A rather ominous title, don’t you think? Anyway, as my Facebook friends know, this post should be pretty epic. I teased it last night since I haven’t written in awhile and there are several factors contributing to that. I will not be listing those right now. I will be listing a whole bunch of other stuff though, regardless of how irrelevant it is now (read: Thanksgiving dinner information). Other stuff I plan on covering today? Christmas, education, wait, ya know what? No. I’m not gonna list anymore of what I’m gonna talk about. I don’t like having a plan here, and whatever flows forth from my fingers, will be what gets read by you. And, by the way, I appreciate you stopping by. If you’re new here, I recommend going back and reading some of my older posts. They should keep you satiated until such a time as when I can post again. Now that I’ve gotten my disclosures out of the way, let’s eat! Err… I mean, “write!”
I think my new favorite word in the realm of cooking is “culinarian.” And while WordPress seems to think that it is not a real word (giving me the red squiggly line indicating something is misspelled), I heard it on the television a few weeks ago and loved it. I would venture to guess that it can be used to describe someone who is “above” a cook, and certainly below a chef. And to those that, on an off chance, might be offended by that last statement, just let me say that there is a hierarchy of chefdom that I think most people would recognize; ranging from “what’s a range?” to master chef (side note to my fellow video gamers out there: I almost typed master chief). This paragraph ended up being a lot longer than I originally intended. The benefits of not having a plan!
I would like to meander now into the world of actual food talk. Thanksgiving, in fact. Now, I know I’m a little late to the party here, but bear with me. Just because I’m talking about something that is a few weeks old doesn’t make it any less delicious-looking or relevant. Anyway. I cooked a turkey breast as opposed to a full turkey. This will be my tradition. I would rather cook 10 turkey breasts then to cook a full turkey and the reason is simple: consistency. And time. Yes, consistency and time. The full breast is basically done all at the same time and I control that temperature much easier without risk of over-cooking something. Furthermore, You could cook 2-3 turkey breasts back-to-back in the same amount of time that it would take to cook just one full turkey. The recipe I used was awesome. I made an herb butter with rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage…and bacon. The mixture was rubbed under the skin of the breast, and some of the reserved bacon fat was rubbed on the outside of the skin. Exposed bacon fat + high oven heat = fried exterior of the turkey. Which also happens to make it nice and crispy. Which also happens to look something like this:
The darker pockets on the bottom are where a lot of the herbs ended up going because that’s kinda what gravity does. You better believe I brined this bird, too. Which really helped it retain its moisture. In my opinion, it did not need gravy, just a fork. And maybe some sweet potatoes. And it went from raw to carved in about 90 minutes. Try doing that with a full bird. In the process of getting ready for this meal, I did learn some new stuff about brining. The most important part (and something I’ll remember for next time) is that it’s better to brine your bird for longer in a weaker brine, then a shorter time in something stronger. That helps take some of the guesswork out of the process, since you can brine it for 24 hours or longer, without running the risk of over-saturating the meat with salt.
And what would Thanksgiving be without the side dishes? We had a plentiful amount of them, which, conveniently enough, will be examined here.
First up is the broccoli casserole shown to the left here. This was pretty dang good, and pretty easy since most everything could be prepared ahead of time, and all I had to do on the day-of is just put it all together and bake it. So it was a plentiful amount of chopped broccoli, cheddar cheese, and red onions, and I think some garlic. I just steamed the broccoli for about 5 minutes to soften them, and then put it all together. Super simple and very tasty. I would like to make a side note here and mention that anytime you can afford the time and effort to shred your own cheese, I highly recommend it. Pre-shred cheeses have an anti-caking agent in the package that can do funny things to the cheese if you’re trying to melt it down for something (fondue being one of them). For the sake of convenience, it’s fine for something like scrambled eggs, or cheeseburgers, but the extra effort can be worth it in a number of different applications. Enough about that.
