Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

With preparation on a majority of today’s meal complete, it’s time to sit back and relax, right? Methinks not.

After taking the turkey out of the freezer two days before the recommend time, I figured I’d have a defrosted bird by last night. However, as luck would have it her breasts were squishy and her thighs were still quite firm, as in hard as a rock. Alas, time to pull out the ultimate tool… the water bath. I prefer to use our cooler, as it is a self-contained unit that I can wheel around. After putting the turkey inside, I used the shower in the bathroom to fill it with cold water until it was submerged, in theory. Again, her breasts were squishy and apparently also able to be used as flotation devices. My husband put an iron skillet over her to keep her under water. It must have worked because this morning she feels quite tender all over. Excellent.

Okay, so with the turkey finally ready for preparation, it’s time to figure out just what to do with her. I left out half a stick of butter from cooking down the veggies for the stuffings and cut some extra herbs from the garden, both sage and rosemary, however I’m wondering if a combination will work best. What I’ve done in the past is rubbed an herbed butter (with sage, thyme, salt and pepper) under the skin and placed fresh sage leaves under it as well and put garlic and fresh rosemary sprigs inside the cavity during roasting. Actually, this year I’m going to do the same. Why mess with perfection. However, I’m going to start cooking her much earlier than I normally do so that she will actually be ready in time for dinner instead of hours after I say dinner will be. For some reason Whole Turkey and I don’t speak the same language, but I’m sure it is simply because we haven’t gotten to know each other very well.

The next thing I have to do is make the mashed potatoes, for which I’m going to be utilizing a fantastic technique I learned last year in which you cook the potatoes in the milk and butter instead of boiling them in water. They come out tasting so much richer and flavorful and are less work. I like less work. Okay, so they’re only less work if you can’t leave well enough alone. Of course, with four cloves of garlic, a stick of butter, a cup of cream and a cup of milk, they’d better be flavorful! Simply melt half the butter in the pan and add the minced garlic, stirring and letting it cook until it starts to turn golden. Add a teaspoon of sugar and stir for thirty seconds to a minute longer. Next, add the milk, cream and about two-and-a-half pounds peeled and quartered Yukon Gold potatoes. Bring to a boil, put a lid on and lower the heat to low for twenty to thirty minutes, depending on size. Test for doneness with a fork, which should pierce through the thickest part easily. Use a potato masher directly in the pan until the consistency you desire. Add more milk if needed a little at a time, just make sure it is hot. Perfect mashed potatoes that have a hint of roasted garlic thanks to the magic of butter and sugar.

The only other thing that will need to be made today on our end is the gravy. However, I like to wait until the turkey is out of the oven so I can use those delicious drippings. My basic gravy starts with butter and flour (you can also use the fats from the drippings) before adding stock, dried sage and black pepper. A little salt goes a long way, so I usually taste it before adding any towards the end of the cooking process. If the gravy doesn’t thicken up properly, it’s time to pull out the big guns: Cornstarch. Mix a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with more stock or cold water, as cornstarch will not dissolve in hot liquids, and slowly add just a little at a time while whisking until it starts to thicken. I think this year I’ll also be adding the giblets to the gravy, in which I will sauté them with some butter and garlic and puree them in the food processor before adding them to the gravy. Perhaps I should check with the guests first, as not everyone is a giblet fan.

Hopefully your Thanksgiving is fantastic and memorable, just not in the ‘Oh-my-gawd-the-turkey-burned-and-the-potato-peels-backed-up-the-sink-and-my-homemade-French-fried-onions-look-more-like-shit-rings-on-top-of-the-green-bean-casserole’ way. Not that this ever happened (all in the same year, anyway), but I pray today goes smoothly for all my fellow bakers and cooks out there. And if it doesn’t, oh well. Happy Thanksgiving!

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