22 November 2005

Cooking greens for Thanksgiving

We are having Thanksgiving dinner with a group of new and old friends in Blois on Thursday. There will be 6 French people, 3 and maybe 4 Americans, and one Franco-American. The person who is hosting the dinner was born in America but has lived in France since she was six years old. Her mother is French, but her father was American.

The host is cooking the turkey, some vegetables, and a spice cake. Walt is making cranberry relish and a pumpkin pie (pumpkin from our vegetable garden).

The cranberries are a whole story. We haven't been able to find any here in Saint-Aignan or up in Blois. Last year a French friend of mine in Rouen (Normandy) told me she was able to find cranberries up there. I sent her an e-mail and asked her if she could send me some. She found some yesterday and sent them. We should receive them tomorrow. My mother asked me if we couldn't just buy canned cranberry sauce here, and the answer is no. It doesn't exist.

For the Thanksgiving dinner, I'm making and taking cornbread and cornbread stuffing, along with a dish of collard greens. Unless you're a Southerner, collard greens might not seem like a traditional Thanksgiving dish. But it is to me, and I have collard greens growing in my vegetable garden. The weather has cooperated perfectly with my plans. The best collard greens are ones that have been touched by frost, and we've had three or four nights of sub-freezing weather now. So my collard greens should be delicious. I just went out and cut a fine mess of big leaves.

Here's how I cooked the last ones I made. I think I'll do about the same thing this time.

First you dice up a few carrots and chop a couple of onions. Sauté all that in just a little duck fat or vegetable oil or butter, whatever you prefer, at low heat so that the vegetables soften. I happen to have duck fat on hand. Add a little salt and pepper. When they're ready, remove the carrots and onions from the pan and set them aside.

Then wash and chop 20 or so big collard-green leaves. You can also use a couple of pounds of Belgian endive, all chopped up, or a chopped up cabbage — whatever you like. Cook the greens or cabbage or endive with a little chicken or duck broth or water until they have softened some. I happen to have duck broth. A little glug of white wine is always good too — in the pan, I mean. Salt and pepper again, just a little. Let the greens cook until they are starting to wilt.

Add the carrot-onion mixture to the pan. Then add some little pieces of chicken or duck or other meat, whatever you like. Or no meat. Put 6 or 8 peeled potatoes on top, if you want them. Cover tightly and let cook for a hour or so at low temperature, until the potatoes are nice and done. If your greens are collards, they should be meaty and good.

Doesn't that sound and look delicious? I don't think I'll put in the meat or potatoes this time. The turkey is going to be stufffed with sausage meat and foie gras. That'll be enough.

It was very cold this afternoon. I went out with Collette and took these pictures as the sun was starting to go down. One is a wide-angle shot, and the other is a close-up of the same thing. You can click on the pictures to see an enlarged view.


  1. Bravo, Ken. I loved the "Cooking Greens" story. I'm taking a break from stock making for the dinde. Mary and I are having people in tomorrow. What is the word for cranberry in French? I remember some little berries served with game, but I don't recall having cranberries.

    Love your running commentary with the pictures. We enjoy them immensely. I can smell the food, the crisp air, and my tummy rumbles for some of the goodies. Meanwhile, having a wonderful Jour de Merci Donnant and stay in touch. And please tell Walt I enjoyed his family and the trip back East. Cheers. Love, Gabby.

  2. Hi Gabby, it's nearly time now for us to head up to Blois for the Thanksgiving dinner. We have made our pie, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, and greens.

    Cranberry in French isn't clear. There's the word "canneberge", which I think is Canadian French more than French French. The European variety of the cranberry is called the "airelle" and it seems to come from Scandinavia. The packages of cranberries my friend in Rouen sent us are Ocean Spray Cranberries, with the French translation "airelles fraîches".

    Hope your Thanksgiving is a good one. Hope also to see you in 2006,



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