Thanksgiving 2015

Growing up in a family that puts great value on tradition, holidays throughout the years have had familiar and comforting smells, sounds, games, and jokes. With so much chaos happening in the world and in our lives,  Thanksgiving this year was a time to gather, reflect, mourn, remember, and appreciate.  Our first holiday without mom physically at the table. Our first holiday as a married couple. Our first holiday with us ‘kids’ taking a larger role in the kitchen.  This year, we worked to strike a balance between honoring and maintaining our stable traditions while simultaneously adjusting to new circumstances and needs.   

Meal prep began around 1:00 with stuffing and turkey preparation.  This went fairly quickly as the bird had been brined for several days (see below). Overall, our mother would have been proud of our coordinated efforts to ‘manage’ the afternoon, particularly with the spreadsheet my brother created to calculate the time needed to cook each item, allocate a specific cooking location (oven, stove-top, grill, broiler), identify a chef, and ensure that each item was served at the intended time!  While the turkey was in the oven, we sat down to play Ticket to Ride, an obligatory board game break.  After about an hour, the timer went off and we all popped up and began to make our feast of stuffed mushrooms, crab dip, french onion soup, stuffing, a brined bird, green beans with pine nuts, mashed potatoes with almonds , cranberry relish, and a ham.  

Despite the fact that there were constantly “too many cooks in the kitchen,” everyone had their roles.  We consulted the Food 52 hotline at one point, and worked through some of these dilemmas, and overall I’d say it was a successful meal. Once at the table, Dad gave an impressive toast highlighting the importance of expressing gratitude, the sense of family that mom curated, and a reminder that we carry those values on throughout this holiday.  

Here are some of our new recipes, lessons learned, and notes for future Thanksgivings:

  1. Appetizers
    1. My brother’s stuffed mushrooms were one of the biggest hits of the night. He crafted bite-sized masterpieces with a combination of sausage, onion, mushroom stems, garlic, chipotle panko bread crumbs, crushed red pepper, thyme, parmesan cheese and cream cheese.  Delish!
  2. Mom’s Cranberry Pear Relish
    1. This is something that we will have at the table forever and always.  She always said how much she hated cranberry from a can and refused to allow it.  While I am technically ok with variations on cranberry sauce, this one has a special place in my heart and at this table. Recipe to come.
  3. Stuffing
    1. The short version of stuffing was that it was a flop.  I tried this Betty Crocker bread stuffing which went into the bird.  I also made up my own concoction with sausage, carrots, and lots of veggies and spices. Acknowledging that mine will never be mom’s, I plan to do some research and practice before next year, as I’d like to find a recipe that includes an egg and is a bit less dry.
  4. The Turkey
    1. Brining was a huge success!  You could taste the thyme in the white meat without gravy! Here was his basic recipe:
      1. Boil 1/2 gallon of cider, 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 4 dried thyme pieces, 1/2 bunch of sage, 1/2 bunch of rosemary, sprinkle enough whole peppercorns to cover the top of the brine, 1 large onion diced, 3 ribs of celery diced, 1 large carrot diced…
      2. Boil until the salt and sugar dissolve.
      3. Brine breast side down for 2 – 3 days in the fridge.  When submerging be sure to get the brine inside the bird.  
      4. Bake the bird breast side down on a rack …. 350 for 3 hours and cover with an aluminum foil tent.
      5. Turn the heat down to 325 after 3 hours, flip the turkey, and take off the foil.  When top is browned, place foil back on and cook till done.* (*we went till breast was 165).
      6. Baste every hour or so.
  5. Gravy
    1. One thing we didn’t anticipate was that the sugars from the brine would drip into the pan and … basically burn.  So, we had to improvise on the gravy without having the usual pan juices.
  6. Holiday Drink
    1. A new tradition we started this year was putting someone in charge of the holiday drink.  This year, we had:
      1. Medicine Man – white rum, maple syrup, lemon juice, smoked paprika and sage
      2. Nor’easter – whiskey, maple syrup, lime, ginger beer

Much of this documentation is inspired by this amazing family! Here’s to many more years in the kitchen together!

Thanksgiving 4

One comment

  1. […] the parallel between our game playing and our new collaborative take on meal prep.  For the second year in a row, the 5 of us worked in unchoreographed coordination to create a meal of our family staples along […]

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