  • Paring: Guigal Cotes-du-Rhone Rosé

Fourth Course:

  • Mushroom é made with Cantrell, Bella, and Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Pairing: Roc de Châteauvieux Pinot Noir

Fifth Course:

  • Duck Breast prepared two ways:

Grilled with served with Green Peppercorn Sauce

Sautéed and served with a Port and Cherry Reduction

  • Steamed Haricot Vert
  • Mini Leek, Potato, and Comté Gratins
  • Pairing: Ménage à Trois California Red and Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon

Sixth Course and our ode to Traditional American Thanksgiving:

  • Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

It was delightful.  The great thing about this dinner is that so much of it is cooked just before serving – meaning that the meal is spread out over several hours!  This accomplishes two things: lots of family time around the table and no food comma.  Here’s some pictures from the day.

Thin sliced potatoes for the Leek, Potato and Compte Gratins

Getting the table ready.

Waiting to be steamed.

Beginning the Mushroom Consummé.

The escargots prepped and waiting to be put in the oven.

I think endive is so pretty.

Becca, Grace, and Mom


Table is coming together.

Table gets longer every year!

Salad ingredients waiting to be assembled.

Assembling the first course.

Escargot just pulled from the oven!

I didn’t get any pictures of the duck, which is a bummer because it was gorgeous!  And completely delicious.  Such a special time of being together – we all shared a Thanksgiving meditation or story and had lots of laughs and sweet moments.  As it was my first Thanksgiving in the States for several years it was especially memorable.  Cooking everything with my mom was a great adventure – not something I get to do very often anymore.  I had smuggled in the foie gras along with some amazing French butter and mustard – the perfect touches to lend authenticity to our Babette’s Feast.  For those of you who are looking for alternatives to Thanksgiving dinner (not that there are many), I would highly recommend a French approach!  Bon Appetite!

PS: My sisters Katie and Tot were assistant photographers on Thanksgiving and they took some of these pics! I think they did a great job.

About Rebecca

Hi! After five years in Europe, I'm adjusting to life back in the US. I use this blog to record my adventures, post photos, organize recipes, and post about things that interest me.
This entry was posted in Back in the States, Cooking, Family, Food, Holidays. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Thanksgiving – French Style

  1. aleja watkins says:

    I just love all the pictures of the family!! I haven’t seen you guys in soooooo long!!! Your dinner looked amazing, and I also second the wanting to do something different for Thanksgiving dinner!! Next time you are out here, let me know so maybe we can try to swing down for a visit. I know family time is sacred, but I would LOVE to catch up!!

  2. Audrey says:

    What a fab feast!
    Babette would be proud!

  3. Cindy says:

    So creative, warm and cheery (just like the Berg’s). I love how your family is growing!

  4. Aunt Cori says:

    Thanks for sharing your fabulous feast and memories of a wonderful family time together at TG!

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