Thanksgiving in Montana

Soft snow falling from tall towering peaks, low hanging grey clouds, swirling. White dashed roads, like morse code, snaking up and over. I’d never been to Montana, and yet here I was; Three plane trips and a three hour car ride later I was in Missoula, Montana at the front door of prop stylist, painter, and illustrator Heather Chontos, with a felt, draw-string bag that contained two cameras, flannel pj’s and an oyster shucker.

By the age of 21 Heather was illustrating for Issey Miyaki, Spoon, Jalouse magazine, and had three major painting shows under her belt. Originally schooled in England at the University College, London, she now has regular gigs at Williams and Sonoma, Anthropologie and Rachael Ray, and in the past, was a regular contributor to the now defunct Gourmet magazine. (RIP)

Thanksgiving day started with a leisurely hike up a nearby mountain, to spot deer with Heather, her two daughters and their dog (Marvin). Then we sat down and sketched out our plan for the day. Here’s what we decided:

Baked Feta in Phyllo dough with Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Garlic
Homemade baked bread inspired by Jim Lahey
Brined Turkey
Crispy Brussels Sprouts in Bacon, Pecans, and Blue Cheese
Stuffed Pumpkin with Parsnips and Carrots
Andouille Sausage Stuffing
Garlic Cream-infused Mashed Potatoes
Kody’s Homemade Plum, Yuzu and Cinnamon Ice-cream
Rhea’s Apple Pie
Pumpkin Creme Brulée
and Pecan Pie. 



Since I got in very late the night before Thanksgiving, the local Seafood place had only 6 oysters to offer us, not enough to make my traditional Oyster stuffing! So we decided a better idea would be to break with tradition and opt instead for a simple bread stuffing, using local Montana Andouille sausage. Which was more appropriate, quick to make, and delicious. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté in about 1 tablespoon of Unsalted Butter1 finely diced medium White Onion, a half a cup of finely diced Celery. When Onion is translucent, add 2 cloves of finely minced Garlic. Add about 1.8lbs of Andouille Sausage that has been removed from it’s casing. Smash down with the back of a wooden spoon to evenly distribute. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper. (Mixture should taste a bit too salty, as once the bread is added this will lessen.) When mixture is just cooked through, move to a buttered baking dish. Add one entire packet of Arrowhead Mills Organic Savory Herb Stuffing Mix, and mix through. Then add 4 cups of Chicken or Turkey stock. Stuffing should be wet through, but not soupy. Make sure each nugget of bread is covered with liquid. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes.

Rhea Dahlberg, who was raised in Montana, bought her homemade Apple Pie for us all to eat, a recipe from her mother. 

This is enough for 1 crust: You’ll need to make 2 for the pie. Blend together 2 and a half cups of Flour1 tablespoon Sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon Salt. Then add 1 cold stick of Butter and half a cup of Shortening (also cold). Work with a fork or pulse in a food processor until dough looks crumbly. Slowly add 1/4 cup of ice cold water. Work until dough comes together. Dump onto a floured surface and form a disk. Chill for 20 minutes and then roll out on a floured surface. For the filling: Peel 10 Apples and slice them thin, squeeze half a Lemon over the apples to prevent browning. In a saucepan combine: half a cup of Brown Sugarhalf a stick of Butter2 teaspoons of ground Cinnamon1 teaspoon of ground Ginger. Stir until melted together. Mix into apples. Put first pastry into pie dish. Pour apple mixture in. Put second pie crust on top. Make two slits into the top crust. Bake for 45- to 1 hour at 325 degrees.


Photographs from top: Baked Feta in Phyllo dough with Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Garlic, Jim Lahey’s  No-Knead Bread, a bowl of chocolate covered almonds and my ‘o’ polaroid, Rhea’s Apple Pie, Stuffed Pumpkin with Parsnips and Carrots, Crispy Brussels Sprouts in Bacon, Pecans, and Blue Cheese, the chalkboard Menu, view from the outside: it’s cozy inside. 


All props, plates, linens and other fine tableware seen in these shots are available at:
Milk Farm Road

Click here to see Heather’s website, which also includes her blog.

(Photographs: Dimity Jones)


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who subscribes to, follows or reads my blog. (Especially some of the early subscribers, who’ve hung in there, no matter what!) I really appreciate your support. Thank you! —d x


7 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in Montana

  1. WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!!!!!

    You got it goin on girl!!! I love the painting behind the feta in filo, and the drawings behind the pie and the sprouts…it all makes me so happy…your writing and the photos really do it for me.
    ( I also really loved the “he’s got my tongue” quote)
    I love it all and have told lots of my friends about you…

    I am going up to Hudson, the town is having a big open house to start off the holidays (1st weekend in December, every year, I think). Reindeer, and special drinks and music are involved and we are going to stay with my fabulous Australian friend Wendy Frost…so fun will be had by all. Her # is 1-518-828-3172…You must meet her sometime, just say Sumo sent you…
    Keep it up girl…I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Oh, I know that trip all too well. My dad just sold his ranch, and left Dillon, MT. Use to have to fly into Butte, and then do the drive. Always took all day. Worth it though, isn’t it. Gorgeous country. Skies filled with stars. Will miss it.

    Glad you had a lovely Thanksgiving!

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