Turkey was not the main course at the First Thanksgiving. For the Pilgrims and Pokanoket Indians on the beach in Cape Cod Bay, the centerpiece of the feast was fish stew.
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Turkey was featured, of course, along with duck, goose, swan, and venison. The Pilgrims served corn, beans, squash, and peas from the garden along with wild raspberries, grapes, and plums gathered in the forest.
But the premiere dish at the First Thanksgiving was seafood, fish stew, cooked in cast iron cauldrons over open fires on the beach. Fish stew, by all rights, should be the main course of our modern Thanksgiving.
We are beginning a new tradition at our holiday table with fish stew and colonial pumpkin pie. We will gather our harvest from the fields and waters of THE BEND and celebrate Thanksgiving in the spirit of Plymouth Rock.
First Thanksgiving Fish Stew
Makes 8 entrée servings or 12 appetizer servings
Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 2 hours
For Fish Stock:
3 lbs fish heads and bones, shrimp heads and peels
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 stalk fennel, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed with skin
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp dry or ½ cup fresh tarragon
2 tbsp butter
2 leeks, diced
1 stalk fennel, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups fish stock
Juice of two lemons
2 pinches saffron
½ tsp red pepper
2 whole live blue crabs, with apron and innards removed
2 lbs drum filets, coarsely chopped (optional: may substitute or add flounder or game fish)
2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pint oysters, shucked (or more, to taste)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup fresh tarragon, chopped
Directions: For stock: Place all fish stock ingredients in a 6-quart pot and cover with 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer stock for at least one hour, then remove from heat. Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Stock will keep in the refrigerator for three days, or in the freezer for three months.
For stew: Melt the butter in a 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an additional minute, stirring frequently. Deglaze the pot with the white wine, taking care to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom. Simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
Add stock, lemon juice, saffron and red pepper to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.Add fresh seafood to stock and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add cream and tarragon, and serve.
Colonial Pumpkin Pie
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours, 5 minutes
10-12 lb pumpkin with top, seeds and pulp removed
2 apples, diced (recommend pink lady, granny smith, or Fuji varieties)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans, chopped
8 tbsp butter, cubed
For Vanilla Bean Sauce:
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp butter
1 vanilla bean
Pinch of salt
Optional: 2 tbsp rum or brandy
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine spices and brown sugar in a small bowl. Place pumpkin on a rimmed, aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet. Place half of the apples in the bottom of the pumpkin and top with 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup pecans, and half of the butter. Top fruit and nut mixture with half of the sugar-spice mixture.
Using the remaining ingredients, repeat the process forming a second layer inside the pumpkin. Cover pumpkin with aluminum foil and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for three hours, or until pumpkin flesh is fork tender and filling is bubbling. Serve with Vanilla Bean Sauce.
Vanilla Bean Sauce:
In a medium saucepan, combine cream, sugar, salt, (optional liquor), and butter over medium-low heat. Using a paring knife, cut down the length of the vanilla bean and scrape its contents into the cream mixture. Whisk sauce until bubbling and a creamy consistency is reached. Serve warm by spooning sauce over each serving of pumpkin pie.