Sunday, December 26, 2010

happy (belated) thanksgiving!

the spread
I love Thanksgiving. To be frank, ever since my sister died on the day after Christmas fourteen years ago, my family has always, to some extent, tended to limp a little through the holidays. You have to admit that even without those memories, Christmas is already a bit loaded: if you look forward solely to the presents, the holiday always tends to be anticlimactic. If you focus on being with your family, things turn out much better, but you still can't really avoid the profound case of the blues that sets in the day after. These days, I'm practicing being in the moment more, something that my brother Jeff has always been good at; that tends to pan out more happily than borrowing trouble, which I'm excellent at doing. :)  Anyway, Thanksgiving is so different from Christmas. It's about the food, sure, but it's also a time when all you have to do is hang out with your family and friends, eat, and feel grateful. I can get behind a holiday like that.

This was the first year I ever cooked for more than just D and me. We invited my parents, Jeff, D's parents, and his Grandma down for Thanksgiving dinner so that they could all see the new house, some of them for the first time.

The first Thanksgiving meal I ever cooked was three years ago when we lived in NYC, and I made a whole feast for just D and me in our tiny studio apartment kitchen, which was so small that I had to open the refrigerator door in order to get the oven door open. We were both terribly homesick, knowing that we wouldn't be able to go home until Christmas. D's parents were kind enough to transfer some funds over to his account so that we could go out to eat for our Thanksgiving. We got dressed up and went to Orsay, a French restaurant on the Upper East Side that had a prix fixe menu. The plates that arrived at the table had beautiful, harvest-colored daubs of turkey and vegetable on them in various combinations - very French and fancy. While we were walking home, we stopped in a little newsstand and petted a skinny, elegant black cat with a heart-shaped charm on her collar that, appropriately, had "Paris" engraved on it.

Still, it didn't seem quite right not to have some of the specific dishes we associated with our families - sage-heavy cornbread dressing, standard roast turkey, broccoli casserole, pumpkin pie, et cetera - so I made a meal for us, too. And I wheeled our 13-pound turkey home to our apartment, a dozen blocks down Fifth Avenue, in my "bag lady" cart.

That was a great Thanksgiving, if a bit lonely. This one was bittersweet in its own way: we've lost some important people this year, but I'm so happy that we got to spend Thanksgiving with our families.

just look at that pretty bird!
As for food, this year we decided to do Alton Brown's recipe for turkey because I'd been seeing commercials for it all month. Apparently, it's the most popular Thanksgiving recipe on the Food Network website, and when I looked it up, it had over 2500 reviews and ratings. That's a crazy number of people all making the same kind of turkey.

So, it's wonderful. If you have the time, energy, a few obscure ingredients like candied ginger and allspice berries (plus the extra refrigerator space for a brine-and-turkey-laden 10-gallon bucket), it is so worth it to make this turkey. The guy has figured out how to cook an entire bird so that it hits its various recommended internal temperatures simultaneously and thus stays moist, not to mention making sure the skin gets beautifully fried and golden brown. 

Anyway, here is the rest of the menu from Thanksgiving:

      Paula Deen's Mushroom Canapes (also delightful with some artichoke hearts thrown in)
      Alton Brown's Roast Turkey and gravy
      Claire Robinson's Add Thyme for Whipped Potatoes
      classic Campbell's Soup green bean casserole
      my Nana's broccoli casserole
      Sîan Griffiths's sweet potato soufflé
      my great-grandmother's cornbread dressing
      D's Granddad's cornbread dressing
      roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and balsamic reduction
      D's mom's pecan pie
      apple stack cake
      pecan pie

Happy holidays, y'all.


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