Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving: A Turkey Massacre in Words and Pictures

The dishes are done, the kitchen floor is swept, Mr. Monk let me sleep in until 1020AM today (I think he was tired from thanksgiving too!) and I have a big plate of leftovers covered in leftover gravy in front of me. It's time for the Thanksgiving Post! Thanksgiving at Chez Laz was a classy affair, note the silver candlesticks:

With that touch of tackiness brought by serving the salad from a big rubbermaid container and giving the guests 79 cent plates from target. It was the perfect meld of Laszlo / Peters (for those of you in the know about my Dynasty / Green Acres relatives)

We observed my familial tradition of letting the guests snack out of the relish tray during a pre-meal fete where everyone is starving, the house smells amazing, but the bird isn't ready yet. I actually didn't feel like I ate too too much at dinner-- I had been nibbling ("testing") all the dishes all day so when it came to it I only had tiny portions of everyting (also I gave myself the smallest plate so there wasn't room for more than tiny portions). But when the guests left and I was alone packing up the relish tray, I ate about a pound of cheddar and port derby. That cheddar was about 100 times better at room temperature than it had been refrigerated the day before (the port derby was approximately equally good at both temperatures.)

The salad course was a mix of hand selected endive, arugula, and watercress with Roquefort and black grapes, dressed with a red wine vinegar dijon emulsion. I spent 20 minutes yesterday afternoon chopping grapes in half (but I didn't cut myself once!) This photo accurately depicts the tremendous volume of the salad:

We had about 3 gallons of salad. Amazingly, even though we had way too much and the salad didn't get any votes for favorite dish in the exit poll, it was all gone by the end of the night.

The winner in the Favorite Dish poll was the cranberry sauce with Port and tangerine:

This dish won with a grand total of 2 votes (all the other votes were spread out over the other dishes), and was the only dish that I gave out a recipe for. JG noted that "putting booze in food" is always a good strategy (he and CL brought brandied pears with a mulled wine sauce), and the votes seem to agree with him.

The bird was magnificient:

I was a bit worried that the bottom would burn because I didn't have a roasting rack in my pan, but it came out nice and crispy and juicy. The preparation of this turkey was remarkably simple: I just sprinkled it with salt and pepper, stuffed it, and stuck it in the oven for 2 hours, occasionally pouring some more chicken stock into the bottom to keep it moist. The skin came out nice and crispy and a perfect golden brown color, with tons of drippings for gravy.

It was a "whole turkey" so I got to go elbow deep and pull out the heart, liver, and stomach. That was awesome! I cackled with glee the whole time! I wanted to cook up the liver for Mr. Monk, but I didn't know how to do it safely and I had more than enough other cooking to do, so instead he got a tiny piece of light meat from the shoulder.

The only snag in the turkey preparation came while I was making the gravy. After I deglazed the roasting pan, I moved it to an empty burner, and while discussing the next steps in the gravy preparation with "meat man" NWY, it EXPLODED. I don't mean it cracked in half or some pansy shit like that. Pyrex went flying through the kitchen with a scream-inducing BOOM. Neither NWY or I or even nearly-doctor-of-chemistry TWM could figure out why pyrex would explode like that. I observed to NWY that "It's lucky we're educated or we would probably think it was a ghost." It was some freaky shit, but luckily the pan was empty, I wasn't holding it, neither NWY or I was looking at it at the time of the explosion, and no one was injured. It was the perfect level of disaster to be a good story and get the inevitable disaster out of the way without causing any (flaming hushpuppies at the all gay brunch-esque) trauma.

I stuffed the turkey with a sourdough, italian sausage, artichoke, and parmesean stuffing:

The portion of the stuffing that was cooked inside (as opposed to in a pan next to) the turkey also received a vote for Favorite Dish, and why wouldn't it: It's sausage, bread, and cheese soaked in turkey grease! This stuffing was good, and also popular, but I think that I won't make it again, eschewing it in the future for, most likely, a corn bread stuffing. The Italian flavors just felt a little off for me, and as much as I hate to admit it I think stuffing the turkey with sausage might have been a bit much (although I'd like to try a corn bread bacon stuffing next time.) Plus I hate celery in all its guises. I knew I should have left the celery out!

The yam preparation I made required frequent basting... with maple syrup! The result: tender, sweet, delicious yams:

I think the yams themselves were the perfect sweet, tender consistency, but even though I used about double the amount of marshmallows called for by the recipe I still don't think I had enough marshmallows; it's evident in the photo that the marshmallows didn't fully cover the yams. I think I would make this recipe again, but use way more marshmallows, and use regular sized ones instead of miniature, and skip the almonds-- they didn't really add any flavor and I felt they detracted from the nice gooey soft consistency of the rest of the dish.

The meal was capped off after a break for digestion where some people napped and some people (me) laid spread-eagled on the floor, with three desserts: brandied pears with mulled wine from CL and JG (btw "big ups" to JG for taking 197 action shots during the final chaotic half an hour of cooking), a beautifully arranged pecan pie from Mr. Monk's favorite aunt TWM, and this pumpkin spice cake with caramel frosting and candied orange peel from moi:

I also served a sweet, bubbly moscato, which I drank almost all of. I love pumpkin cake, and the caramel frosting here is to die for, so much so that I would say the major flaw with this cake was that it didn't have nearly enough frosting. I only used about half of the frosting that I made, and that was a big mistake. I think I will make this cake again, often, and the next time I do it I'll use all that frosting, for sure, no matter how inventive I have to get about where I cram it in.

So that was my thanksgiving! TWM told a story at dinner about he and Dr.EL had recently been over at a friend's house, and the friend had made a chocolate pecan pie but had made it with NO SUGAR and NO EGGS and NO BUTTER. After I got done being horrified, I reassured TWM that we did not truck with that bullshit at Chez Laz. No way!

And that is the story of my first thanksgiving. I can't wait to do it again!


Mr. Cherng F Baby said...

the same thing happened to my friend when she put hot pyrex on her metal range. Maybe the heat transfer was too great because it was metal?

Or maybe it was satan.

either way, kinda cool.


Laura said...

I can solve the exploding pyrex mystery for you! I only know this because of my glass classes. When glass cools too fast it undergoes a lot of strain, and if there is any weakness in it, it will crack and has the potential to release a lot of energy... hence the explosion! Pyrex and other glass things used for cooking are annealed to make them stronger, so they're less likely to crack as they cool, but they still have some weak spots in them that can crack if the temperature changes really fast. So that's what happened when you put it directly on the stove... it cooled too fast!

laz said...

"The exploding pyrex mystery" awesome hahahah! It should be a children's book, deviously designed to teach kids materials science! HAH! It's good that this resembles our theory about what had caused the explosion!

I'm glad you solved that! I was afraid all my black magic use was finally having adverse consequences! ;)