Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Harvest Pheasant, The Progress of a Dinner III

Third Course
Feast or Pheasant?
(NOT "Just Desserts")

I hope each of you had the happiest and most blessed Thanksgiving ever. 

I intended to post this Thanksgiving night, but I was enjoying my family too much, as it should be.  I was lucky enough to have both of my parents, both of my sons, my youngest sister with her husband and my niece, and several friends with me.

I hope that you will enjoy the post tonight and use the recipes and table ideas throughout this holiday season. 

I look forward to sharing my first Holiday Season/Christmas of blogging with all of you!

At this point, as my Father often says,
"You have labored and produced."

It is time to enjoy
 just like the Pilgrims did on that first 
Thanksgiving so long ago.

You have earned your "just desserts".

NOTHING in life is perfect,
despite all our BEST efforts.

The way I approach life is:
Do everything you can humanly do,
 and then let go and don't worry about
what you have no control over.

Now is that time.
Relax now and enjoy your day, your family, your friends, your home, and of course your feast,
and NOT just the desserts!

This is the menu I shared with my family.

Thanksgiving Menu

Salmon Mousse* with Cucumber Slices and Crackers

Cheese Board, Blues and Bries

Pickled Okra
Seasoned Cashews
Cheese Straws
Champagne Cocktails*
Roasted Oysters

Wild Mushroom Soup*

Spinach Pomegranate Salad
 Champagne Vinaigrette

Apple Cider Roast Turkey Breast
Nanny's Cornbread Dressing*
Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Honey Roasted Root Vegetables

Mamaw's Chess Pie*
Raspberry Trifle
Chocolate Kahlua Peppermint Cocktails*

Hmmm, these cocktail recipes are mine,
 and the food recipes are family recipes handed down from my grandmothers, both of whom were divine cooks.
I wonder what that says about me?
Oh well, they are all delicious!

These are my go to cocktail for holidays and any type of celebration.  They are festive, beautiful, simple to make, utterly delicious and not expensive, even for a party.

Sugar Cubes
Angostura Bitters
Orange slices or rinds

Place a sugar cube in a champagne flute. 
Cover with bitters.  You will have to experiment with how much you like.  I like it heavy.
Rub the rim of the glasss with a slice or rind of orange.
Place the orange on the sugar cube.
Carefully fill the glass with champagne.
(The sugar tends to make the champagne extra fizzy.)

I watched Nanny make it many times, and of course tasted and tasted for her.
It is my very favorite Thanksgiving dish.  I never actually stuff the turkey. 
I bake the dressing in a pan and put celery, onion and apples slices in my turkey cavity
with sage, salt, and pepper for flavor.  (I discard these when the turkey is cooked). 
I also pour about 2 cups of apple juice around my turkey. I tent the turkey and cook it in a covered roaster.  The breast is NEVER dry.

Nanny's Cornbread (see recipe below)
2 slices White Bread
 6 cans Swanson's Chicken Broth

Chop onion and celery. Place about 1 1/2 cups of each in a pot with the chicken broth.
Bring to a boil.  Turn to simmer and cover.  Simmer for approximately 2 hours. 
 Celery and onion should be tender.
Break cornbread into pieces and place in a casserole dish along with the bread,
 also torn into pieces.
Using a large slotted spoon, add onion and celery pieces to the cornbread until you see pieces throughout the cornbread.
Using a measuring cup, dip broth from the pot and pour over cornbread until it is well wet,
but NOT soupy.
Add pepper and lots of sage to taste.  The broth is salty, so be stingy with the salt.
I love the sage and usually use most of a small container.
As Nanny always said though,  you can keep adding, but you cannot take it out.
So, be careful here.
I encourage LIBERAL tasting to get it just right.

Cover with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Note that this dressing does not have eggs in it and will not spoil as easily.

Ok, I am NOT trying to brag, but everyone no matter their age,
who eats this cornbread swears it is THE best ever. 
You MUST bake it in a small iron skillet and you must use
Martha White Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix, no substitutes.

