Thanksgiving 2010

We had a great Thanksgiving; with quite and adventure with one of the turkeys.

We figured we’d have about 16 people this year; which is pretty typical. But the good news is I’d have some of the extended Thompson clan to give a little balance to the Austin crowd. My nephew Carr came down and stayed with us and made a terrific pumpkin roll. His brother Christopher took plenty of pictures, but hasn’t sent them to me yet.

I don’t like Thanksgiving food much and maybe as a result I haven’t found a perfect Turkey recipe yet. Last year I tried to make a “rub” of butter and herbs but the turkey was too wet and I had more globs of butter on my hands than on the turkey. This year, just a little oil and salt and pepper. My focus was going to be on the gravy so I didn’t want to brine the turkey which ends up with drippings way too salty for gravy. Another option was a dry-brined turkey which I read about in The Oregonian FoodDay where they compared two methods of brining.

Also, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a turkey; so, I took a look at the Cook’s Illustrated site to see what their taste test results said about turkeys. They agreed with me that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a turkey; they felt (like me) that heritage birds end up tough without enough of the breast meat that people crave. They did recommend a kosher turkey so I thought I’d start there. A kosher turkey is packed in salt so I could save myself the effort of dry brining (maybe next year).

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving I dropped by Haggens to inquire about kosher turkeys. I threw them for a loop; the guy I talked to wasn’t the butcher and told me to call back on Monday or Tuesday. When I called back, the guy was in a meeting; I told the receptionist what I wanted and she knew all about it: “we’ve called Corporate to try to find kosher turkeys”. Wow, I thought they are going out of their way. Finally I got ahold of the butcher and told him what I wanted. He said he’d get in a couple of cases and he’d hold one back for me. He warned me that they’d be frozen and to be prepared.

So, on Friday before Thanksgiving he called to tell me they were in. “Did they give you a price?” he asked. Uh oh. “No; what’s the damage”. Turns out they go for $3.99 a pound (compared to free ones if you spend enough on groceries). A 20 pound turkey checked in at just under $80. Yikes; so much for the idea of not spending a fortune. But I had specifically asked for a kosher bird and they really went all out for me, so I broke out the debit card.

They were right; it was frozen absolutely solid. I put it in the garage refrigerator to let the defrosting begin. It was still pretty firm on Wednesday night so I took it out for an hour and put it under some running cold water.

Thanksgiving day everything went according to plan with just a couple of hiccups. It took about 45 minutes longer to cook than I expected. I should have started earlier in any case so it was a bit of  a last minute sweat to get it all done.

My brother-in-law Jim bought a new deep fryer this year to replace his old one and he deep fried another turkey as usual. It was delicious.

The pan dripping gravy came out well; I used a recipe from Alton Brown. His recipe was for drippings from a 14 pound turkey; I had too much drippings from my 20 pounder to fit in my large fat separator. No big deal, I improvised. I started things and Carla’s brother Glenn took it from there while I carved the turkeys. I used the new method I had seen on Cook’s Country where you take the whole breast off in one piece and cut it across the grain. I described the technique in my posting on the French Chicken in a Pot post. 

Everybody loves gravy and I wanted to make sure I had plenty; so I also tried to make another gravy based on a roux I used for Gumbo.  I figured I’d add some herbs, chicken stock, and wine to the roux. I had made the roux ahead of time and had it waiting. In short, it was an unmitigated failure. I had used oil for the roux when I should have used some sort of fat like butter or other saved drippings. Oh well, at least I experimented, which I don’t do nearly enough of.

Dinner itself was fantastic. We had quite a few new dishes. I’ve read about Susan Stamberg’s cranberry relish for the last 30 years. I thought I’d make it myself for the first time. Raw cranberries, onion, horseradish, sour cream and sugar. It was, um, interesting. Some people professed to like it but we sure had a lot of it left over at the end of the day. I was impressed with the power of my new KitchenAid food processor which ground it up to a nice chunk in about 5 seconds. I found out why later as I was cleaning up; the blades is heckuv sharp. I put a nice little divot in my thumb.

A great green bean with vinaigrette replaced the venerable green bean casserole. Carla’s mashed potatoes were wonderful. We had two great dressings and a bunch of killer desserts courtesy of Glenn, his wife Carolyn and her daughter Stella.

For dessert, I busted out the new KitchenAid food processor to make the whipped cream. I’m used to spending a few minutes whipping up the cream with a hand mixer, so I put in the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla; turned it on and took my eyes off it. It would have been ready in about 20 seconds I think; I didn’t bother turning around to look until over a minute passed. Soft peaks, it was not. Very dense; about the look of mashed potatoes. Well, it still tasted okay.

I’ll get some pictures from Thanksgiving posted as soon as I get them from Christopher.

Rating: ★★★  3 Stars

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