Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

I rolled out of bed around 5:30 yesterday morning. Before 9:30, I was snacking on cheese, crackers, roasted butternut squash seeds and chilling with a glass of wine.

Let's start with the seeds. Pat them dry and concoct a tight spice paste with olive oil. I used my favorite combo:  cumin, chili powder, coriander, black pepper and kosher salt.

Add the seeds and toss to coat.

Roast in a shallow pan (I used an 8" skillet) until the seeds are dry. When you shake the pan, the seeds should  move easily. Munch on!

At 2:30, I had another glass of wine and homemade, hand-cut pasta. The pasta was the scraps from my ravioli. I had a pot of boiling salted water, so I couldn't resist. I gave my feet a rest for more than an hour while I blogged about Tuesday's and Wednesday's efforts in the kitchen. Clearly this was going to be a very leisurely Thanksgiving. I didn't eat my meal until 9:05 p.m.!

Blame it on the turkey I was too tired to brine Wednesday night. It didn't get its fragrant bath until 6:30 Thanksgiving morning. Blame the rest on the Dallas Cowboys! During the third quarter, I got tricked into thinking we were going to win. This completely distracted me and I totally forgot about oven management (you know when you shift the turkey to make room for the sides). After we lost, I started reading a book (you have this luxury when it's just you at dinner.)

The best part about all of this is that because I took my time, cleaned my kitchen as I went (the dishwasher and I did five rounds of dishes) and wasn't on my feet until I could no longer stand -- I didn't have a huge mess staring at me after I passed out from the food-induced coma. I even managed to put away all but two of the side dishes before I fell asleep. Final clean up will be a breeze in a couple of hours.

About the food:  I vowed to sew instead of cook this year, but I caved at the last minute. I'm quite proud of the restraint I showed this year regarding the number of dishes:  turkey ($4 for a 12-pound bird) butternut squash ravioli, creamed collard greens, dressing, homemade cranberry sauceyeast rolls and sweet potato pie. These are all TNT (tried and true) recipes for me. The butternut squash ravioli took forever to make. I've added a ravioli maker to my wish list.

Since I don't have all of my turkey how-to tips in one post, I'll do so here.

Oops! No pics of the brine this year. This is from last year. Brining is your friend. Embrace your friend. I tried this brine from Emeril once and I've never looked back since. You're supposed to brine the bird for 12 hrs. Since I started the day of, my turkey had a nine-hour soak.

After brining, here's where you get to know the turkey in an intimate way. I love the result, but I hate the process -- compound butter under the skin. You can take advantage of your spice rack and use a dried mix of poultry seasoning if you like.  Do NOT add salt.

After you get the butter on there, pat the skin dry. Rub the outside of the bird down with butter or olive oil and season. Use dried herbs here. Do NOT use any salt. I like to use poultry seasoning that isn't finely ground into dust (the powdery kind is fine for dressing.)  Grab your pepper mill.

I made a conscious effort to do two things this year: let the turkey sit out a while before baking and not stuff the cavity. I kinda cheated on the first because although I took it out of the fridge, I left it in the brine. This was a generic bird and I wanted it to have as much contact with the brine as possible. Here's what I've noticed with generic birds:  no flavor difference, but look for extra feathers. One of the wing tips was missing too.

I roast my birds breast side down first. You get this:

And this:

Usually, I don't get the pan marks, but the Cowboys had me distracted and I didn't flip the bird soon enough. Here's my finished product:

I can never seem to insert the thermometer correctly to take the temp of the thigh or the breast, so here's how I know if a turkey is done:

1.  Check the pan juices. Are they clear?
2.  Shake hands with your turkey. Are the limbs loose?

That, my friends, is how you make a foolproof turkey.  

Here are the ravioli and greens in pictures. Blogger is not working with me today to get two small pics on the same row. Inserting pictures is the one thing I hate with Blogger; it's so frustrating!

Butternut squash ravioli

Creamed collard greens. One recipe note I will add, sautéed and creamed greens should be a sinus-opening adventure; reach for the cayenne.

I didn't arrange everything artfully on my plate for a final pic. I can tell you that it was all good! Hope your Thanksgiving was a blessed one!

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