Pictured to the right is the ham and Italian mac and cheese we had. My parents were great enough to being a delicious Honeybaked Ham with them on the trip down, and that place just knows how to make a good ham. The crust on that ham is so great. Sweet and crunchy, without being too strong for the actual salty taste of the ham. Amazing. In the right of that picture is the Italian macaroni and cheese that my wife put together. The picture doesn’t really do it a lot of justice because it was packed with flavor! Penne pasta, cheese sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms and Italian sausage, among other things. Oh yeah, and it’s topped with a generous amount of parmesan cheese and then broiled to brown the cheese. The result was just too fantastic, and my wife did a really amazing job on this dish. The topping was nice and crispy (my favorite part), and everything else was creamy and delicious. It feels so weird typing about this at 9am, because oddly enough, I’m hungry for dinner right now 🙂
Pictured to the left: Pillsbury crescent rolls, mashed potatoes and the “stuffing.” In my opinion, it isn’t a meal unless you have those darn crescent rolls. They’re delicious and easy. ‘Nuff said. The mashed potatoes were pretty special. My wife, who happens to be sort of a mashed potato expert, told me that they were some of the best I’ve made. And that means a lot to me. So what was special about them? Funny you should ask, because I was just about to tell you! How about this: the half and half that I used to put in the potatoes had been steeping with several cloves of crushed garlic. That ensured that every bite of potato had a nice garlicky taste to it, but wasn’t too overpowering. Elevate that with a generous handful of parmesan cheese, as well as a generous helping of salt and pepper, and there ya go. And before I go on, I have to note that potatoes LOVE salt. They need it to survive; metaphorically, of course. But potatoes can take a lot of salt without tasting salty, and that’s a big distinction. And the other piece of the puzzle in the picture is the “stuffing.” I didn’t actually stuff the breast with anything, but the bag I made the product out of calls it stuffing. Pretty straight-forward stuff, but my dad said it was the best he’s had, and that’s good enough for me. It was pretty dang good though. I would make it again, in lieu of StoveTop stuffing, I went with Pepperidge Farm’s version, and I liked it a lot.
Finally, pictured to the right are my sweet potatoes. Nothing really too special here. I cubed up some sweet potatoes and tossed them with a generous helping of olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and brown sugar. It wasn’t until after they hit the plate that I realized that I wanted to add some maple syrup to that mix (since I had some of my high-quality stuff leftover from my bacon ice cream expeditions). Oh well. I roasted them in my oven, and they were delicious regardless. I know the picture here isn’t too spectacular, but they tasted great, and that’s all that matters anyway.
Not pictured here are the appetizers we had, as well as the desserts. For appetizers, we made some bacon and cheddar deviled eggs. I’ll be honest, they wouldn’t have made great pictures because, well… they just weren’t that pretty. But they were pretty awesome. Possibly the best deviled eggs I’ve had. Also, my wife made a really nice cheesy-bread, but not what you’re thinking. If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse, they give you this chewy cheese bread, and that’s the recipe she replicated. It was very good. Warm and fluffy, slightly cheesy, and chewy. Very chewy. Truth be told, it was just the slightest bit bland, in my opinion. But, we made them about a week later for some guests and added more salt to the batter and that fixed that problem. As I’ve said before: salt will help bring flavors to the fore, not just make something salty, and that’s exactly what happened here.
Also not pictured, much to my surprise, are the desserts. We had a plethora of desserts. I made one heck of a pumpkin pie, that I will make again for Christmas. I mentioned it before. It uses melted vanilla ice cream instead of milk. Best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. My wife made a banana pudding that was really well done also. It was creamy and banana-y. Also, crunchy, because it was topped with a vanilla wafer “crisp,” which added a lot of flavor and texture. But wait, there’s more! My mom brought some great chocolate cookies that I ate way too many of. She also brought a homemade red velvet cake, which was also destroyed, and quite delicious.
All in all, our feast was just that: a feast. Not to mention that we do not have a very big kitchen, so getting this all done to the degree that we did was a feat of good planning and a general level of patience. If you’ll notice in the pictures above, I used a lot of disposable aluminum pans and such. I would much rather spend a few extra dollars and make clean-up a snap…sorry nature.
And you know what? I’m gonna end this right here. I am, however, going to go ahead and write my next post, but just save it. Consider this paragraph a teaser. I went into some great detail about my Thanksgiving dinner, and I may have already lost some of my readers’ attention spans here. No worries. The next post is gonna be good.Stay positive, love your life, and play with your food 🙂