Thanksgiving tips

Having done Thanksgiving at the house and brought a whole Thanksgiving over to another household, I’ve learned many many things about how to make the day easier.  Here’s what’s been making this Thanksgiving easier.


  1. Making a day-of cooking schedule.  This is especially important because I will be spending the morning running a 10k with the family.  Be realistic about the schedule in terms of when you want people to come versus when you want people to sit down and eat.  I take my turkey out a full hour before serving to rest, carve and then tent.  So if the dinner invite says 6:00 pm, realistic, you’ll be sitting down to eat at 6:30 pm. So take the turkey out at 5:30 pm and use that time to heat up the rest of the dishes in the oven.
  2. Make as much ahead of time as you can.  For this meal I made the cake balls, stuffing and turkey herb rub ahead of time. 
  3. As a corollary to that, if your fridge is stuffed to the gills with turkey day stuff, enlist the fridge of a friend.  Invariably someone will be out of town for Thanksgiving and you can store stuff in their freezer.  That makes things a lot easier to negotiate. 
  4. When coming up with day of plan, make sure to have the kitchen ready for someone else to put together the dish they bring.  At the very least most dishes need to be heated up. 
  5. Set the table the day before. 
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Stuffing – More technique than recipe

One thing to note, while I grew up doing the stuffing IN the bird, I now bake it in a separate pan.  I love how it gets all crusty on top.  I was relaying my Swiss chard and sausage stuffing recipe to a friend and she asked me for the recipe.  At that point I was completely befuddled because I do stuffing enough now that there is no recipe.  Just technique.  When you are doing stuffing using bread cubes as opposed to stuffing mix (and there’s no shame in that!), you can’t really go with a strict recipe.  A baguette has a different consistency than a sourdough round.  So the key is to have plenty of stock on hand.

There are four components to stuffing – bread, add ins, stock and eggs.

So you cut the bread into about 1 1/2 in cubes.  Put them in a cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes until they are dry like croutons.

Make your add ins.  They can be basics of onions, celery, and carrots.  But you can add apples, sausage, swiss chard, shredded zuchinni.  Just make sure you saute them until the onions are translucent.  And of course you have the herbs of your choice – usually about a tablespoon worth.

So in a LARGE mixing bowl, mix the add ins and the bread together.  Then add the stock about a cup at a time.  Keep tossing the bread with everything.  At first it will clang around because the cubes are dry but as you add the stock, it will begin to sound squishy.  Once th clanging sounds stops and you just hear squish, stop adding stock.  Then add the eggs (about 3 should make a 9×13 baking pan’s worth of stuffing).  Mix everything again and pour into a greased baking pan.  Bake at 350 for half an hour.

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Thanksgiving 2012 – The Countdown

So you all know that I start planning for Thanksgiving in September.  In past years Thanksgiving has been a family affair with the traditional 10K race and post-meal karaoke.  But this year extended family had other meal plans.  We will still be running the 10K.  But the meal itself will strictly be a friend affair with four of our dear friends.  Foodwise, I decided to go with an Italian theme.  Here’s the menu:

Cheese plate with a homemade fig jam and pickled carrots
Rosemary and lemon rubbed turkey
Porcini marsala gravy
Stuffing with Swiss chard and Italian sausage
Broccoli rabe with a balsamic reduction and pine nuts
Butternut squash risotto
Apple-cranberry upside down cakes
Tiramisu flavored cake balls
Pumpkin pie (made by West Coast Rebecca)

So as of today the stuffing is made and in the freezer.   The cake balls are made.  The butternut squash is roasted.  I’ll update folks on the progress during the week.

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So I was minding my own business walking my dog listening to the Splendid Table when Jan and Michael Stern from Road Food come up.  And they are talking about road food in Orange County, CA – where i spent most of my childhood.  And then the FUCKING STEP IN IT and say there’s a dearth of road food in Orange County.  And in the middle of my walk I FUCKING LOSE IT.  I’ve written about how problematic Jan and Michael Stern are but now they are in MY HOMETOWN.  It is ONLY by erasing Orange County rich tapestry of Asian cultures do the Sterns come up with the impression that Orange County has a dearth of Road Food.  These cheap, authentic, informal places fit by the Sterns’ definition of road food (Great regional meals along highways, in small towns and in city neighborhoods.)  Yet somehow Orange County is a road food wasteland.  I say this is their loss but I know that this kind of attention and bring much needed business to these restaurants.  They deserve better and we all deserve better.

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So what happened to?