Crisco Oil
 2 c. Martha White Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix
2 c. Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Pour approximately 1/4 c. or a little more of the oil in an iron skillet. 
 There should be about 1/4 inch layer of oil in the skillet.
Put the skillet in the oven to heat for about 5 to 7 minutes.
Watch carefully as it can flame if neglected.
Just before you remove oil from oven,
 mix MWSRCMM and buttermilk.
Beat very well.  Incorporating air in, this I think, is why it is so light and fluffy.
Nanny used to beat the stew out of it!
Add egg, and beat some more.
Remove skillet from oven.  Carefully pour hot oil into mixture and beat one more time.
Pour back into hot iron skillet.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden with brown crust on edge.
Remove from oven and immediately run knife around to loosen and invert on plate.
I ususally make my cornbread for dressing the day ahead.


My Daddy's Mother was a fabulous baker, and this is her recipe
for a classic southern Chess Pie.

4 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 T. white vinegar
1/2 c. melted butter
1T. vanilla
Pie shell  (I use Pillsbury in a glass pan, Mamaw, of course, made her own.)

Beat eggs.
Add sugar, vanilla, and vinegar, then melted butter.
Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

1 c.chocolate milk
1 oz. Kahlua
2. oz. Peppermint Schnapps
1 peppermint stick

Mix ingredients in order and garnish with peppermint stick.

 When I got out of college, I realized that I truly love to cook, not just Southern recipes handed down from my grandmothers, but all kinds of things, even complicated things. 
I guess you could say I am a foodie.
Some of the first cookbooks I bought were the Silver Palate
cookbooks by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. They were and are a joy to peruse and use.
I still have my originals and use them often.  Next year the original Silver Palate Cookbook
will celebrate its 30th anniversary, which is hard to believe.
Both of these recipes are from the books and I have made and enjoyed them many times during many holiday seasons. 
I promise that you will too!

Salmon Mousse
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann's
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated onion
  • Dash of Tabasco
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 cups finely flaked poached fresh salmon or canned salmon, skin and bones removed
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Watercress, for garnish
  • Toast, pumpernickel, or crackers, for serving
(I also serve it with cucumber slices!)
1. Soften the gelatin in the cold water in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the boiling water and whisk the mixture slowly until the gelatin dissolves. Cool to room temperature.
2. Whisk in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, grated onion, Tabasco,  paprika, salt, and dill. Stir to blend completely and refrigerate until the mixture begins to thicken slightly, about 20 minutes.
3. Fold in the finely flaked salmon. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it is thickened to soft peaks and fluffy. Fold gently into the salmon mixture.
4. Transfer the mixture to a 6- to 8-cup bowl or decorative mold. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
5. Garnish with watercress, and serve with toasts, pumpernickel, or crackers.

Wild Mushroom Soup with Madeira
  • 1/2 c. Madeira
  • 2 3/4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 oz. dried morels
  • 3 leeks, white parts only, well rinse and dried
  • 1 onion
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 3 T. unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 c. beef broth
  • 1 lb. fresh button mushrooms, stems removed
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • creme fraiche for garnish
  • Snipped fresh chives for garnish

1. In a small saucepan combine the Madeira , 1/2 c. of the chicken broth , and the morels.  Bring to a boil, reomove from heat, and let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Dice the leeks and onion.  Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Add the leeks  and onion, and cook over low heat until wilted, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with the flour, stir, and cook an additional 5 minutes.  

3. Add the remaining 2 1/4 cups chicken broth, the beef broth, button mushrooms, morels, and their soaking liquid, and salt and pepper.  Simmer, uncovered, until the mushrooms are soft, 30 minutes.  Allow the soup to cool slightly.

4. Puree the soup in batches, in a blender or food processor.  Return it to the  pot and heat through over low heat,  Serve with garnishes.

