The first harvest feasts of the Pilgrims (circa 1621) consisted of whatever was available, not what tradition prescribed. Historians are confident saying that the Pilgrims weren't eating pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce or mashed potatoes. According to Edward Winslow’s A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, the harvest feast probably consisted of clams, venison, and duck as well as peas, beans, onions, lettuce, radishes, carrots, plums, grapes, and chestnuts.
So, for a new spin on Thanksgiving, what about planning a feast based on foods that actually were available to the pilgrims?
The culinary team at Kendall-Jackson Winery, can make that easier with three gourmet culinary options based on foods that may have been on the original table: clams, venison and duck. (Their wine pairing suggestions, however, are wholly modern).
Cumberland sauce is a traditional English accompaniment to wild game and duck. The black currants in the sauce bring out the dark fruit flavors in the Cabernet Sauvignon. This full flavored sweet and sour sauce is served cold and is especially good with venison and sautéed duck livers.
In a bowl, mix the rosemary, juniper, ¼ C. vegetable oil and garlic. Toss the venison steaks with the marinade and place in a casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 425°. Set aside a baking sheet large enough to accommodate the steaks.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove the steaks from the marinade and discard. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Add oil to the hot pan and sauté the steaks until they are nicely caramelized, approximately 2 minutes per side. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan, it will reduce the heat and cause the steaks to poach.
Once all the steaks have been sautéed, arrange them on the baking sheet. Again, make sure to leave space between the steaks to allow even cooking. Place the steaks in the oven for 8 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 125°. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Place steaks on a plate and serve with the chilled Cumberland Sauce.
For the Cumberland Sauce:
In a sauce pot, slowly bring the port to a simmer. Add verjus and shallots and stir. Add the currant jelly and melt over low heat. Add the zests, ginger, mustard, lemon juice and ½ tsp. salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill and cover. This sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook until the butter is brown and has released a nutty aroma, 3-4 minutes. Add the clams, increase the heat to high, and stir in the wine. Cover and cook until the clams open, 4-6 minutes. Transfer the clams with tongs or a slotted spoon to a plate. Discard any clams that don’t open.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente, about 6-8 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the butter mixture. Add the parsley and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat evenly. Divide the pasta among 6 small plates, top each serving with an equal number of clams, and serve.
In a small sauce pan, caramelize the sugar over low heat. Once the sugar turns golden brown, carefully add the verjus, wine, raspberries, pomegranate molasses, peppercorns and cloves. Increase the heat to high and reduce for 5 to 7 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce begins to thicken to syrup consistency. Remove from the heat and whisk in butter. Season with salt. Keep warm.
In a 12-inch non-stick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high for 2 minutes. Score the duck breast on the fat-side, being careful not to cut into the meat. Season the duck with salt and carefully place in the pan skin-side down. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly render as much of the fat in the skin as possible. Drain the fat that collects in the pan every 2 to 5 minutes. Continue to cook until the skin turns brown and crisps slightly, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the breasts, increase the heat back to medium-high and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes (for medium-rare to medium). If using an instant-read thermometer, the temperature should register between 136-140° F.
Remove the duck from the pan and rest on a cutting board for 4 to 5 minutes before cutting. Drizzle the Raspberry Gastrique on the duck and serve.
Ham: There is no evidence that the colonists had butchered a pig by this time, though they had brought pigs with them from England.
Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes: These were not common.
Corn on the Cob: Corn was kept dried out at this time of year.
Cranberry Sauce: The colonists had cranberries but no sugar at this time.
Pumpkin Pie: It's not a recipe that existed then, though the Pilgrims had recipes for stewed pumpkin.
Chicken/Eggs: We know that the colonists brought hens with them from England, but it's unlikely that many were left at this point, much less still laying eggs.
Milk: No cows had been aboard the Mayflower, though it's possible that the colonists used goat milk to make cheese