Bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word

I asked the butcher at Whole Foods whether they would be getting heritage turkeys in this year.  And whether they would be fresh or frozen.  And whether I could order one ahead of time or just had to cast my lot with their stock.  Although he did courteously answer my questions (after double checking in the back*), I think he thought I was a little nuts.  Which may or may be true.

Also, anyone have a recipe for that super dense raw date and walnut cake WF sells that makes a great accompaniment to a cheese plate (particularly blues?)  I think their version, while delicious, is a bit over priced.  Although if I try to make it myself there’s a good chance I would end up spending more for ingredients than I would for one slice of the pre-made version.  Such are the extensive cost-benefit calculations that necessitate the evil of me discussing Thanksgiving when, in fact, Halloween has not yet occurred.  (Oh, did I mention my Christmas planning wheels are already turning?  For Christmas…2010.  Don’t ask.  But, in my defense, it involves (potentially), NY family, in Georgia, in North Georgia, to be precise, several cabin rentals and lots and lots of food. And booze.  For me).

*Upon reflection, there’s no way for me to know whether there was actually someone present in the back for the butcher to consult or whether he was just humoring me, Wizard of Oz style.  This is the level of my paranoia.  Roche, how’s that holiday Valium coming?

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Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Time to move on – Time to get going – What lies ahead I (actually do) have a way of knowing…

Oh babies, it’s about that time again – time to go crazy planning for that one meal bogged down with so much history, traditionalism, commercialism and expectation that you can’t help but have a melt down.  And because I am nothing if not a masochist, I signed up to do it again.  In a tiny kitchen in North Georgia which lacks the considerable space and efficiency of my own urban kitchen, as well as a nearby Whole Foods.  I’m surprised Roche hasn’t capitalized on the season and begun marketing a holiday-themed Valium, “Instead of T-Day stress, make it a V-day.”    Maybe I should write them about that…

I say J and I are hosting – which, technically, we are.  But let’s be honest – I’m running the show.   Because I have limited time, as well as logistical issues, I have already begun my planning.  As the wise people at Gourmet (RIP) said – you can’t overplan.

So, I’m already hard at work, sourcing my fresh heritage turkey*, planning my menu, and setting myself up for failure by attempting to re-create the Martha Stewart tableau featured in the November issue of Living – from scratch.  Yes, kids, fun for all!  Now please pass the limited edition Thanksgiving day Valium.

*A note on the turkey, which I personally consider to be the biggest let down and creativity-limiting tether of the whole fiasco.  Last year we outsourced the task and ordered a smoked turkey, with moderate success.  J was not particularly impressed, however.  I am reluctant to roast a turkey, because it’s a pain in my balls and requires me shelling out  for a quality roasting pan, not to mention the ridiculous cost for a fresh bird.  We toyed with the idea of frying the thing, but after finding a technique from Gourmet that only required up to 2 hours of oven time, I decided to forgo the redneck favorite, man up, and roast my own damn bird.  Cross your fingers!

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wrap up and levity

Just wanted to give a quick wrap up – dinner went very well. I had a few misfires (rolls failed. Also, green beans, a recipe I have used before with success, also failed. Josh blames the green beans. I’m not sure what the culprit was. Regardless, none of these really ruined dinner or anything). I forgot the caramel sauce for the pumpkin ice cream. I also didn’t serve the cranberry sorbet because everyone was too full for a palate cleanser. But everything else turned out pretty great, so I’m happy. My family had a good time and I enjoyed spending time with them, which is the most important part.

I learned a few things. One, know your audience. No one in my immediate family likes sparkling water. Go figure. Josh and I polished off 3 bottles by ourselves. We love the stuff. Also, no one is a wine drinker. I polished off 2 bottles by myself (over the course of the entire weekend, not all in one night, thank you!) Also, I served too much food. I could have easily cut out the salad course (although I wanted to serve as many green veggies as possible). And don’t forget about the bottle of champagne you left in the freezer – yuck. (Luckily, it did not break and make a mess, but I did tear up a bit as Josh poured it down the sink). But some things turned out fabulously, even moreso than anticipated. The pomegranate cocktails were great, as were the salmon-cucumber roll appetizer (hint – squeeze the moisture out of the horseradish with a triple layer of paper towels for best results). The sweet potato cream puffs, which were a bit of a whim of my own imagination (ok, recipes were credited to others but construction was all me), came out really good (served over a bed of pomegranate seeds). Sweet potato soup, which my brother said was “odd” was in fact, delicious (even if I forgot the garnish til the bowls were on the table – opps!)

Overall, I enjoyed a good meal with my family and was glad for the opportunity. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Josh and I made lists of what we were thankful for and exchanged them (his was very to the point, I was a little verbose – not a surprise). One thing I had on my list which may seem silly was my cats – I love them and they provide endless entertainment and affection (ok, irritation as well, but that’s besides the point). I’m glad I included them because a member of Josh’s family came home from Thanksgiving dinner to find their cat had passed, peacefully, in their sleep, most likely due to an unknown heart condition. So sometimes, it’s the little things we have to remind ourselves to be thankful for, as well as the big things, because we could lose them at any moment. I have lots of both and need to be better about reminding myself, everyday, to be thankful for them.

