Talking Non-Turkey

Speaking off the toque: John A. Salazar, executive chef of Michaeline's on West Alabama, 1512 West Alabama, (713)527-8554.

Q. What sort of Thanksgiving menu would make you feel truly thankful at the end of the meal?

A. I'd always be thankful for foie gras with a plum sauce, litchi and scoops of pear. Or oysters Rockefeller, if it's done right, is a lovely item to start off the meal, maybe with a dusting of caviar. The meal definitely would have to have some caviar, but I would use it like salt -- as an enhancer, as a garnish...I keep thinking the Pilgrims must have had access to all kinds of great seafood, but if I was to incorporate then with now, I'd say the main course should be a French cut rack of venison with a parsnip/potato puree, maybe a Wild Turkey whiskey sauce. I like utilizing sweet potatoes, everything under the sun -- chips, puree, tartlets -- so I would have something subtle like, maybe, sweet potato tartlets with a roasted walnut and molasses glaze. And, certainly, cornbread custard. When I'm on my deathbed, that's what I'll think of -- cornbread custard with jumbo lump crabmeat and a tomatillo sauce.