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Thanksgiving Minus The Gobble

What? Turkey AGAIN? A week had passed since Thanksgiving 2021, and husband Peter and I were still facing turkey soup, sandwiches, chili, tacos. “Next year,” we vowed, “we’re NOT doing turkey.” We decided on duck after considering lobster, salmon or a vegetarian entrée.

Making It Festive
Groovy DC (321 7th St. SE) carries taper candles, napkins and paper pop-up harvest wreathes and pop-up flowers, including sunflowers, the Ukrainian national bloom. Plus decorative pumpkins with glittery stems. Blue Iris (Eastern Market) offers lovely pumpkin/floral arrangements. Hill’s Kitchen (713 D St SE) provides roasting pans, potato mashers, tablecloths, napkins and fun hostess gifts like caramel-filled Chouquette chocolates depicting celebrities. Patrick’s Fine Linens & Home Decor (District Wharf) sells china, glassware and barware. To sharpen your carving: Union Meat Company (Eastern Market) and Frager’s Hardware (1115 Penn. Ave. SE). If necessary, rent chairs and other essentials from Frager’s.

Delicious Food and Drink
Before dinner, sip McBride Sisters sparkling brut rose from Chat’s (Barracks Row, 508 8th St. SE), Graham Beck Brut (South Africa), or sparkling apple-cranberry cider. Nibble cranberry smoked salmon from Neopol Savory Smokery (Union Market) or pates and dips from Eastern Market Grocery. Or splurge on caviar from Bowers Fancy Dairy Products (Eastern Market). Bowers has a great selection of artisan cheeses such as Roquefort, Brie, Cheddar, herbed chevre, pecorino. There’s also fresh butter, mustards, chutneys, pates and crackers.

In Eastern Market, Thomas Calomiris offers an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

Once seated, light candles and launch your feast with curried pumpkin soup. Here’s a recipe from the long-gone Yellow Brick Bank restaurant in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. We often buy our pumpkin and other produce from Thomas Calomiris & Sons in Eastern Market or Dan Donahue’s Agora Farms (farmers line).  Head for Mason & Greens on Barracks Row for organic pumpkins, squash, and other vegetables including huge sweet potatoes. For olive oil, check out Devo Imports/Dimitrios Giannakos (farmers line), who also sells Kalamata olives, vinegars, tapenades, spices.

1½ pounds pumpkin or 1 (27-ounce) can unseasoned pumpkin
Olive oil as needed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 TBLs curry powder
½ pint half-and-half (or coconut milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of paprika and turmeric (for added color)
Fresh parsley or chives, snipped (for garnish), optional

If using fresh pumpkin, cut in half and scoop out seeds and insides. Cut into small chunks. Place in a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer about 15 minutes until pumpkin is soft. (Or microwave until pumpkin is soft.) When pumpkin is cool enough to handle, remove skin. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet and saute onions and garlic until soft; do not allow to burn. Add curry powder and other seasonings. Transfer to a soup pot and add chicken stock; simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Add half-and-half. Pour mixture into blender and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour into individual bowls and sprinkle with chives or parsley if desired. Serves about 6 as a first course.

The Main Event
Now for the duck! A whole Culver duck or Grimard Farms Muscovy duck breasts are available at Capitol Hill Poultry (Eastern Market). Harvey’s Market (Union Market) carries D’Artagan whole ducks or sections thereof. Following is a recipe provided by friend Dale Birdoff:

2 Muscovy duck breasts
1 teaspoon duck fat, rendered from the pan-fried breasts
Cooking oil, as needed, divided
1 medium shallot, minced
8 ounces dried cherries
2 cups Marsala or Madeira wine
¼ teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Squirt of lemon juice (optional)

With a sharp knife, make several slashes in the skin of each duck breast. Brush the skin side of the duck with about 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining oil. Add the duck and cook, turning once, until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Transfer the duck to a cutting board; set aside to cool slightly.

Heat duck fat in a skillet over medium heat. When duck breasts have finished cooking and have been transferred to a plate, drain all but 1 teaspoon of fat in the pan and add the shallot, cook 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring until translucent. Add dried cherries and wine and increase heat to medium to bring to a low boil. Cook about 20 minutes, or until cherries are soft and glazed and the liquid has almost evaporated. Add thyme, pepper and salt to taste. Remove from heat; add a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

Slice each duck breast on the diagonal into 4 to 6 slices. Arrange them on individual plates, add cherry mixture and serve immediately. Serves about 6.

Sides Make the Meal
We love cornbread, especially the jalapeno/cheddar at RavenHook Bakehouse, available Saturdays and Tuesdays at the farmers line and in Union Market. RavenHook also sells sourdough, rosemary bread, stuffing and pies.

At Eastern Market’s farmers line and in Union Market, RavenHook Bakehouse hawks cornbread, sourdough, stuffing and more.

Capitol Hill is blessed with a plethora of fresh produce. Besides Thomas Calomiris & Sons and Eastern Market Grocery inside Eastern Market, there’s the weekend farmers row. At 400 *th St. SE is the recently opened  Mason & Greens (organic grains, dried beans, rice and fresh vegetables including huge sweet potatoes) and at 1300 H St. NE on weekends find your local produce at FreshFarms Farmers Market.

Here’s an idea: Sister-in-law Mary Mastin roasts 4 cups Brussels sprouts (split) in olive oil, 2/3 cups pecan halves, ¾ cups dried cranberries and 4 strips shredded bacon, with a splash of balsamic vinegar. (Vegetarians can skip the bacon.) Serves 4 to 6.

Chat’s carries poultry-friendly wines including Oregon Pinot Noir and Garnache (red) from Spain’s Catalan region. Nearby, DCanter Wine Boutique offers a dry Riesling, Egri Bikaver  (red) from Hungary, plus non-alcoholic options. Classy Wine Corks Wine & Spirits (801 Virginia Ave. SE) has experts who can help you make the best selection for your meal. Schneider’s (300 Mass. Ave NE) has Weinbach Riesling (Alsace), Albarino (Spain). Ask about their Mixed Case Special.

On Barracks Row, Chat’s Burnie Williams displays his extensive wine selection.

A farmers line mainstay is Ma Brown’s Southern Gourmet. She makes mean pecan, sweet potato and pumpkin pies, as well as pineapple upside cakes. Inside the Market, Fine Sweet Shoppe carries pecan, apple and cherry pies, red velvet cupcakes, carrot cakes. Safeway offers holiday-themed cakes, cupcakes  and pies and Carvel ice cream cakes. These confections go well with Ruby (or Tawny) port, available at most wine shops. Schneider’s carries Leyenda Oloroso (sherry).


Thanksgiving Menu
Cheeses and smoked salmon
Curried Pumpkin Soup
Duck with Dried Cherry Confit
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Pecan Pie


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