The Farmer’s Market posts?  Well, I have the strange feeling you all were as bored as I was about the whole thing. That first post?  Super fun.  But then I realized I am a huge creature of habit and when I find a reliable set of recipes/ingredients, I make them.  This might be double true for eating locally where if tomatoes are in season, I eat a lot of tomatoes and then eat none until they are in season. So yes that means a ton of gazpacho, tomato salads, panzanellas.  What I might do is a quarterly farmer’s market post to see how my eating and cooking changes with the season but week to week?  Way too repetitive. 

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Chai Thai Noodles – Like Souplantation but Thai

Thai food is a tricky, tricky thing.  Great authentic, not watered down Thai food is as difficult to find as morel mushrooms.  Previous to our discovery of Chai Thai Noodles we went to Champa Garden and the Berkeley Thai Temple to get our fixes.  With Chai Thai Noodles, we’ve found really interesting Thai food that doesn’t just give you Pad Thai and Curry (although those are on the menu).  The real stars of the menu are the salads and soups. Located just off Lake Merritt on (the aptly named) International Blvd. in Oakland, Chai Thai Noodles does live up to its name.  I suspect that some of the more unexpected flavors of from Laotian influences.  Particularly their rice ball salad (think rice that’s crispy like the bottom of a rice cooker).  The salty-sour combination that you rarely get in Western cuisines is highlighted here.  It’s served with lettuce leaves and herbs so you can make your own lettuce wraps.  And again with the lettuce wraps, they serve a pretty mean larb – the Thai-Lao ground meat salad in a lime dressing that you put on lettuce leaves and eat with your hands. While the flavor is the awesome salty-sour, the texture of the catfish salad is a bit to dry and flaky.  

But the real standout of Chai Thai are the soups.  Every single one of the soups we tried were spectacular.  Both the expected Tom Kha Ga and Tom Yum soups are not only delicious but served in HUGE portions.  The great thing about these two standbys is the complexity of the flavors.  Usually these dishes pretty much taste sour.  But Chai Thai’s versions have a nice depth to them. 

The other set of soups you need to order are their noodle soups.  For one thing, they are a great value.  They are priced from $7-8 for a soup that is served in a mixing bowl.  J ordered the Kao Soy Thai, an egg noodle soup served with yellow curry as the broth.  The kicker for this awesome dish is that it’s served with pickled mustard greens which adds a sour note to the salty-sweet of the yellow curry.  On top of the soft egg noodles are a nest of deep fried egg noodles.  I had the generically named beef noodle soup, kind of the Thai version of Pho Dac Biet with tripe, meatballs, beef, and bean sprouts.  Very much like a pho but with a heartier spice level. 

We haven’t gone through all of the noodles dishes but we will definitely be back for more. 

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Project Farmer’s Market Week 8, Haul 9

Ok this is going to be a combined post with no picture (we forgot to take one).   This week was a lot of going out to eat so not too much and really, if any of you are noticing, I’m getting repetitive.  Lot’s of gazpacho, fajitas, and salads.  Any suggestions to shake things up would be helpful.

This week.  Ate a lot of stone fruit with yogurt for breakfast.

Asian fusion fajitas (Thai style chicken, Korean marinated skirt steak – marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, a bit of sugar, and Korean kimchee spice) – cilantro, onions, red peppers
Tomato Salad with Avocado – tomatoes, avocado, onion, cilantro

Tempura fried shishito peppers with cilantro mayonnaise (mayo with lime juice, chili powder, and finely chopped cilantro) – cilantro, shishito peppers
Salad with goat cheese and pluots – pluots, salad greens

Merguez sausage
Gazpacho – cucumber, red bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, green onions

This week’s haul
Salad Greens
Assortment of Heirloom Tomatoes
2 flats of San Marzano tomatoes to can
6 large red onions to pickle
Stone fruit – pluots, plums, peaches
Onions – green
Olive bread
Shishito peppers

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Project Farmer’s Market – Haul

Salad Greens
Peppers – Red, jalepeno, poblano
Assortment of Heirloom Tomatoes
Stone fruit – pluots, plums, peaches
Onions – red and green
Summer squash
Shishito peppers

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Project Farmer’s Market – Week 7

We went out a lot this week so less to report on.

Panzanella – tomatoes, unfiltered olive oil
Zuchinni pancakes – zuchinni

Gazpacho – tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, unfiltered olive oil
Salad – salad greens pluots

Salsa verde – poblano peppers, jalepeno peppers, cilantro, green onions

Which turned into the base for pork and tomatillo stew.


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Project Farmer’s Market – Haul 7

A day late but still just as good.

Salad Green
Peppers – Red, jalepeno, poblano
Early Girl Tomatoes
Pluots – awesome as a salad with goat cheese and walnuts
Merguez sausage
Onions – red and green
Unfiltered olive oil

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