Hope everyone enjoyed their turkey day and were able to spend quality time with loved ones (or at least were able to love the ones they were with) and counted their blessings. This will be the last post for this particular blogging foray, thanks for visiting.

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Angry Inch of Sweet Potatoes

The office closed early today and I decided to take advantage of that fact, resigning myself to the fact I will spend black Friday not battling crowds but making up my hours. I braved Harry’s/Whole Foods and managed not to kill myself or anyone else, although it really was kill or be killed. I hate amateur hour at the grocery store – if you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t get a cart, it can be a lethal weapon when you’re doing an unexpected 180 because you don’t know what you’re doing.

I also went ahead and picked up the produce from Moore Farms from my pick up spot and arrived just as the guy was unloading – great timing. Thank the slings and arrows of Atlanta afternoon holiday traffic.

So I’m ready for the big push and I decided to have Hedwig and the Angry Inch playing in the background which I find entirely appropriate because if I’ve grateful for anything in this world, it’s the fact that I have sex determinative genitalia. *

Bounty of the harvest

Bounty of the harvest

*I have a lot of other things to be thankful for, as well. There will be a heartfelt post full of levity at a later time.

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

T-minus 2 days to T-Day

I knew things were going a little too smoothly. Tonight things did not seem to want to go as planned. However, is this is the worst I have to deal with, I will be really really happy. I made what I thought was my last store trip tonight but then realized I forgot a few vital things from Whole Foods last week. Curses. Luckily, I work near Harry’s/Whole Foods and can hit that during the day – I really hope it’s not a zoo.

I made dough for dinner rolls using this recipe. Since the recipe looked like it would feed an army, I broke a cardinal rule of baking – I jiggered the recipe. I cut the recipe in half, (except for the leveners) although I did cut the amount of yeast in half. I also didn’t really pay attention (although I checked the temperature of the scaled milk obsessively), because I was multi-tasking (breaking another baking rule) so I can’t tell for sure if it rose as much as it needs to. I may have to proof another packet of yeast and add that.

UPDATE: I actually put the dough in a warmed but off oven and it seems to be rising nicely.

I also started marinating my citrus-marinated olives. I found some bonus peppercinis in the green olives, which kinda freaked me out at first. Then I tasted an olive and started wishing all olives came with bonus peppercinis because it made the olives spicy and delicious.

I also froze my pumpkin ice cream, without incident.

Then I started making my gravy. First, I pulled out the turkey stock I made on Sunday. I started skimming off a small amount of fat to make the roux and realized something off – instead of turkey stock, I had turkey jelly. Now, I understand simmering bones in meat adds gelatin to a stock and gives it body and a velvety mouthfeel. So, while I’m glad my stock definitely has body, there’s a point where it’s just too much woman to handle. I decided just to simmer the stock/jelly until it became liquidy again, which it did, thankfully. I went ahead and made my roux, which I managed not to burn, and added the newly liquified stock in. I hope I don’t end up with gravy jelly on Thursday. Although, that could certainly turn out to be an interesting twist on traditional gravy. (just kidding)

One last mistake tonight – I couldn’t help myself from turning on Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving special. Luckily, Josh turned it off as soon as he got home and saw her pretending to harvest cranberries (gag me). I feel it’s like when I studied for the bar – a few days before the exam, I just had to shut down studying and trust that I had learned what I needed to learn. I need to shut down reading/watching/hearing about Thanksgiving tips/plans/recipes etc. and just trust I’ve got it under control.

Dinner was turkey sandwiches (I dressed mine with cranberry vinaigrette). I think we’re probably the only people in the world eating turkey left overs before Thanksgiving. Any leftover turkey turkey is either going home with my parents or going in the freezer.

It's like Christmas in November

It's like Christmas in November

On deck tomorrow – panic. Ha, just kidding. No, tomorrow is making pies, prepping all veggies arriving from Moore Farms and Friends, making Green Goddess dip, cranberry vinaigrette and sweet potato soup. That leaves mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and finishing rolls for Thursday. I think I can handle that. Also, edited menu again – Josh decided he didn’t want to make things too crazy by making oyster casserole (it’s his family tradition I wanted to incorporate) but he nixed it, not wanting to get in the way. Maybe next year.

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 2:49 am  Leave a Comment  

It’s the Final Countdown

Monday – three short days to go. It’s times like these I realize being a lawyer is more of a hinderance than a “smart career move.” (Ok, I lied, no where has anyone EVER said becoming a lawyer is a “smart career move.”)

Here’s my progress and menu changes:

Made cranberry sauce. Resisted urge to lick pot clean. Smells so delicious! Realize I need to work on photography skills.

