Thanksgiving Dinner

I'm British, but since I got to the US I've always done the Thanksgiving thing. (It's probably one of the reasons why my waistline has... ahem... expanded considerably since I got here). At first, friends would invite me (and other unfortunate transplants or people without families) to their place on Thanksgiving - which is a wonderful tradition. These days, I invite friends over. However, this year, due to an accident of miscommunication it's just me and my wife at home. (Although I am making a trifle for a bunch of friends from work - see a couple of articles ago for the recipe).

So what am I making this year? I've never really done the whole ultra-traditional thing when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. I'll make a few nods to it here and there, but it's not mandatory in my book. And frankly, defrosting and cooking a turkey is a huge pain in the ass. So I tend to go for something a little different.

So here's the spread:

Fresh Herb Salad
Strawberry/Mandarin Orange Trifle
Fenberry Pie
Green Bean Casserole (ok, very traditional)
Cornish Game Hen with roasted potatoes, gravy, broccoli, carrots
Roast Acorn Squash

... and the plus side is that this'll keep us going for about three weeks with the leftovers ;-)

Fenberry Pie is an interesting one. It's a medieval (14th Century) meat & fruit pie, which is pretty unique and tastes like nothing on earth. It's also really yummy - a combination of pork and chicken in an egg custard, with prunes and cranberries. Er... don't look at me like that. Seriously, until you try it, you won't know what you're missing.

If you really want to give it a go yourself, you can get the recipe book it's in (Ye Bors Hede Boke of Cookry) from Camlann Medieval Village for $20. Well worth it, even if the spices used can be a little hard to find. For those, you'll need to go to the same store that Alton Brown gets his spices from - World Merchants (aka World Spice), who stock a wide variety of well known and not-so-well-known spices. They also do mail-order. (Luckily, they're just down the street from me in Pike Place Market in Seattle, so I just pop in whenever I'm running low).

I'm doing more cooking tomorrow... I've got pumpkins to roast today and puree, and then figure out what to do with them. There will be at least one pumpkin pie, but the rest is going to be random (I've had great Pumpkin Soup at a japanese restaurant in Seattle called Bonzai Bistro that I think I'm going to try to replicate). There will be a ham. Possibly even some Lasagna. And yes, yet another Fenberry Pie (because one is not enough).


Where did all the weekends go?

Recently I've been out on film sets again! Yay! The past three (four? five? I lose count... it started in October) weekends have been spent holding a microphone above my head, and tweaking a DAT recorder's sound levels on my friends Matt & Scrapper's film production. It's great to get back into the swing of things again. It also reminds me just what a superbly talented bunch of people I work with. I love 'em all to pieces. And the people I don't work with who are doing this are great too. Gosh, I'm getting all emotional.

Here's a photoblog of sorts of the film shoot so far. Stars Jerry Lloyd. And criminy, Jerry's last film (Bullets, Blood and a Fistful of Cash) just got picked up by a distributor. Woohoo!

By the way, if you're in the Seattle area, Jerry is part of Verotica143, which (and I know this is hard to believe, but please bear with me) is an erotic mime show. You can pick your jaw up from the floor now. Go check it out.

For some reason I'm always happiest when on a film set. You end up doing nothing for hours at a time. Nearly everything is just waiting. And in my case, I'm usually holding a microphone above my head at the end of a long pole (which magnifies the weight) for hours at a time. But I love it like nothing else. Why? Who frickin' knows. I don't care - I just love doing it.

However, next time I do sound for anyone, I want to pick the DAT package and the microphones we need for the shoot. I swear, if I do one thing in the future, it will be to rent a multitrack recorder of some kind, and rent a bunch of lavaliers for dialogue work. So much better than just using a shotgun if the conditions are awful.


British Food That Doesn't Suck

part 1 of an occasional series to prove that British food isn't all about boiling everything into mush, and that there are great things that come from it...

The Trifle

Sponge cake and fruit soaked in jello. Atop this, a layer of cold yellow Bird's custard (you know, it's just eggs, milk, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla... it's not hard... you can make it yourself). And finally, on top of that, freshly whipped cream. With sprinkles. And maybe halved strawberries.

My mum used to make it every year for Christmas. (She'd make two or three). I made it last year for Thanksgiving for a bunch o' Merkins1 who'd never had it before.

It went down well. Next time? I need to figure out how to make a Sherry trifle. I've never tried - it can't be that hard though, can it?

Side note: It appears that a trifle (while definitely a British invention) encompasses a large number of desserts. It basically appears to cover any kind of multi-layered wet cake. Requirements: Must be a sponge layer, the sponge must be soaked in a liquid. Seems to also require that there's fruit of some kind involved. The top layer is always whipped something-or-other (preferably cream - if you're going to eat dessert, at least do it with style). The middle layer appears to be optional - but it's usually there, and it's usually some kind of custard or pudding. So... erm... there you go.

The Recipe

Lady Fingers
Strawberry Jello
1 can, fruit cocktail
Custard (see below for recipe + requirements - or buy Birds' custard)
Heavy whipping cream
Sprinkles (or as they're called back home, 100s and 1000s).

Sponge Layer

Break the lady fingers into pieces and put in the bottom of a big glass dish. Drain the fruit cocktail, and add to the dish. Make up the jello mix, and pour into the dish as well. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until set.

Custard Layer

Here's a couple of recipes ready made for the Custard. I'd try the thicker one, as it's going to need to set somewhat. It should still be liquid after everything else sets though - just not runny, and not set.

Once the custard has been made, cover with saran wrap (to eliminate any air, which will form a skin) and cool until cold but not set. Pour the custard onto the set Sponge Layer, re-cover with plastic wrap, and return to the fridge to set some more (this step may be over kill).

Whippy Topping Layer

Whip up that whipping cream, until it becomes, well, whipped cream. Add to the big dish and use it to cover the custard layer. Sprinkle on the sprinkles, and serve immediately.

You could also try adding some strawberries, slivered almonds, etc. if you wanted. Go nuts! Heck, do two different flaor layers of jello, or use jam swiss rolls instead of lady fingers. Or try it with coffee cake in the bottom. Or use Egg Nog instead of Jello and skip the custard step. (Seriously, do a search - there's room for thousands of variations).

1Theatre folk and Terry Pratchett fans alike will know what a Merkin is. Go ahead. Look it up. I dare ya.



I'm finally getting around to putting some of my archive of photos online. You can find them at

Cool photos? Sure! The NSA ones are exceptionally cool. You don't often get to see an Enigma machine up close, never mind play with one :)

There are also photos from the Good Samaritan film shoot, the premiere of said short film, people I work with, and more.

I'll try to expand this over time.

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