November 28, 2011
On the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, our power went out. I had 3 loaves of cornbread in the oven at the time, both the dishwasher and the washing machine running, and untold pounds of food for the next day in my fridge.
Thankfully, there was a turkey looking out for me somewhere, and the electricity was restored just a half hour later. It was 30 minutes of panic, as you might imagine, but smooth sailing from then on out. Even the cornbread turned out fine. Although we were missing some of our far-flung family members, this Thanksgiving turned out to be one of the most relaxing holiday afternoons and tastiest meals we’ve ever put together.
You can see my whole menu at Thanksgiving 2011: The Plan, but here are some highlights:
My dad asked my mom on Thanksgiving morning, “Is this the holiday with the cheese?” Yes, it is at our house — it’s a tradition J. and I started when we took over hosting the holiday. We make up a cheese plate as an appetizer before everyone sits down to the table. This year we had, clockwise from the top, Roncal (a hard, aged sheep’s milk cheese similar to Manchego); La Tur (a runny, butter cheese made with a mix of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk); Caveman Blue (a raw, whole milk blue from a single herd of Brown Swiss and Holstein cows); and La Serena (a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese). J. picked out the cheeses at Murray’s, and they were all winners.
J. tried something new with the turkey this year: spatchcocking. To spatchcock a bird, you remove the backbone and then press it flat, so that it’s butterflied. He cooked it on our smoker, but with just charcoal and no wood, so it had a bit of a grilled flavor but still a traditional taste:
Prepped this way, the turkey took only a couple of hours to cook, and my kitchen stayed nice and cool without a bird in in the oven.
We usually serve one additional protein with the turkey, and this year J. wanted to try making a leg of lamb. He used his smoker for this beauty as well, seen here after marinating overnight in honey, whole grain prepared mustard, lemon zest, and pepper and getting an additional dusting of zest, salt, and pepper seasonings before heading for the smoker:
The lamb was tasty, and a worthy experiment, but probably not something we’d repeat. It was definitely not as well received as other entrees we’ve made for holidays; J.’s Favorite Goulash and sweet & sour meatballs have gone over better.
The steamed artichokes and Green Olive Dressing were my favorite part of the meal.
Although it was a horrible yellowish-brown color, people were ready to eat the dressing by the spoonful — it was that good. It was similar to a tapenade, but not as thick. We had a lot of leftover artichokes, so I know not everyone had one, but I was very excited to have leftovers in the fridge the next day.
I didn’t photograph them, but we also got rave reviews from the Onion Jam (we slathered it on top of the cornbread), Mustard Vinaigrette Beet Salad, and wild mushroom stuffing (I doctored a stuffing mix by adding dried and fresh wild mushrooms, plus sauteed celery and onion — don’t forget to add in some of the soaking liquid from reconstituting the dried mushrooms for an extra burst of fungi goodness). And of course, as a group we were able to almost finish off a tray of sweet potatoes with marshmallows. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them.
Dessert was comical, but delicious. We had 12 adults and 2 kids at our dinner, and twice as many desserts as I’d planned: pecan pie, pumpkin pie, coconut pie, fruit salad, brownies, apple pie, cheesecake (a birthday cake for J.’s cousin), and some other assorted brownies that were never even opened. The overage came from extra sweets making their way into the house with our guests, but I didn’t hear any complaints about the bounty.
Aside from the dessert leftovers, we had a very reasonable amount of side dishes to put away, and quite a bit of the lamb and turkey. No problem, we vacuum-sealed the meats in boilable bags, and froze them. Now we’ve got lots of quick meals we can pull from the freezer: our Thanksgiving keeps on giving.
Filed under: Holidays