Made spiced candied pecans and toasted walnuts. Realized made serious mistake in making candied pecans, as I estimate the entire batch will be eaten before Thursday. Luckily, making spiced candied pecans is one of the easiest recipes I have planned.

Prep some veggies, but did not accomplish as much as I would have liked, as the bulk will not come in til Wednesday from Moore Farms and Friends. Realize supporting local organic agriculture is a good thing, but not necessarily the most convenient. Hopefully, the quality will balance that out.

Made ginger-pomegranate syrup for cocktails.

Un-molded butter. (Yes, I molded my butter. Not as in inoculated, but as in formed into shapes. Got something to say about it? )

Dinner – spinach and turkey salad (left over turkey leg from making turkey stock on Sunday for gravy) with cranberry vinaigrette, radishes with salt and European butter (Plugra) and Amstel Light. Realize need to blanch red onions before making vinaigrette. Also, decided to sub baby/field greens for spinach in salad. Otherwise, am very happy with choice of salad dressing.

And now, on to the entertainment portion of the evening (well, that and the Syracuse -FL game. God I hate Florida).

Published in: on November 25, 2008 at 2:09 am  Comments (2)  

The Game Plan

Wednesday (8 days to go) – turkey arrives at Josh’s office from Greenberg Turkey.  (Ordered in late September).  Am disappointed it didn’t arrive on Friday, as scheduled.  Eight days is the outmost limit for refrigeration – but cram it into fridge and put faith in Greenberg that turkey will hold.

Friday (6 days to go) – wash great-grandmother’s china.  Am pleasantly surprised that I like the pattern more than I thought (we shipped the pieces to Georgia from California over three years ago and just never opened the boxes, even after two moves.  Only 1 piece was broken beyond repair, thank goodness).  Realize that while the family connection is touching, I really hate washing dishes.  But no way is this stuff going in the dishwasher, “china” setting be damned!

Also, finish rolling out pie crusts (dough made earlier in week) and freeze.

Saturday (5 days to go)- get up ridiculously early to get to Whole Foods before the rabid crowds appear.  Enjoy a leisurely shopping experience and many helpful Whole Foods employees.  Great Success!

Put away groceries.  Realize fridge has never been this full.  Tell Josh not to freak out about fact that opening door may become a hazard.

Sunday (4 days to go) – go to Publix and manage to find nearly everything on list, for once.  Am pretty happy they not only have packaged turkey legs but ALSO gizzard, neck and liver.  Score!

Make fresh cranberry sorbet.  Make custard for pumpkin ice cream.  Make salted caramel sauce for said ice cream.  Roast turkey legs and bits and make stock for gravy.  Order dinner out.  Leave making candied pecans and vegetable prep for tomorrow.

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 1:36 am  Leave a Comment  

The Menu

Thanksgiving Menu

Appetizers

Crudités

Endive, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, radishes, sugar snap peas

Green Goddess dip

Cheese plate

Manchego, Humboldt Fog Goat’s Milk Cheese, Point Reyes Blue

Spiced pecans, membrillo, date and walnut cake, honey, bread and crackers

Citrus-Marinated Olives

Smoked Salmon Wrapped Cucumber

DINNER

AMUSE

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potato Cream Puffs* with candied pecan topping

FIRST COURSE

Roasted Sweet potato soup topped with celery leaves

SALAD COURSE
Spinach Field Greens with dried cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese

Cranberry Vinaigrette

ENTRÉE

Greenberg Smoked Turkey

SIDE DISHES

Gravy

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Roasted Green Beans with Onions and Walnuts

Oyster Casserole

Cranberry Sauce

Whiskey Glazed Carrots

Mom’s Dressing

Dinner Rolls

INTERMEZZO

Cranberry Sorbet

Desserts

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Fleur de sel caramel sauce

Pecan Pie

Whiskey whipped cream

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Maple whipped cream

Drinks

Ginger Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail
Pellegrino
Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir
La Crema Chardonnay
Sparkling Juices
Coffee

*Cream puff shell recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Illustrated

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 1:23 am  Leave a Comment  

It’s only a big deal to me

I’m 26, married over 1 year and out of law school for about a year and a half.  We’re home owners, we have a set of china (my great-grandmother’s), a full set of silverware and wine glasses galore.  It was time.

I’m not sure that I should be as excited as I am about hosting My First Thanksgiving™.  Or as obsessed.  But I am and I might as well document it, mostly for my own edification, as a journaling experience.  A virtual scrapbook, so to speak, because I am so not down with the scrapbooking thing.  (I don’t like things that suck you in – internet aside, obviously.  Other examples include Tivo and Lost – things I obstinately refuse to get into).

So, here’s the process, start to finish.  Well, nearly start.  I’ve been researching and planning and shopping for over a month now.  Because I am insane.  But it’s fun, this is something I really enjoy – entertaining people with really good food.  So might as well squeeze as much out of the process as I can.

Published in: on November 24, 2008 at 1:19 am  Leave a Comment