Tales from Thanksgiving 2010

When my family comes together, good food and good wine is always involved.  We’ve got some hardcore foodies (myself and my cousin A and my Chinese Uncle) and some hardcore winies (my sister and her boyfriend, my uncles, and my Dad).   This year however, exercise played a fairly big role as well.  Cousin A rounded all of Generation 2.0 for a nice 10k run to start Thanksgiving.  While we were all frozen stiff at the start, the run was a nice flat fast course so we all managed to do well.  I ended up running it in 55 minutes or a little less than a 9 minute/mile pace.

Enough of the exercise, on to the food.  Because my aunt was hosting Thanksgiving, I was initially doing the whole meal.   With many emails back and forth my aunt, cousin A and I came upon a menu:

Cauliflower soup (me)
Some form of salad
Another green vegetable
Fig and sausage stuffing (me – Barefoot Contessa)
Another form of stuffing
Turkey
Almond Tiramisu (me)
Chocolate Ganache Tart (me)
Pumpkin zabaglione (me)

After the race, we went to my Aunt’s place and after conferring with Cousin A, I realized I would be a bit more active participant than anticipated.  All of my stuff was made ahead of time and just needed t0 be heated.  Cousin A and Aunt had done a lot of prep but none of the dishes were actually assembled and cousin A needed guidance on timing.  So I rolled up my sleeves and helped.  Cousin A and my sister rounded up the rest of the cousins and my brother and sister’s boyfriend and the work was well distributed.  It helped a lot that my mother and Aunt were doing a lot of the cleaning as you go.  Nevertheless, we put together a coherent game plan of getting the turkey ready and in the oven first and then making everything that needed to go in the oven after wards. We would save the salad and sauteed veggies for last.  Here’s the blow by blow:

Cauliflower soup – Made it last year to great acclaim.  Same results this year, especially with my Cousin B to whom I gave a container of leftover soup.

Salad – OH MY GAWD.  This was good. This was SOOOOOOO good.  With no clear game plan for the salad,  Cousin A and I decided to do a salad with roasted pears (as the ones we bought the day of would be hard as a rock), goat cheese, cinnamon walnuts, and proscuitto in a cider vinaigrette.  The roasted pears were DELIGHTFUL and the salad was a perfect compliment to the richness of everything else.

Another green vegetable (Sauteed green beans and brussels sprout hash) – Gotta give it up for Cousin A’s predilection for bacon.  The green beans were straightforward (blanched and then sauteed in butter) but the vision for the hash was divine.  Cousin A browned bacon in a pan and we used a modest amount of the bacon drippings to saute the sprouts.  Because we had a large amount of hash the sprouts weren’t sauteeing on their own so I pour a ladleful of turkey drippings into the pan and covered with the lid.  The result was a tender and caramelized brussels sprout hash that was redolent of turkey flavor.

Two potato gratin and two potato mash – Clearly the highlight of the meal.  So freaking good.  Cousin A had a great recipe where you had a layer of yukon gold potato, then a layer of gruyere, and then a layer of chopped herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) which repeated until you got to the top of the gratin dish and then you pour a mixture of cream, garlic, and butter over the whole thing.  We boiled the extra potatoes and mashed them with some cream and butter and sprinkled a little cinnamon sugar on top.

The stuffings – Both were excellent.  Barefoot Contessa is always a winner and it tasted exactly how it should.  Because there is not such thing as enough stuffing, we made a pan of mustard green, pinenut and currant stuffing.  This was equally good.

The turkey – This was a point of brilliance.  Cousin A not only bought a brined turkey but dry brined it in a mixture of salt, herbs, and clementines.  As if that was indulgent enough we made a compound butter with the Scarborough Fair herbs and clementine zest and rubbed it under the skin and over the skin.  We put the turkey on a roasting rack and pour chicken broth on the bottom of the rack to help make the gravy.  What was interesting was that the 18 pound turkey cooked pretty fast (3 hours!).  I went into a minor panic because the meat thermometer showed the breast meat ended up a toasty 170 degrees, well above the recommend 165).  Our THREE methods of keeping the turkey meat moist ensured (surprise, surprise) moist turkey meat.   In fact, it was the second best turkey I’ve ever had. The best was made by Cheffie.  On top of that, the turkey drippings made a perfect jus that I just reduced a bit and served without any thickening.  Sadly, I was hoping someone would actually carve the beast but noone stepped up to the plate and I ended up “carving” (reading mangling with my bare hands).  The torn but turkey meat was made a little prettier by some garnishes of whole clementines and sage leaves.

Desserts – My old standbys.  One word of caution – don’t dilute liqueur with a different kind of alcohol.  I did a mixture of half amaretto/half bourbon and boy was that strong.

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