>> Monday, November 30, 2009
A bit belated, but Happy Thanksgiving to all.
I have to admit, Thankgiving is really a foodie day for me. It's the one holiday where I like to experiment, and this year was no exception. I planned a very ambitious menu, which needed some serious editing. There was both a soup and a salad on the menu, six different starches, three different vegetable preps and way too many desserts. All for seven diners.
My guests were DS Meladee (sans offspring), DFotF Duke and Anita, and MDF Fran and Geoff.
Before I go any further, I have to give thanks to Dad, without whom I could never, ever have pulled off this meal. Dad peeled 5 lbs of onions, 3 lbs of carrots, plus my poor, doomed squash. He washed pots and bowls and pans, over and over again. There was no task I needed to get done that he didn't help me with. His efforts were a gift of love that I treasure. Thank you, Dad.
The starters: A complete failure. My gorgeous roasted butternut squash soup burned. After spending an hour peeling and another 40 minutes cutting it up, and about 90 minutes in the oven - the squash was perfectly ready for the soup. I put it into the pot with the stock and left the house for a while - needed to get some last minute items. When I came back, it was burned to a disgusting crisp. The pot itself was almost unsalvageable - DS Hali recommended letting it soak overnight with dishwasher powder, and even still, Dad worked on it for over an hour. He played me though - when I came back downstair after my post-getting-the-turkey-in-the-oven nap, he said he did the best he could, but he wasn't sure if the results were satisfactory. When he lifted the lid off the pot - I actually thought he had replaced it with a different one - it was perfectly clean.
The other starter - a tomato salad with a balsamic and raisin reduction never got made. I just ended up washing the tomatos and putting them into a bowl.
The rest of the meal went pretty much as planned.
The Turkey with stuffing cooked inside and outside. I cooked the outside stuffing - DS Meladee's preferred, on Wednesday night. Of course, I made way too much. As for the inside stuffing - everyone (but DS Mel) really prefers the stuffing cooked with the turkey. I do heed the temperature warnings - and I've never had a problem with overcooked white meat. The turkey itself was a Murray's Free Range - No Antibiotic fresh turkey, weighing in at 18.65 lbs. It came with the neck and giblets, but was missing the tip of a wing. How bizarre! The turkey was rubbed with herb butter, and I added beef and chicken stock to the pot, along with celery, onions and carrots as aromatics, but all the moisture was sucked up by the stuffing (made way too much of that too). The gravy was made from the pan drippings and some Kitchen Basics beef stock plus some of the stuffing to thicken it.
The cranberry: Last year's cranberry dish was a disaster - cranberry and pear chutney. It looked good on paper, but tasted vile. I went back to the old standby this year - a relish with sweet and sour fruit and nuts. The recipe was based largely on one given to my by MDF Valerie.
The sides: Some people like the sides better than the turkey and stuffing. My new for this year recipe was sweet potato hash with bacon. Keeping with the "all fat - all the time" theme for this year's feast, I cut up a whole package of Nieman Ranch applewood smoked bacon and cooked it, then cooked the onions and cubed sweet potatos in the rendered bacon fat. In addition, I made my roasted corn and sweet bell pepper salad (served warm) and I roasted carrots, mushrooms and leeks. I was going to make grilled asparagus as well, but I ran out of time - so I served some raw.
The desserts: Two apple pies - why? Because I accidently precooked most of the apples. I left the box of granny smiths on the range, too close to the oven vent, and the steam from the oven cooked almost a dozen apples. It was either use or toss, and since Dad likes apple pie (and who doesn't), it really meant nothing to make two pies. I do have to confess that I used premade pie shells and crust. The pie was served with vanilla ice cream. The bread pudding I made was strange but tasty - more French Toast than bread pudding, but the addition of chocolate sauce only helped. Since I didn't serve a starter, the planned intermezzo was not needed, so I served the Champange and strawberry granita as a dessert. MDF Fran brought a chocolate cake, too. And if that wasn't enough - I realized that DS Mel wouldn't like any of these desserts, so I bought a Bavarian Cream Pie from Torte Fina - which turned out to be the favorite dessert for most of the guests.
The meal took a full two days to prep and cook. I remember when I was growing up, Mom would say that Thanksgiving was the easiest holiday meal. Not for me - cooking for Passover or the HHD is easy - since I really don't want to get creative (and lately, I've been blowing off prepping a big meal anyway). I use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to experiment, and go a bit wild - and I end up overdoing it.
But every one enjoyed themselves, and that made it all worthwhile.