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The entire Feast

Thanksgiving Feast

My Thanksgiving was small, just GC and myself, but oh so satisfying. I spent most of the day in the kitchen and dinner was both delicious and stress free. I think one of the reasons that I didn’t invite anyone to partake with us was that I was nervous. I did a very different menu than I usually had in the past and I didn’t know how it would turn out or whether anyone I invited would judge me. I tried to incorporate usual items into a Thanksgiving Feast, but I also had to make it work for both myself (gluten-free) and GC who is currently on coumadin for 6 months.

Most “traditional” thanksgiving meals are a minefield for a person who reacts to gluten. From turkeys which may or may not be injected with ingredients that contain gluten to gravy which commonly is thickened with flour (not to mention that green bean casserole which can contain a ton of gluten) it’s just hard. I was invited to a few dinners, but I hated the idea of spending part of the day cross-examining people and trying to determine what was safe for me to eat or not. (Hint, if you commonly bake your stuffing in the turkey, you have now contaminated the entire turkey for someone like me.)

Of course, deciding to have it at home with just GC and myself meant that I was doing all the cooking and even though I was only cooking for two, my menu was fairly ambitious (this after all should be a special meal) and was time-consuming.  So timing was critical.

Part of the issue with a large meal is getting it all to the table at the same time with everything cooked correctly and everything that needs to be hot, hot.  Its tricky, especially in a home kitchen with 4 burners and 1 oven.  (Sometimes I envy my sister’s commercial stove which has 2 ovens, lots of burners and a griddle).  It takes careful planning to accomplish it.  Luckily I am an excellent planner.


I finalized my menu, figured out what I had on hand and what I needed.  In reality I didn’t need much.  I needed hazelnuts and pine nuts, some sugar, dried cranberries, sorghum and rice flour, some chicken stock, fresh cranberries, parsley, a lemon and green beans. That was it.  I had gotten a duck a few weeks ago and everything else I needed was in my pantry, freezer or refrigerator. After work, I headed to Whole Foods and picked it up.  Luckily they weren’t crazy busy when I got there.


We were given a 2 hour early dismissal from work, and I had to run back to the grocery store on my way home because I realized that I was out of Kosher Salt.  Luckily there is one just across the street from where I work and I was in and out in a few minutes. (At 2pm, it was too early to be crowded I guess).  Came home and began making the pumpkin puddings.

I was extremely apprehensive about the pumpkin pudding since I was going to make it with the pumpkin I roasted and pureed earlier this fall. The pumpkin is bright orange in the freezer and I had no idea if it would retain that color, or not. I just didn’t know how the pudding would come out.  This pudding consists of pumpkin and some spices which are whirred in the food processor and then heated in a saucepan. A combination of milk and cream is whisked in and then a lightly beaten egg is also whisked in.  The puddings are then baked for about 35 minutes.  The pumpkin and other ingredients darkened and looked like a real pumpkin pie after it was in the ramekins.  I don’t think I’ll be afraid of using my pumpkin as a dessert again. (All the pumpkin I roasted and froze this fall was of the “Cinderella” or “Fairy Tale” variety.)

While the pudding was baking, I made the cranberry sauce. (All recipes can be found linked to my pre-Thanksgiving post). I always hated the canned cranberry sauce that my mom and other relatives put out and making a cranberry sauce is really easy.  I zested and juiced some organic oranges, added some ground ginger and then cooked that with the cranberries and some sugar (organic cane sugar) until the cranberries popped.

That was pretty much it for Wednesday


The day of.  I had a lot to do today. And a tight schedule. So after some coffee, I started in.

I’ve been reading Ruhlman’s Twenty, his first chapter is called “Think” and in it, he recommends doing mise en place first. There was going to be quite a bit of chopping through the day, but rather than do it at different times, I did it all first. I got a bunch of small ramekins out and washed and chopped all the vegetables and herbs that needed it. Each ramekin had its own combination of items that would go into a dish at the same time. Then I covered each ramekin in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for later. I also roasted hazelnuts and pine nuts (separately). (Rubbing the skins off the hazelnuts was time-consuming). I chopped the skinned hazelnuts and placed them in their own container.  Same with the pine nuts. So with my mise en place in place, I started cooking.


Casserole of Wild Rice with Hazelnuts and cranberries

Wild Rice Stuffing after first cooking

First up was the wild rice stuffing.  This was a two parter. I could do the first part of cooking (an hour) and then place the casserole dish in the refrigerator for later. Which is what I did. With my mise en place at hand, this was a snap.  I finished that about 10am and had an hour of loafing to do before I had to start work on the duck.

A duck you say?  Really?  Really. With just two people, I really didn’t want the amount of leftovers that would happen with a turkey. I also favor dark meat and a duck is all  dark meat. I’ve also never cooked a duck and really wanted a challenge.  So I did.  But wait, to make it harder on myself, I decreed that there would be no waste with this duck. I had to use all of the duck, including the innards. (Most of it was no problem since I could save it for stock making the day after), but what to do with the liver?

