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The First American Thanksgiving Believed to Be A Seafood Feast!

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I love Thanksgiving. It’s one day without gifts, without much fanfare; one day for friends and family to come together, eat a wonderful meal, and just be thankful for the blessings of the year and loved ones around them. It seems odd that we need an official day to do that, however, I’m “thankful” for it. Why? I LOVE to cook large dinners, and I love feeding a crowd!

A traditional American Thanksgiving typically consists of cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing or dressing (there IS a difference), vegetable sides, dessert and the star of the show is traditionally a big fat turkey which my daddy lovingly refers to as the B52 bomber. On a Southern Thanksgiving table you may also find dishes such as deviled eggs, baked macaroni & cheese, pear salad, bread & butter pickles, yeast rolls,  green bean casserole and pecan pie. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin dishes are also popular, especially when served in pies or souffles. Every family has their holiday favorites they simply cannot do without.

While these dishes are traditional Thanksgiving fare, culinary historians believe that much of the Thanksgiving meal consisted of seafood, although wild fowl, fruits and vegetables may also have been served. Mussels in particular were abundant in New England and easily attainable as they clung to rocks along the shoreline. The colonists occasionally served mussels with curds, a dairy product with a similar consistency to cottage cheese. Lobster, bass, clams and oysters might also have been including in the Thanksgiving Day feast.

While I adore a traditional Southern Thanksgiving meal, I can’t ever pass on fresh seafood or these mussels! I wonder if the Pilgrims would approve.

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Steamed Mussels in Saffron & Fennel Cream

  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed
  • 2 cups white wine or champagne
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
  • a pinch of Saffron threads
  • 1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bunch Parsley, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Pasta of your choice; I used Pappardelle

Directions

Cook pasta in salted water. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced Fennel. Saute Fennel until crisp tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add wine, and allow to reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in heavy cream, Saffron, Nutmeg, salt & pepper. Continue to cook until sauce begins to thicken a bit. Add mussels and cover. Allow to steam until the shells open. Serve with lemon slices, Fennel fronds and fresh Parsley.

Note: If you want your sauce to be thicker, combine 1 tsp. cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water and add to the sauce before adding the mussels. Bring to a simmer while stirring. Then add Mussels.

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