Monday, November 28, 2011

You'll thank me later

This is basically a letter that I wrote to my future self about how to make a Thanksgiving dinner as good as the one Jeff and I made in 2011. If I had figured out this conceit before I started on this entry, I would have written the recipes in second-person and thrown in little speculative biographical asides ("Oh, by the way, congratulations on being married to Shakira! PS, don't take that job in Hamburg."). But, quite appropriately, I didn't think that far ahead.


For an
appetizer, I made a ranch dip following the Pioneer Woman's recipe, and we set that out with some carrots, celery, radishes, and fennel.

Turkey was a Mary's heritage turkey from Berkeley Bowl, prepared according to her recipe. Honestly, I'm not sure I could taste the $5.69 / lb difference compared to a conventional bird, and none of our guests seemed to eat too much of it with all the sides around. Next year I might try a duck, a turkey roulade, or turkey legs confit, because straight-up turkey just isn't that exciting to me anymore. The turkey bones did, however, cook down into the richest, most savory, delicious stock the following day. Maybe that was worth $5.69 / lb?

Mashed potatoes were yukon golds pureed with celery root and garlic, and I'll post a recipe for that later this week. They were exactly, one hundred percent, what I wanted to achieve in my mashed potatoes this year. I could have eaten five pounds of them. I think I actually did, but over the course of four days. Good thing I had already lost five pounds pushing mashed potatoes through a sieve on Thursday morning.

Ginger cranberry sauce was the recipe on the bag of cranberries, flavored with two star anise pods, a cinnamon stick, the zest of a lemon, the zest of an orange, and a tablespoon of fresh ginger.

Gravy was made with turkey neck stock from Jeff's pressure cooker, and because I wanted to make it gluten-free I used buckwheat flour. To give it a little more savory oomph, I also used some duck fat to make the roux. I called it duckwheat gravy. Duckwheat gravy is... interesting.

Leek bread pudding from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller. You can find the recipe here, published in the New York Times, unless you've already read 20 articles this month. I know--it was a busy month! Jeff made the recipe one day in advance, then drizzled it with a few ladles of turkey drippings and reheated right before serving. Jeff used a hearty white bread instead of brioche. This was perfection--crispy and brown all the way around, custardy and warm on the inside, covered with melted cheese and redolent of earthy leeks and thyme. This is what all other stuffing aspires to be.

Wild rice stuffing was some wild and brown rice toasted in a little bone marrow fat, then cooked, baked with some carrots, and tossed with some quick-pickled celery and fennel at the end. It tasted like rice with carrots. Good, but I'm not sure poking the marrow out of that cow femur with a chopstick was really worth it. Well, it was an educational experience.

Maple baked beans from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten. You can find the recipe here and you should make them right away because they are WONDERFUL. I didn't have any ketchup on hand, so I sweated some shallots in leftover bacon fat from my fridge, added a can of tomato puree, cooked that down for quite a while, and then added sugar and vinegar until I got a vaguely ketchupy flavor. Well, after adding a half pound of bacon, the authenticity of the ketchup wasn't really a concern.

Cauliflower-chestnut gratin recipe from Martha Stewart. Jeff covered it in caraway ryeless rye from BREAD SRSLY to accomodate our gluten-free friends. Crispy, creamy, and colorful--we used yellow cauliflower, purple cauliflower, and green romanesco. It looked like Thanksgiving IN SPACE.

Brussels sprouts I blanched for a few minutes, seared in hot oil, and then tossed with a stick of butter that Jeff had browned and whisked with a tablespoon of miso. Next year I'll probably just toss them with the miso butter and slow-roast them. Nice flavors, but the glazing didn't quite happen, and blanching/searing results in sprouts that are a little too soft for me. I like my brussels sprouts toothsome. Just like I like my...

Romano beans with mint also from Ad Hoc At Home, with maybe a half-cup of roasted pumpkin seeds tossed in. I liked having something green and bright on the table. I spent a lot of time cutting each romano bean into perfect diamonds and was tremendously disappointed that I did not get any adoring comments recognizing that.

To make beet-pickled eggs, I peeled about a pound of red beets and cooked them in simmering salted water until they were just beginning to get tender, about 20-30 minutes. I drained the beets and then mixed some of their deep red cooking liquid with vinegar, sugar, and salt to make enough pickle brine to fill up a big jar. While I was letting that cool, I hard-boiled six eggs (not too long, or they get that gross green film around the yolk). I filled my jar halfway up with beets, put the eggs in, then filled it the rest of the way up and poured in the pickle brine. Growing up, I never ate the beet-pickled eggs set out for Christmas and New Year's, so I have no basis for comparison here.

Curly endive with hot bacon dressing from this recipe, published on A Taste of Home. Unfortunately, nobody eats salad at Thanksgiving, but I loved it. It's kind of like salad covered in a bacon custardy gravy. How bad can that be?

Bread was something like 20 oz unbleached white flour, 6 oz whole wheat flour, 4 oz barley flour, and 2 oz rye flour--not based on any particular flavor combination, just based on what I had in the pantry. To this festival of flours I added 19.2 oz water, 1.5 tbsp yeast, and 1 tbsp salt. I kneaded it in my KitchenAid for 10 minutes and let it sit in an oiled bowl in the fridge overnight. The following morning I punched down the dough, divided it into four little loaves, let the loaves rise for another 2 hours, then slashed the tops and baked in a 500 degree oven. I threw a few ice cubes into the bottom of the oven right when I started cooking to get a nice crust, and I also took the loaves off the baking sheets after about 20 minutes so the bottoms wouldn't burn. These turned out great! It was totally by accident, but they had just the right sandwich-y texture without being too dense. Nobody wants ciabatta on Thanksgiving, and nobody wants dense bread except Scandinavian people.

Autumn fruit salad was a pomegranate, four persimmons, a handful of grapes, a white grapefruit, a pear, and two apples tossed with the juice of a lime and a little vanilla sugar.

Three ice cream recipes from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz: fennel (actually anise), maple-walnut, and sweet potato. I added three tablespoons of sichuan peppercorns to the fennel ice cream, which did basically nothing. The maple walnut was stellar. The sweet potato was good, but freezes pretty hard. I might try using cream in the recipe instead of the milk he suggests.

Pear, apple, and quince crostata recipe by Jonathan Waxman, as published on Epicurious. I doubled the quantity of roasted fruit and called it a "tart" because "crostata" just sounds un-American.

Lemon sponge pie recipe from Allrecipes. Glorious. Just the right texture, that uncanny valley in between cake and custard, maybe a little bit reminiscent of a loofah too. It spun me back down the years to the pies of my youth.


And that's how to make Thanksgiving! Check back soon and I'll tell you what to do with the leftovers.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! I just tried to eat my screen. btw, I did marvel at those little green diamonds, but I was too busy eating them to say anything.