Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving with Friends by Michele

Being unable to go home this Thanksgiving, I was very thankful that we were able to orchestrate a great feast with some fantastic new friends. For the past four years or so I have been the Thanksgiving chef for my family, which meant I had to wake up at 6 AM in order to get an enormous turkey in the oven on time. This year I still did the turkey, but many of my other usual responsibilities were taken over by friends. That said, I actually got to sleep in on Thanksgiving, and that is something that I am thankful for as well.

Here are some of my highlights, new and old, of what I did for Thanksgiving this year.

The Turkey

I made my first turkey some years back with my grandmother the way she was taught how to do it by her father. The recipe was simple; salt, pepper, oil, and soy sauce. This always resulted in a nice golden brown skin, and tender meat. Ever since, I have been developing my own version. I usually always use the soy sauce, but the other variables have changed over the years as I experiment. This year I did a melted butter and soy sauce baste three times during the first part of the baking, and finished it up with a cranberry ginger glaze, which I put on about three times during the last 100 minutes of cooking time. In the cavities, I put fresh poultry herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, and marjoram), butter, and chunks of ginger and garlic. I started baking it at 325 degrees, but eventually turned the temperature up to 400 degrees to finish it off with a nice brown color. Because I took the turkey out six times, it took six hours to finish baking it. It was well worth it though, because it turned out great. Just remember if you do plan on basting, taking the bird out of the oven can add up to 15 minutes of extra cooking time. My turkey was only suppose to take about 4.5 hours. Also, once you think it is done, test it by cutting inbetween the leg and breast. The liquids should run nice and clear. Once this happens still test it in multiple spots with a meat thermometer. Poultry should reach 165 degrees. When you take the bird out, the temperature will raise between 5 to 10 degrees as the temperature equilibriates.

Cranberry Ginger Glaze and Relish

For this I used equal parts frozen cranberries, apple cider and dark brown sugar, an inch length of chopped ginger, and a splash of apple cider vinager. I cooked that all down in a small sauce pan. Then I used my emersion blender to break it down a little bit more, and then allowed it to reduce until it was thick. Once it was cool enough to handle, I extracted the glaze using a fine mesh strainer. What remained, I served as a side relish. The relish also tastes good on bagels with cream cheese, and on sandwiches (especially turkey sanwiches).

Grandma's Green Jello Salad

This one is definitely an old school classic in my family. It shows up at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter and is missed if it is not there. That is why I had to make it. At first, this jello salad somewhat repels people from wanting to eat it. The color is alsolutely ridiculous, and, because of the decline in jello salad making, is often unidentifyable. Yet when people do finally get the nerve to try it, they usually really like it. The recipe contains five ingredients; one 6 oz packet of lime jello, a whole brick of cream cheese, a small can of crushed pinnapple, a tablespoon of mayo, and a teaspoon of white vinager. The jello is prepared by mixing the packet with 2 cups of boiling water. Once the jello is dissolved, add a cup of cold water and the vinager. Put this mixture in the serving bowl you will be using and store in the freezer until the jello gets semi-solid. This takes about an hour or so. (Even if it solidifies completely, it will still work. It will just have a different tecture.) In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, mayo, and pinnapple (juice and all). I use a fork to mix, but my mom uses a blender. (The difference is once again in the texture, which means it is up to you.) Last step is to fold the cream cheese mixture into the semi-solid jello. Once it is combined to your liking, stick it in the refrigerator until it is dinnertime.
Crazy Ol' Deviled Eggs

Once again another classic. However, the stuff that I added to these once is far from classic. Every holiday I make deviled eggs, and for some reason I never make them the same way twice. The ingredience that I use usually reflect what I have on hand at the moment. For these ones I used the following; roasted garlic, roasted red onion, chopped waterchestnuts, chopped cornichons (little french pickles), Sriracha, soy sauce, apple cider vinager, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and mayo. To top them off, I used thin slices of sage leaf that I baked in the oven for a couple minutes in foil.
Roasted Turkey Neck (this doesn't leave the kitchen)

If you have baked a full sized turkey, you already know about the neck that you have to pull out of the body cavity before you start baking. Most people are usually turned off by the idea of using it for anything, which means it is instantly discarded. For me, it is a Thanksgiving cooking day treat. As my grandma had taught me how to bake a turkey, she also taught me how to deal with the neck. All you do is throw it in the bottom of the cooking pan, and that is it. As the turkey cooks, the neck gets cooked up in all the drippings. When the turkey is resting, I take the neck out and nosh on the little bits of meat that I pull from it with a fork while I finish up the last touches on the meal. What little meat is there is amazing, and it taste even more amazing after you have been cooking all day long.
Cinnamon Whiskey

This is a recent discovery of mine. With the cold weather comes the warm drinks spiked with liquor. This one in particular is Seagram's 7 Dark Honey Whiskey with two cinnamon sticks in it. I left them in there for about three days, and then added it to eggnog for Thanksgiving. It also is excellent in coffee, hot chocolate, or apple cider. This also works with other whiskeys. Canadian whiskeys will work the best, because they lean more to the sweet side. If you don't have enough time, Fireball is excellent cinnamon whiskey, which should be available at a good sized liquor store.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, all I can think about is how am I going to use up the leftover turkey. Turkey and rice soup, turkey black bean chilli, turkey sandwiches... I love how Thanksgiving just keeps on giving.


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