Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Thanksgiving meal

Many of you know that Ken and I bend tradition a bit at Thanksgiving. For nearly fifteen years now, we've been roasting a leg of lamb rather than a turkey for the day's meal. We've been in France for nine (wow!) Thanksgivings so far and our non-traditional tradition has served us well; turkeys aren't generally available here until the Christmas holiday.

The main course: roasted leg of lamb and gratin dauphinois.

This year, instead of a bone-in leg, we bought a leg that had been de-boned and rolled into a roast. We still have the bone from last year's leg in the freezer, so we knew we wouldn't miss the bone at all. And a rolled roast is much easier to cook and carve than a whole leg.

The raw rolled leg of lamb with it's chopped rosemary rub.

The entrée (in France, the entrée is the first course, what Americans often call the appetizer) was a salad of radis noir (black radish) with mimolette cheese, a hard orange cheese from the north of France. The radish is only black on the outside. I peeled it, sliced it into rounds on the mandolin, and arranged the rounds in what's called a rosace pattern on plates. I used sherry vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper to dress the salad along with slices of the cheese and a garnish of cilantro from the garden.

Ingredients for the entrée salad: black radish and mimolette cheese.

I got that recipe from a French cooking show several years ago and we really like it. I realized this year that we hadn't made it in a while, so we decided it would be good to do for Thursday. The original recipe calls for chervil, but we have the cilantro growing out back so we substituted. It was delicious.

This is an example of arranging slices "en rosace." You can see that the radish is white inside.

I made a rub for the lamb with fresh rosemary chopped finely with salt and pepper. Ken put a few whole garlic cloves in the roasting pan and that was it. Along with the lamb, Ken made a gratin dauphinois (what we used to call scalloped potatoes). I used the mandolin again to slice the potatoes thinly. Ken arranged them in a dish with a mixture of milk and cream that had been flavored on the stove with bay leaves, garlic, and nutmeg. That got baked in the oven until it was golden and bubbly.

The finished and dressed salad, ready to serve!

The lamb and potato dish were our main course. The lamb got slightly more done than we like, but it still had a pink center and it tasted great. We drank a bottle of Bourgueuil with the meal. It all went very well together.

Sliced and seasoned potatoes, ready for the milk and cream mixture.

Dessert was a variation on pumpkin pie. I grew the small French pumpkins called potimarrons (red kuri squash) in the garden this year. They have a very chestnut-like flavor and are delicious as a vegetable, but work great in pumpkin bread and pie recipes. I use a standard pumpkin pie recipe, but I cut down on the sugar and the spices. That lets the nutty flavor of the squash come through and we both really like that.

Pumpkin pie for dessert!

With dessert we opened a bottle of still (as opposed to bubbly) red wine from the town called Bouzy (appropriate?) in Champagne. We had brought the bottle back with us from our trip there last month. The wine is made from pinot noir and it's very light. Not excellent, but totally drinkable. The empty bottle bears witness to that.

All in all it was a great meal, and we have leftovers!


  1. Looks scrumtious! Must try the mimolette cheese as it isn't one we know.
    We didn't have pumkin pie. I roasted off potimarron with olive oil and rosemary to go with our confit de canard.

  2. And you still have half of the
    lamb in the freezer!

  3. This looks like a wonderful meal for Thanksgiving....I have somewhere, from years ago, an article from the NYTimes written by an expat about their Thanksgiving dinner. It was nothing like the traditional one, but I loved their recipe for a custard pie flavored with Earl Grey Tea. I did a traidional (as close as I could make it) American Thanksgiving dinner for friends in Budapest in 1998. I had to do a sort of turkey casserole because whole turkeys are (or were) simply not available, and my oven was the tiniest I'd ever seen. Nor could I track down yams/sweet potatoes. My daughter mailed me cranberries and it was ridiculously expensive.....But a lovely memory.

  4. Nine Thanksgivings in France, wow! I've enjoyed reading all about this meal and don't have to deal with the extra calories.

    We had great weather this Thanksgiving in Alabama (our 32nd here).

  5. Je salive juste à regarder...

    And it's only 9 AM!!!
    I think I'll have a second breakfast!

  6. Ce rôti d'agneau semble vraiment très appétissant, comme d'ailleurs la plupart des mets que vous présentez sur ce Blog.

  7. Robb has mentioned many times that his family always had lamb for Thanksgiving dinner.

  8. I personally think lamb is a better choice than (bland)turkey. This is making me hungry.

  9. We had the traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberries....etc etc etc you know the drill. But this year was like one of those TV jumping on the furniture....with parents not seeming to notice. People pissed off for what seemed like no reason.

    I worked for three days putting this meal together.....I'm done with it. Next year I will find a nice place to eat out...and I won't be so disappointed and exhausted.

    God I wish I'd been at your house. Thanks for such great pictures.
    Victoria, Bellingham, WA
    Victoria, Bellingham, WA

  10. Hi Walt, we have many, many potimarrons from our small garden in Normandy. We brought them back to the UK and are enjoying them in soup but I would love to make 'your' pumpkin pie.... any chance of the recipe please? Being English, it's not something I've grown up with, but would like to try it.
    Your whole meal looks and sounds delicious. Yum!

  11. ...and a nice fresh baguette to boot....

  12. I have never seen a black radish!

  13. n&a, mimolette is good. I think its origins may be in the Netherlands, but I'm not certain.

    l&s, it sure tasted that way!

    sheila, well, a third. I think Ken cut into 1/3 and 2/3 sections. We cooked the larger one for t-day and froze the smaller one for another time.

    kristi, I think it's good to mess around with traditions a bit to personalize them. Makes them more meaningful and memorable, as you pointed out.

    evelyn, my how time flies!

    jon, always a good idea! ;)

    olivier, il était vraiment délicieux! Merci!

    starman, wow! He's the first one I've heard of, besides us!

    nadege, I like turkey, and we sometimes get one around christmas. But French turkeys are better than the mass-produced ones for American Thanksgiving. We used to find good, smaller, free-range birds in SF.

    victoria, I know what you mean. :)

    catherine, cool! I'll work on posting the recipe. It's a pretty easy one!

    victor, always! This IS France, after all. ;)

    michael, they're crisp, spicy, and tasty!

  14. You guys ROCKKKKK the house! Seriously..... I will NEVER tire or grow bigger just LOOKING and DROOLING over your food pics!!

    Glad you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Looks like it was a DELISH meal!!!


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