I think the title of this post really says it all. Also, I’m going to go ahead and throw in a *long post warning* since I know that’s inevitably what’s going to happen.
Clearly this post is about Thanksgiving, because what kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t write about how my holiday went? I’ll go ahead and just jump right in to the pieces one by one and go through it like that.
The Turkey. Was awesome. I had a 12-pounder, took the backbone out on Tuesday night, salted it well and stored it in my fridge, on a rack on a sheet tray. I even made my turkey stock on Tuesday night. This was a prep-step I took to cut down on things I needed to do later, besides, I already had the neck, and now I had a back bone to work with too. I seared the turkey parts in some oil, added some mire poix (onion, carrot, celery) along with some thyme and bay, gave those a little color and then added in my (admittedly already very good) chicken stock and let it simmer for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half. I blasted the turkey in the oven at 450 on Thanksgiving day, and the result was a turkey that was done in less than 80 minutes. I had to put that in bold so you got the full gravity of what I just said. Traditionally, a turkey that size would take upwards of, what, 2-3 hours to cook? Then you’re left with bone-dry breast meat, and leg meat that’s cooked through. Not so this time, friends. My breast meat and thigh meat was done at the same time, cooked perfectly, and beautifully browned. In fact, it looked something like this:
I mean, just LOOK at that! Perfectly browned from edge to edge. And the gravy, oh, the gravy. Since my stock was already done, all I needed to do was make a quick roux and add the stock. The result was one of the most delicious gravies I think I’ve ever had. Certainly the best one I’ve made. It had a great depth of flavor, vegetal, meaty goodness. Complemented the meat and stuffing very well.
Speaking of which, the stuff/dressing/bread pudding. These also turned out very well. I cut up the bread a few days ahead of time, let it stale, dried it out in the oven and made the custard. Loaded the pudding up with mushrooms, fennel, onions, and celery. Stuffed handfuls of the bread mix into a well-greased muffin tin (so it IS stuffing) and baked until golden. I did that part on Tuesday night. I almost wish I would have saved that step for Thursday morning because in the tin, the breads puffed up while baking and formed nice rounded tops (like muffins)… but then deflated after removing from the oven. It would have been a nice, dramatic presentation, but alas that did not happen. What did happen was a perfectly executed side dish that was slightly crisp on the outside and creamy on the side. And with the gravy? Oye. It was so darn good.
Green bean casserole. It was, admittedly, my favorite part of the meal. Going the extra mile to make my own crispy shallot topping was the best thing I could have done. The beans still had some snap to them, the creamy base was deliciously rich, and also loaded with some of those crispy shallots. Then topped with a bunch more of the shallots, it was fantastic. Rich, creamy, and just the slightest hint at healthy because of all the beans and mushrooms involved. It was not healthy in the slightest. Things in casserole form don’t typically make great photos, and this one was no exception, but for the record, it looked like this: Mmmm crispy goodness.
Macaroni and cheese made an appearance at Thanksgiving this year, and everyone rejoiced. Though the final product did not come out quite as creamy as I would have liked, it DID taste very good and got Mrs. Lethal’s stamp of approval and that’s all that matters. My marriage is saved for another year :) It had a very pronounced cheddar flavor, thanks to that delicious cheese I got at Whole Foods from Wisconsin. I also spiked it with some of that aged Asiago I bought. And then added more of that asiago to the panko topping for extra crispy, cheesy goodness. The asiago added a pleasant… funk to the dish that really set it off. It’s pretty incredible what can happen to a simple dish when you take the time to do it right, and use high quality ingredients. I think that’s pretty much my mantra as a cook. Use the best ingredients you can and you already start one step ahead.
The cranberries…were a band that was popular in the 90’s. Also, something I made. This is one item that did not quite turn out how I would have liked, but it was still okay. I added a bit too much orange juice to the mix and that kind of over-powered the whole thing. Also, my molding idea didn’t quite turn out how I would have liked. I put the hot mix into an empty can, and let it gel in there, which it did. I turned it out on Thanksgiving, and it stayed together! …Until I started putting my knife through it, then it just turned to mush. So I served it in a big pile. Not quite what I had imagined. So, next time, less orange juice, and maybe add some extra pectin to the cook portion to really get it to set in the can.
Sweet potatoes! They were awesome! I can’t wait to make marshmallows again because I learned a lot from this time. I think I over-whipped my egg whites and they deflated a little, which caused the end product to not be as fluffy as I would have liked. Also, when heated, the bottoms got a little soggy, and nobody likes a soggy bottom. All that aside, the dish was awesome. So very good. The extra punch from the rum in the marshmallow worked so well with the dish as a whole. And the slight burned flavor from the sugar caramelizing in the mallow, oh man it was good. That’s definitely a keeper.
The pumpkin chiffon pie was divine as well. Sure, it never made it to a camera, but it was light, and fluffy, and airy, and pumpkin-y, and rummy, and mmmmmm. Even my wife liked it, and she doesn’t like pumpkin! I topped it with rum-spiked whipped cream, which, I will admit I added a touch too much rum in the cream (yes, there is such a thing.) It was a little boozy, and took just a little bit away from the whole experience. BUT! The experience was still luxurious and tasty. When I read the recipe, the whole thing didn’t make sense to me. However, in making it, a light bulb went off in my head and it occurred to me that I was basically making pumpkin mousse, the same way one would make a chocolate mousse …sans chocolate.
Honorable mention goes to the dinner rolls. They kinda, well… sucked. I will admit defeat on the rolls. They were’t terrible, but I could have done a lot better. I made them on Sunday night, and froze them in ball form, which is allowed. And then thawed them on Thanksgiving and cooked ‘em. Not great. Next time, I’ll just do it all on the morning of, and save myself the disappointment.
And finally, I would just like to add that my goal time to have everything done and ready to eat was 3:00p. We ate at 3:15p. That is the closest I have ever been to serving a meal at the exact time I wanted and I was proud. Not to mention there was time that morning for me to do some cardio, eat some breakfast, and even have a little time to relax here and there. It’s amazing what a few years in culinary school will do to help one plan a big meal like that. I was even cleaning as I went, which resulted in a relative few number of dishes to wash after all was said and done.
Despite how well it went, and the week of prep, I was still exhausted. I slept like a baby that night. A very well-fed and happy baby.