You may not be aware of this, but the Thanksgiving holiday is quite literally right around the corner for us Americans. If you’re American, and reading this, and you did not know there’s only a handful of days left until arguably the best holiday of the year, you definitely need to get your head checked. And also go buy a turkey.
Due to some recent changes in my real life, my lovely wife and I are hosting our parents this year. A lot has changed since the last time I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, and this year will be even better than the last (which was two years ago, if I recall correctly (not making any promises on that.)) I was thinking about doing a “This year vs. last year” sort of write-up. I have decided against that. Maybe.
My menu this year consists of the following items, each with a little description to entice you into wishing you could somehow be married into my family. Unless you’re part of my family that will be joining us, in which case…Spoiler alert!
I’m starting out with deviled eggs. A bit old fashioned I know, but very very tasty. Since the last time, I’ve acquired a food processor, so my yolk mixture will be as creamy and dreamy as possible. Garnished with some super high quality extra virgin olive oil, some bacon crumbles, and a sprinkling of chives, I may fill up on these before the actual meal begins.
Alongside the eggs, I’m going to have maple-roasted cashews. These will be a nice sweet and crunchy alternative to the eggs, and will be a great thing to grab a handful of when walking from one room to the next. Lucky for me, I’ve got connections in Vermont, so I’ve got the real deal maple syrup for these which will add that extra little touch. That’s it for appetizer-related items.
What kind of Thanksgiving would it be without the turkey? For the first year in my life, I’ve gone right to the source and picked up a turkey from the farm. Yes, you read that right. I’ve picked up a Midget White breed turkey in the 12# range and I am very excited about it. It’s presently defrosting in my fridge, awaiting surgery this Tuesday. You see, I’m going to be spatchcocking this bird. And while that totally sounds like a euphemism, I can assure you it is not. It simply means to remove the backbone so the bird lays flat. In doing this, it gives me a backbone to use and fortify my stock, and it also ensures more even cooking in about half the time. All of the meat will be done at the same time, and I’ll have crispy skin all around. Since I’m using a high-quality bird, I have forgone the wet brine that I usually am a spokesperson for. Instead, I will be dry brining, which really is just rubbing salt all over the bird on Tuesday night and letting it sit, lightly covered in the fridge to allow the salt to penetrate the meat. I don’t want to introduce any other flavors other than turkey….and gravy.
Alongside the turkey, I will be making a homemade green bean casserole. I did this one last time and it worked out phenomenally. I’m going to be using a different method/technique/recipe this year, but I have no doubt that it will be even more delicious. The key is to use the highest quality stock you can find. In my case, I have a freezer full of about 2 gallons worth of stock. Not everyone is that lucky, and I would recommend Swanson’s cooking stock, low sodium (Not sponsored, but I’m here if they want me.) If you go the store-bought route, do this to enhance it: Buy more than you think you’ll need. Put it all in a pot, along with some thyme, maybe some bay, chicken or turkey parts if you have them, and any onions/garlic/celery/carrots you may have laying around. Let it simmer for about an hour or so and you’ll have a much better product. If you wanna get super fancy, throw a packet of gelatin (unflavored, please) in there and make it even better. I’ll be frying up shallots for my crispy topping for the finishing, too. I’ll be making extra to snack on as well.
Macaroni and cheese. I could almost believe my wife would divorce me if I didn’t include mac n cheese at the dinner table. My MNC last time was decent, but not great. I’ve learned much since that time. Like, use more sauce than you think you need. And, don’t overcook your noodles. And, use high quality cheese. I’ve gotten a very nice sharp cheddar that was made in Wisconsin, and a great little aged asiago to add just a touch of funk. I’ll also toss some of the asiago with panko for the topping to give it that extra little punch.
I’m really super excited about the sweet potato casserole I’m making, too. The dish itself will really be pretty straight-forward, BUT, for the marshmallow topping, I’m making my own spiced rum marshmallow. Wipe the tears out of your eyes, because I know that sounds like a thing of beauty. In fact, I’m making the marshmallow today. It’s really a pretty easy process, just meticulous. And if you’ve never had real homemade marshmallows, they’re like OMG, and WTF, and LOL, and … just mountains better than store-bought. And I know everyone always says “X thing homemade is way better than X store-bought) but in all honesty, that’s not always the case. I’ll get off my soap box now.
It is said that a stuffing that isn’t actually stuffing is called dressing. Which I think is stupid because dressing is something you do when you’re naked, or something you put on a salad. Who am I to argue with decades of food-lore though? I’m making mine with a store-bought Italian loaf, plenty of mushrooms and fennel among other flavorings in the custard. And I think I’m going to bake it in my muffin tin so each guest can have an individual portion already made out for them. Handy dandy!
Cranberries are usually an after-thought, but I don’t think they should be. Now, my parents have special-requested canned cranberry jelly. Which I keep telling myself is fine. I’m still gonna make my homemade version because I bought a bunch of cranberries and I need to use them. I’ll at least eat it.
Dessert! I’m making a pumpkin chiffon pie with dark rum whipped cream. Don’t drool on your keyboard, you’ll ruin it. Chiffon cakes and pies use whipped egg whites to make them light and airy and I can’t wait to dig into this. That’s all I gotta say about that. We’re also gonna have another dessert available, but we haven’t decided what that will be.
And I’ll be making a brandy-apple punch to keep things interesting while we dine.
And that’s it for now. You should totally follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/imasamurai, simply because it will be easier for me to flood pics on that site than to write a blog about it. And maybe some of those pics will make it into a blog after the holiday, but for all your food-porn related needs, check me out on instagram if you don’t already. Don’t be turned off by the “other” pics I have on there of me, cats, dogs, or beer.