I have been struggling for weeks trying to tie French cooking to this most Anglo-American of holidays but I think I’ve found the weak link: potatoes.
For many, the Thanksgiving meal is only complete with the triad of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. How “authentic” is that? The Pilgrims and their Wampanoag neighbors would have meat—turkey surely—at that first table, along with duck and goose and venison. But what about those side dishes? According to Smithsonian Magazine’s website, it would have been:
“Meat without potatoes, that is. White potatoes, originating in South America, and sweet potatoes, from the Caribbean, had yet to infiltrate North America. Also, there would have been no cranberry sauce. It would be another 50 years before an Englishman wrote about boiling cranberries and sugar into a “Sauce to eat with. . . Meat.”
So if mashed potatoes are not lock-stepped into the menu other possibilities for the spud are possible. And what better than Madame Cartet’s Potato Gratin Dauphinois?
Many of us grew up with scalloped potatoes, but these are the real thing. I first discovered them in Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking cookbook and never looked back. Easy, cheesy, and luscious, Mme. Cartet’s Potato Gratin satisfies something deep in the soul. After all, as we profess our gratitude for our many blessings, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about?