Makes 6 portions 

In addition to the tablescape I did in my own dining room for Thanksgiving, I helped several of my clients with their
"Harvest Feast or Pheasant" tables.
I did indeed use birds and feathers in some way, shape or form on each of them!

I tied napkins with sheer orange ribbon ribbon  and jute twine with one of my favorites,
hypericum berries tucked in.

I designed the console especially for my client's dining room.  The space was very long and narrow.   The console's top is marblized and the carved edge is gold leafed.
We devised storage beneath.

The flowers are all arranged in vintage silver pieces and more are displayed around the dining room, along with antique
blue and white porcelain.  I love the old world patina the vintage silver gives the dining room.

We set up an additional dining gallery across the foyer in the library, which I loved.  I love a dining area surrounded by books.

And while we were setting up in the library, I found something
special . . . 

No Thanksgiving feast here would be complete without my client's precious pug
Izzie as "Pugahontas".

And at another client, we simply added to her year round naturalistic dining room decor for her Thanksgiving feast.

We use shells, acorns,
 dried flowers, feathers, moss and stone in her dining room year round, in tones of white, cream, tan and gray.  For her feast we simply added fresh flowers tucked in here and there, oh and of course a few little pheasants.

I LOVE the silver here too.

I hope your feast was a smorgasbord of delights, with or without a pheasant, AND that you enjoyed your just desserts!

What is your best NEW Thanksgiving memory?

photo credits: Gina's Recipes, Marilyn Storey

Special Thanks to my dear clients LWR and PGW.  I love you and am most thankful for you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Harvest Pheasant, The Progress of a Dinner II

Second Course
Feast or Pheasant?
(The Gathering)

Thanksgiving is all about GATHERING . . .

GATHERING the bountiful crops before the harsh winter
GATHERING with friends and loved ones to give thanks
GATHERING all the accoutrements for a lovely meal and table

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth
Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914

This is where I really have to edit myself, but NOT at first.

I think harnessing the imagination and starting the GATHERING process is my favorite part of creating, whether it be a home, a room, or a table. 

My freerange mind has been cooking on my
Thanksgiving "Harvest Pheasant" idea and
my 'range of fall reds with a bit of orange' color scheme for the Thanksgiving table.

Linda Whiting, 2004

Now it is time to GATHER.
I first have to mentally gather all those ideas and corral them.

I start making LISTS . . .


At first the lists are general genres of things that I want to include.

1. Silver "Things"

Sampson Mordon Pheasant Sterling Silver Menu Card Holders, ca 1909
I wish I had these!

I love the patina of slightly tarnished,  and sometimes more than slightly tarnished silver.  Plus, you don't have to polish nearly
as often or thoroughly!

2. Fruits and Flowers

I LOVE to mix fruits, veggies, and flowers for occasions all year round to take advantage of natures bounty and be more unexpected.  It usually cuts the flower bill too.

3. Fabrics

Vintage Fortuny Orsini

Vintage French Velvet Tablecloth with Pheasants

Velvet Quilt

I want to juxtapose patterns and textures on the table.

4. China

And I love to mix china patterns.

5. Candles

Candlelight adds so much to a glorious fall table.  I love to serve Thanksgiving dinner about 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon.  The sun is sinking and the candles make the coming twilight feel perfect for GATHERING around a beautiful harvest table.

And then I list and GATHER lots of specific items that COULD be used on my Thanksgiving Table:

1. Goblets
2. Vintage Hotel Platters
3. Mothers's Candlesticks
4. Mercury Glass Decanters
5. Assorted old compotes and tea sets
6. Large Silver Plateaus

Fruits, Veggies and Flowers
1. Red Cabbage
2. Eggplant
3. Pomegranates
4. Red Grapes
5. Plums
6. Cranberries
7. Satsumas

8. Mixed Reds Fall Bouquet

9. Preserved Dark Red Roses

Add caption

10. Magnolia Leaves

11. Branches

12. Oh, and a few nuts!

13. MOSS
(I know this will sound a little crazy, but I am rarely without a box of moss in my car.)

(Ok, I admit it. I am a fabric freak! 
 I love new and vintage.)

