Thanksgiving Eve…


Cracked Dungeness Crab with Butter & Lemon  |  Epi Baguettes  |  Fall Harvest Cheese Board

No matter how well-planned out this Holiday is, the day prior, or “Eve” always manages to be a marathon for Michael & I.  Well-rewarded, mind you, as our traditional Thanksgiving Eve dinner is a no-cooking indulgence in fresh crab, bread & cheese.  Thanksgiving will be busy, for sure, but all of the preparation done today leaves us time to enjoy family & friends tomorrow…

It is now 5:45pm…Michael has been out all day, running errands, handling barn duty… basically, battling traffic between San Francisco & Sonoma Wine Country for the last seven hours .  I have been in the kitchen {and dining room} all day.  We pour ourselves a glass of champagne { J Sparkling Brut Rosé}, accented with a pomegranate seed or two, and toast our accomplishments…

Let’s see…the morning began with brining the turkey.  Our turkey, all 24.31 pounds, came from Willi Bird in Sonoma County.  We have been getting our turkeys from Willi Bird’s for the last ten years and have never been disappointed with the quality.  Brining insures a moist & tender end result.  I have adapted a brine {originally} from Alton Brown…

 Apple Cider Brine

  • 1 cup Kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 gallon unsweetened apple juice or cider
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice berries, crushed
  • 6 quarter-size slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

In a large pot combine the salt, sugar, ginger, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, allspice berries & apple juice.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve solids.  Remove brine from heat and cool to room temperature.

Combine the brine, water & ice in a clean cooler or large bucket.  Place the turkey {giblets removed} breast side down in the brine.  I usually take a large bag of ice and place over the turkey at this point to weigh it down, making sure it stays fully immersed in the brine.  Refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half-way through brining.

While the brine was cooling, I set the table…

I LOVE setting the table…never anything too fancy or ornate…I lean towards classic, white, simple {nothing too busy}.  Several years ago, living in the Sonoma Wine Country town of Healdsburg, I met and became friends with a lovely woman, Sandra Jordan.  At the time, she was the creative director of Jordan Winery but also had her own line of textiles and wine country living accessories.  Sandra is an educated woman with refined tastes & an eye for exceptional quality.  As I set the table, I am reminded of this extraordinary woman…{my linens and silver pieces are from her collection}


In memory of my loving Memere who passed away a little over a year ago…these glasses were a wedding gift of hers & she bestowed them upon me for my wedding.  I have many memories of she & I setting the holiday tables together…she was with me today, in spirit, as I set our Thanksgiving table.

The finishing touch…our favorite pinot noir…Holdredge “Mazie Rose”. John & Carri Holdredge…wonderful winemakers, AMAZING friends…

Turkey in the brine, table set…now it is time to make the stuffing so I can stuff the bird in the morning before it goes in to the oven…

Sausage & Sage Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 large loaves white sandwich bread, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground pork & sage sausage
  • 2 pounds wild mushrooms {brown button, cremini, chanterelles) chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled & chopped
  • 5 ribs of celery, washed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 4-6 cups boiling water
  • Salt, pepper & poultry seasoning to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Divide & spread bread cubes evenly between {4} baking sheets.  Toast in oven until bread cubes are beginning to brown, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven & set aside.
  3. In a large stockpot, add the olive oil and, over a medium-high flame, heat until shimmering.  Add the sausage and brown, thoroughly.  Remove the sausage, with a slotted spoon, to a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter to the pot & drippings and proceed to sautée the mushrooms until softened.  Set aside in a small bowl.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the same pot followed by the celery & onions.  Cook over medium-high heat until just beginning to soften.  Add the chopped herbs and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove pot from heat and add bread cubes.  Stir to combine bread, celery & onion, and herbs.  Add sausage & mushrooms, stirring to combine.
  7. Gradually add hot water until desired stuffing consistency is reached {some like it on the dry side…we prefer it on the “wet” side}.
  8. Add poultry seasoning, salt & pepper to taste.

The stuffing really is best when made a day in advance.  Season conservatively as the flavors will develop overnight.  You can always add more salt, pepper & poultry seasoning tomorrow...

Now, finally, our dinner tonight…

Cracked Dungeness Crab  |  Fall Harvest Cheese Board

Just typing this crab recipe makes me smileKP is a dear friend who lives in the wine country town of Healdsburg, a little over an hour North of here.  We lived in Healdsburg for several years and our families shared this dinner many times, often with a crowd at my house on the evening before Thanksgiving…adults & kids gathered around a table covered in newspaper.  If we were still in Healdsburg, the grapes for tonight’s cheese board would come from her vineyard & we would have picked the figs from her trees after a morning walk together.  I share this recipe with you…exactly as it was given to me by KP:

KP’s Famous Crab 

  • 4 cooked, cleaned, cracked crabs (can be left whole for presentation or broken into pieces)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • ¼ cup minced Italian parsley
  • ½ cup more or less (!) chardonnay
  • parsley & lemon wedges for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 500°.  In a 12″ x 17″ roasting pan, combine butter, oil & garlic.  Heat mixture in oven until hot.  Add crab and coat with mixture.  Bake for 10 minutes until crab is hot and garlic is somewhat golden.  Dash with wine, steam for 20 seconds.  Sprinkle with parsley.
  2. Serve family style with sauce OR put sauce in ramekins and serve on the side (or BOTH).
  3. Serve with lemon wedges, crusty bread, lots of wine.  Feel Good!


A great feature of this meal is that {with no plates} we roll up the newspaper, with crab shells, etc. & throw away!!!

Sleep well everyone…tomorrow is a BIG dinner!

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