Thanksgiving Wrap Up

I know, I know. I said I’d post this yesterday, but really, the thought of all that food again made me a little green. This may be a long post, so get comfy. Maybe make a leftover sandwich.

First, big thanks go to my dad (see him in the potato post next to me) for helping me pull off the whole meal. We work really well together as a team in the kitchen. Also, to my grandmother (standing by the buffet in this post) for helping keep the kitchen from becoming a disaster zone by washing up dishes as we used them. Big help.

On to the food. We were rather more organized this year, I think. We did a lot more prep work on Wednesday that meant a little less oven chaos. My grandmother made the green bean casserole ahead of time so that on Thursday all she had to do was add the fried onions and heat it up. We also boiled the yams ahead of time to free up the stove top, which was helpful when dad realized he hadn’t preboiled the red potatoes like he’d planned. With those things out of the way, the first two and a half hours of cooking were pretty stress free, as all we had to worry about was basting the turkey.

The turkey, oh man. It came out so well. I was worried that having such a large bird with a long cook time would end up dried out. But with the brining and the basting and the cooking position, it was great. We started it breast side down, and then flipped it for the final hour of cooking. When dad went to flip it, the hip joints actually broke the bottom half of the bird away from the breasts, it was so tender. We ended up having to sort of Tetris the bird into place after that, the legs at one end, the breast at another, so that everything would brown nicely. We took it out a little after I had originally scheduled to (only about ten minutes late) because of other things going on in the kitchen, but it wasn’t dry at all. Dad carved it up, and we both pilfered a little as he went since neither of us ate anything after breakfast.

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There was so much meat from the bird that we only put one leg’s worth on the platter. One misstep with the bird though: we forgot to put the gizzards and neck in the roaster, so they’re still sitting in a ziplock bag in the fridge. Not sure what we’re going to do with them now.

As you saw, I also made my famous Brussels sprouts. I know a lot of people don’t like sprouts, but trust me, these will change your mind.

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Now, I usually do them with a little pancetta, but considering the richness of all the other dishes, I left that out. I’ll give you the recipe in another post to come. This was the only dish I felt I screwed up a bit. I got distracted and twice found that there was no liquid in the pan and they got a bit burnt in places, but everyone seemed okay with them and they still tasted great.

I’ve already mentioned that we did potatoes and yams. We actually did yams two ways. There was a discussion about how to do them that I’ll leave out, but it resulted in my grandmother preparing three yams in slices with brown sugar and butter, while my dad and I had them mashed with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. We actually went so far as to put the little mallows on top, which I didn’t think we were going to do, but for dad it was a “why not?” moment. So we mallowed them up! They were really good. In previous years I’ve done chopped butternut squash in butter and brown sugar, but we decided to mix it up a bit for this year.

Joining the starch party (so many, many starches on tables this time of year), we also made stuffing. Now, I love a good homemade stuffing, but that is too much work on a day like Thanksgiving (for me), so we turn to the standard: Stovetop Turkey stuffing. Besides the sprouts, the stuffing is always my favorite part. I really don’t know why spiced moist stale bread is so good, but it is!

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We also outsourced the gravy this year. I have in past done a gravy with the pan drippings, but this year we decided to be a bit easy on ourselves and got some premade. It did taste great, but I held back on having too much myself. The problem with outsourced gravy is that there’s usually some dairy in it. Now, that’s understandable. I know plenty of recipes use cream or milk to smooth out the gravy and give it a richer flavor. More power to ’em. But since I’m lactose intolerant, that wasn’t going to fly too far with me. This brand didn’t have any milk or cream, but listed in the “turkey flavor” parenthetical that there was lactose.

I’ve made some good strides lately, handling small amounts of dairy in milk chocolate and caramel (thank you Halloween for letting me test myself), so I did pour a little over my potatoes. What always gets me is the people who pour gravy over everything. Thankfully, no one did that at my table, but it always upsets me to see people do that. I understand it if the food is dry. Fine. But when I cook, I plan seasonings and such so that there are distinct flavors. Don’t go messing it all up by dumping gravy over everything. Isn’t your meal boring when it all tastes the same? Hmph.

Thankfully the cranberry sauce is spared from overgravying. We always get the can of Oceanspray cranberry sauce. It’s not the same otherwise. I may have to revise my earlier statement that stuffing is my favorite. Cranberry sauce is right up there. And you know what? I have to agree with Hamilton Nolan in this piece from Gawker on Monday. We should have cranberry sauce as a side all year. It’s delicious. Who’s with me?

So, let’s see. We had:

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Yams (two ways)
  • Mashed roasted red skin potatoes
  • Cranberry sauce
  • A fruit bowl (for the guests we had)

I guess that’s it. It was a long day, but a pretty good one. Hope everyone enjoyed theirs and had as successful a day of cooking as I did. Cheers!

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Tomorrow is recap day

I’ll be giving you all a rundown of how today went and the little tips and tricks I use for cooking a big meal. For now, I’m going to read for as long as I can keep my eyes open. Severe food coma is coming my way.

Hope everyone’s holiday was wonderful and filling.

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