Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Considered

I consider a lot of things at 5:30am. That's not to say I get up to do anything about them, but I definitely consider them. Around 6:30 or 7:00 I'm ready to go back to sleep. Unfortunately by then my kids are awake and starting to consider things themselves--like breakfast.

This morning I was thinking about Thanksgiving--what went right, what went wrong. Does it ever all go right? (If it does for you, don't tell me okay; it'll just make me feel bad.)

So here we have it, a brief run-down (I saw you snork that pie through your nose when I said 'brief') of what went right and wrong with our holiday and its food.

What I Did Right:

1. I was thankful.
2. I was happy (except for a short stressed period having to do with the turkey, whoops.)
3. The pumpkin pie was perfect. I'll be posting the recipe sometime in December.
4. The rolls were perfect. Possibly even better than usual. I actually made a small time miscalculation and had them just about risen just as the turkey was going into the oven. Consequently, I punched them down and put them in the fridge, where they promptly rose again. I let them go for a while and punched them down and made them into rolls and put those in the refrigerator to rise very slowly. Which they did. The slow rising several times seemed to make rolls pillowier (what? you think I made that word up) than usual--they were light while still having some bite and texture. So, if you've got the time, using the refrigerator can help your rolls even more. If you don't have the time, don't worry--they'll still be wicked good.
5. With my mother-in-law's help, I made a super simple cranberry sauce that was sweet with just a bit of brightness, of punch. I'll try to post that in December too.
6. I made stuffing. Hurray and thanks to my sister, Rebecca, for passing the recipe on to me. It was super simple. It was good. It could be adapted in a trillion ways. It can be actually stuffed into a turkey or made on the stove. It warmed well. I also figured out how to make a homemade "box" stuffing, which is so simple, you might be embarrassed, at least I was. I'll post that soon too--maybe before Christmas, or maybe I'll save it for when we're eating on $6/day for our Cheap Eat Challenge
7. The brine and seasoning for the turkey and stuffing were perfect. Perfect. They were so good. If nothing else good came from my herb garden this year (and I assure you, plenty of good things did), it still would have been worth it for my turky and dressing.
8. I had my family with me. Cheesy, but true.

What Went Wrong:

1. Oh dear. I must first start with a confession. My turkey, which was perfect last year and which I raved about and promised you perfection with--it gave me a little grief. It was a little bigger than last year's bird, which is all I can figure to blame. (Also, when it wasn't done when expected, I kept taking it out to check it every 20 mintues or so, which I'm sure messed with my already low oven temp.) It took longer to cook than I expected and when "finished" there was a sketchy spot near the bottom, which I swore wasn't quite cooked when we started to cut into it. We cut above it and when we went to finish carving and store the meat afterwards, it looked no longer pink? Did it cook as it sat and we ate? Was the light weird when we first looked at it? Was it close to the bone and therefore just a little pink-ish? I don't know. I do know that my mother-in-law (bless her immortal soul) swore to me that she was sure it was done and just perfect and that I didn't need to worry about it. I don't know if she was lying to me or not, but if she was, I sure appreciated it. Mother-in-laws get a bad rap in this world, which makes me even more grateful for mine. At any rate, even though the turkey tasted great, it stressed me out. Next year, I'm going to do it a little differently. In fact, as soon as I'm done with this post, I'm going to go adjust my turkey roasting post. Next year, I'll either plan to cook the turkey longer (like 15-20 minutes/lb after I lower the temperature of the oven) or to lower it to a higher temperature (like 325). The latter is what I'm leaning towards right now. The other option I might consider is starting the bird out on its breast and then flipping it partway through, but that is probably a last resort because it seems painful to me).
2. My chocolate pie tasted perfect. In fact, I think I might christen it Silky Fudge Pie or Truffle Pie, because that is what the chocolate portion tasted like. However. The chocolate-y top separated from the graham cracker crust in a big way. I'm not sure why. I think it might be because I cooked the chocolate part to a higher temp that usual (very close to boiling; I may have even popped a bubble or two above the surface--oops), which made it firmer, which might have made it impossible to adhere to the crust. As it is, you kind of try to take it out and the top peels off and you dump the chunky yummy graham cracker crust on it or nearby or whatever. It's good, but, uh, the presentation needs a little work. Also, my kids tend to leave big chunks of the crust on their plates, which I then feel compelled to eat. Yes, I do.
3. My boiled potatoes sat too long on the stove waiting for the darned turkey to finish. By the time they got mashed, they were a bit gummy. This might not have happened with a russet or something, but we were using waxy reds (because we love them) and they were more tempermental for us. They tasted good anyway.
4. I felt a bit sad at dinner because of my turkey. Come on, it's just a piece of food. I had my family, our warm house, my husband sitting next to me holding my hand, my in-laws, my kids actually complimenting the food (this is not, sigh, a normal dinner occurrence for us). I had all these great things and I sat there wishing my turkey was more centerfold worthy. I'll try to do better next year. Oh yes I will.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tomorrow we'll get some turkey stock.

And then it's on to Christmas recipes.

Also, we'll be counting down (and, uh, hopefully preparing/bracing for) our Cheap Eat Challenge starting January 1st. Join us.

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