The first Canadian Thanksgiving, yes I know I am well over a week behind, was held by an English sailor named Martin Frobisher in 1576 on one of Canada’s many northerly islands. This is a number of years, 42 to be exact, before America was colonized by the pilgrims, signifying what many consider to be the first Thanksgiving. This means that Canadian Thanksgiving is unique from American Thanksgiving in more than timing; Canadian’s are celebrating a whole different event than Americans.
This past Thanksgiving was the first in many years where I didn’t cook a large holiday meal for family and friends; we left that to other people. Instead of giving thanks with friends and family, my wife and I decided to relax, stay in, and enjoy a Canadian Thanksgiving meal ourselves.
I have already established that Canadian Thanksgiving is significantly different from neighboring America’s Thanksgiving right down to the very first event. Knowing this, I thought a traditional roast turkey seemed inappropriate. Instead I opted to celebrate with a rustic French inspired dish – cassoulet with venison, duck and turkey confit. Although Martin Frobisher was English, many of the earliest Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations would have been held by French Canadians. A hearty French feast seemed the only real option we had.
There are a number of great cassoulet recipes; my favourite comes from Jennifer McLagan’s most recent publication titled “fat”. To me, the subtle use of cloves is essential in a good cassoulet, especially when paired with a traditional Farmhouse biere.
While in Quebec this summer, I picked up a number of French beers that are sitting in my cellar, including a bottle of Biere Nouvelle from Brasserie De Saint-Sylvestre. This particular beer paired perfectly with my thanksgiving cassoulet. The subtle flavour of cloves infused in the cassoulet helped to draw out the pleasant spiciness in the beer. The straightforward malt flavour worked great with gamier meats and the heavy carbonation helped to cut through the richness (aka. fattiness) that all cassoulets must have. Farmhouse French beer and cassoulet – give it a try.