So I got the duck prepped. I trussed the duck, pricked the skin all over (to release the fat) and scored the breast.

Raw Duck on Roasting Pan

Prepped Duck waiting for the oven

During the prep, I cut off all the extra fat and skin and put that in a small saucepan with some water to render down.  Duck Fat is amazing I’ve heard and I would be able to get quite a bit out of one 6 pound duck.  The duck went in for 4 hours at 300 degrees.

Duck skin and fat in saucepan for rendering

A little water and all the duck skin and fat I cut off the duck before roasting it.

The duck fat rendered for about 15 minutes and I ended up with both duck fat (and after a little frying) duck rinds. (Kind of like pork rinds, but from ducks).

Jar of Rendered Duck Fat

Got this from the sauce pan after I rendered the duck fat

Fried Duck Skin

Can't let the skin go to waste



I also started working with the duck liver. I’ve never been fond of liver, but I recalled my childhood when mounds of chicken liver was on the table at gatherings. I fried up the duck liver with some garlic, salt and pepper in butter (ended up sauteing some onions in the butter as well) and ran it through my food processor.

Duck Liver frying in Pan

Frying Up the Duck Livers

I was amazed at how good it was.  Liver and onions is classic, add the garlic and cook it in real, raw butter and it was amazing.  I ate the whole thing (of course I hadn’t eaten anything until then). Oh and I also ended up eating all the fried duck skin too.

Chopped duck liver and Gluten Free Crackers

Duck Liver ended being an afternoon snack. It really was delicious

After that, GC came over and oh darn he missed the duck liver….  We got to spend a few hours relaxing and watching some television and turning the duck once an hour while pricking the skin to get the duck fat to run out.

Duck in the oven for 2 hours

Flipped it again.

After the fourth hour, the bird came out of the oven for good. I had basted it for the last 15 minutes with a marinade consisting of tamari, honey, molasses and siracha sauce which turned it into a beautiful deep mahogany with wonderfully crisp skin.

Perfectly Roasted Duck

Wow, the Duck came out perfectly

Then the real fun began.

I still had to make mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans.  While the duck was in its last hour, I peeled and cut up some potatoes and put them in water. Once the duck was out of the oven, I started the potatoes to boiling. When the duck came out of the oven, I put the stuffing in for the 40 minutes and started boiling water for the green beans. I put the mise en place in a bowl for the green beans along with olive oil.  During all this my brother called me and I didn’t miss a beat.  Stuck my headset on and chatted with him while I finished the meal.  I also started the gravy.

I was terrified about the gravy.  But no need to worry, apparently there are two secrets to GF gravy.  1) Add the roux to the stock instead of the usual (add the stock to the roux) and 2) is that it will thicken once you take it off the heat.  I pretty much gave up the gravy for dead after doing both the roux and a slurry, but it thickened up nicely once it was off the heat. I got everything to the table at the same time.  (GC carved the duck for me). Everything tasted wonderful, the duck was not fatty or greasy (I got about another cup and some of the fat out of the roasting pan) and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything at all.

Duck being carved

GC carving the duck.


Overall, I think I did a good job on the dinner.  It took up a lot of my day, but being organized really helped.  Taking the hour to set up my mise en place in the morning, kept the rest of the day to descending into a disaster.
Changing the paradigm helped. I focused on the goodness of the foods I could have, I didn’t miss the foods I couldn’t and I didn’t feel deprived watching others eat something that would make me ill.

Everything tasted amazing, I didn’t miss the fact that I wasn’t eating gluten and despite doing all the cooking, my stress levels were way down.  Next year, I might do the same menu (ok, maybe a turkey), but I will definitely be up for inviting people to share my Thanksgiving dinner with me.

Gluten free Thanksgiving with Green Beans, Wildrice Stuffing, Duck, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and cranberry Sauce

Picture is a little blurry, I think I was ready to eat













2 Responses to “Gluten Free Thanksgiving Postmortem”

  1. Keith Campbell says:

    Duck is yummy! Duckfat is awesome!

    But I will not eat the liver from *anything*. I know what livers are for, and I do not understand why anyone eats them. (I’m not opposed to organ meats — I love heart and tongue, generally, and would try just about anything at least once — but not livers.)

    • Sandra Clark says:

      I’m curious why you won’t eat liver. Is it because the liver is the organ that flushes out the toxins? While it flushes out toxins, it doesn’t hold on to them. While I wouldn’t want to eat liver from an animal that ingests tons of hormones and antibiotics (not to mention GMO grown corn, wheat and soy) I think that eating the liver from a healthy, pasture raised animal is safe. Its not something I’ll do all the time, but I need to get over my antipathy towards organ meats, the liver was a good place to start. Also liver is very high in iron and nutrients such as Vitamin A. The cholesterol doesn’t concern me, because all the research I’ve done has reassured me that eating cholesterol doesn’t translate to your body making cholesterol. Weston A.Price noticed that many cultures prized the organ meats (over the muscle meats) when choosing what to eat. Some good reading on liver can be found at the Liver Files on the Weston A. Price website.