Perhaps the seasonal produce thing can be carried too far, but it's getting to be the dreary season and all sorts of colorful squash are available for prices you don't see in grocery stores anymore.
It was educational.
Duck confit with carmelized pear: if you leave a sauté unatteneded because your guests are telling a really funny story, you'll be sorry. But don't give up too soon, because it turns out that your guests like the burnt bits.
Squash garlic soup with ginger créme fraîche: Hubbard squash might not be substitutable for pumpkin 1:1. The soup was a bit thin. This is hazard of squash shopping when you know nothing about squash. McGee is a bit thin on the squash family, it seems to me: perhaps there's not much to say?
Steak a poivre: you need a hot pan to sear the meat. You deglaze with a little armagnac after searing the meat. The pan is hot: the brandy vanishes instantly. You remark: something is not right.
Cranberry orange relish: no cooking. Hence, no lesson. (Take a package of cranberries. Rinse, Toss in the food processor. Take an orange. No, don't peel it. Rinse. Quarter. Toss it into the food processor. Add 1/2c sugar. Chop. Into bowl. Chill 30 minutes. Improve your Thanksgiving several degrees. Here endeth the lesson)
Roasted shallots, pear vinegar: improvisation only works when you're in the right key. The roasted shallots are already sweet and fruity; wrong vinegar.
Salt crusted baby sweet potatoes: still good.
Squash gratin: straight out of Marlena Spieler's Vegetarian Bistro, a superb little cookbook Megnut recommends and that is unjustly out of print. Fortunately, amazon and alibris will gladly find you a copy. This is the biggest and least remarked change in contemporary book culture, transforming our relationship to slightly old books. Pumpkin (ouch! finger! ouch!), a little tomato, garlic, leek, bread crumbs, parmesan. Nice.
Tarte alsacienne: Tasty: didn't set. The Cortland apple slices, buttered and sugared and baked for forty minutes and then added to a prebaked pie shell, did have a nice texture and did hold together. The custard never did cohere. Is the answer simply longer baking ?