Every year, my family has a special dinner smack in the middle of the Canadian (which is held on the second Monday of October) and American Thanksgiving (last Thursday in November). It’s a tradition that my mom has started and I’ve begun to see it as a preview to our Christmas feast. It’s always a big dinner complete with usually expensive ingredients and all made by Mom, a cook without compare.
This year, we started off with a dish that I’ve only read and dreamed much about: brie wrapped in phyllo. Overlapping layers of paper-thin phyllo pastry encase an entire wheel of brie, which is then baked until golden. Figs provide a subtle tang. Once the phyllo is pierced, wisps of steam announce the ambrosia awaiting inside, and a pool of melting brie oozes onto the plate. I particularly like the crusty, almost-burned parts of phyllo crust toward the edges.
Mom had some Vietnamese rice paper rolls she’d been telling me about, the ones that need to be hydrated by dipping them into water. She put them to good use by filling the wrappers with cellophane (sotanghon) noodles, minced shrimp, carrots, sprouts, and served the rolls with crushed peanuts and a duo of dipping sauces, one sour-sweet, and the other similar to the viscous, brown sauce served with lumpiang ubod (heart of palm spring roll).
The second appetizer was a duet of bi-valves: diwal, an endangered Philippine shellfish, also known as angel wing clam. Similar in appearance to an oyster mushroom, the diwal is only found in the coastal waters of Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Central Philippines. It’s said to be making a comeback of sorts, after being “lost” in the market for over a decade. Sweet and chewy, it tastes much like the local mussels that come in the aquamarine shells.
My sister’s mother in law had gifted my mom with scallops from Chicago: large as an infant’s fist and an inch thick, these scallops are a constellation apart from the tiny, centavo-sized ones available locally. Juicy and sweet, I could only imagine how much they would cost in a restaurant.
Clams made another appearance at our table, this time in soup form: clam chowder, homemade with plenty of potatoes.
Mom usually makes a tomato-based pasta for Thanksgiving, but this time she tried something new from one of her cooking bibles, The Silver Palate Cookbook. Chopped apricots were the star in a noodle dish bathed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and fresh black pepper.
And what is Thanksgiving without a turkey? Personally, I prefer turkey the day after when I can chop it up and make it into a sandwich. But I do love the stuffing that comes with the turkey and it’s different every year. This year it was a lively mix of apple chunks, corn bread, breadcrumbs, whole pecans, parsley, sage, and thyme. Gritty yet smooth at the same time, this stuffing was the gravy of my meal.
While most families may pass on dessert after a meal of such magnitude, my family always has dessert, and I am the champion with the most stomach room. I brought the desserts, both of which will receive full write-ups within the month, so I won’t say much about them now. ”˜Til then, this is what we had:
and chocolate cake.
Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are and whenever you spend it!