1. Burnout Crimson velvet for draping around and under the centerpiece
2. Burlap colored linen for a runner
3. Vintage Tapestry
4. Vintage Orange Fortuny
5. Napkins
6. Napkin Ties/Napkin Rings
7. Pheasant Placemats
8. Ribbons

China and Glassware
1. Dinner Plates
2. Salad Plates

3. Cake Stands
4. Vintage White Tea Leaf Plates

5. Glass Turkeys
6. Crystal Glasses
(Sister Susan, I NEED
Nanny's Cranberry glass that you have!)
7. Copper Luster Ware
8. Brown and White Transferware, including
my grandmother' vintage turkey platter

 Daddy's Stuffed Pheasant
Antique Books


Oh, and my pheasant placecards
 and menu card

Just as if I am designing a room,
I like to layer my table too.
Only then can it truly be
 personal and interesting.

Let the real GATHERING begin.

Some of the items I will experiment with for the Thanksgiving table,
 including dark red preserved roses, petrified mushrooms, twig beeswax candles, real Southern Magnolia leaves in a faux bois container, chippy candlesticks, red books, mercury glass decanters, jute tassels, copper luster ware pitchers, and tea leaf platters

2. Experiment
3. Edit

Experiment 1:

Experiment 2:

Time to edit and start layering!

I started with the natural linen
down the table . . .

I added the velvet burnout fabric in the middle and then layered the silver plateaus with the Southern Magolia filled faux bois urns, big chunky, chippy candlesticks, and of course THE pheasant on a stack of books on an old cedar board . . .

Next I added a few pieces of the old silver and a few of the  fruits and veggies in my colors, along with the wonderful preserved dark red roses.  They really do look fresh and I can use them again and again. 

I am expecting twelve, and do not have twelve off everything I wanted to use so I have mixed and matched on the china, placemats, napkins and crystal. I have mixed the old brown and white transferware in with my other china patterns.

I really prefer this acquired and further layered look to everything being matchy, matchy.

I am going to add a few satsumas for a bit more orange and also some of those mixed bouquet flowers will be scattered around, as well as a blossom placed in each napkin ring.
Oh, and white candles.

I am very pleased with my
Harvest Pheasant table, and I have only spent
thirty dollars on fruits, veggies, and flowers.
The magnolia was from the yard.

I will have to use the Fortuny, the white tea leaf plates, and the other edited treasures next time.


1. GATHER or collect things that you love and use them when you entertain and celebrate holidays.
2. Let your imagination roam wide and free BEFORE you start to GATHER your elements for decorating.
3. Have an idea of the look and/or feel you want to achieve.  It can be a theme, but it does not have to be. 
4. Include one or more unexpected, unusual, or antique elements to really add personality.
5. GATHER and experiment.
 Play and have fun.  Then edit.
6.Use fabrics on your table. 
 7. Establish varying heights and interest on the table with books.
8. Use fruits and veggies to augment your flowers.  They can be consumed later.
9. Mix china, silver, and crystal for additional texture and interest.
10. Enjoy the process.


Hope these tips help make your
special GATHERING a bit more
special and enjoyable.

As part of my fourth grade Thanksgiving program where I played Mrs. Brewster, we sang the hymn

"We Gather Together"

I have loved it ever since and often find myself humming it this time of year.


We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

I also still remember by heart Psalm 100, which was part of the program and is still a favorite.


Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. 

My oldest son usually reads it at our Thanksgiving dinner, and the blessing which he wrote and illustrated in the first grade.

To be continued . . .

What have you gathered for your
 Thanksgiving table?

Do you celebrate with traditions when you GATHER for dinner?

photo credits: Jennifer Rizzo, Country Living, Marilyn Storey