Editors Note: I intended on posting this yesterday, due to an unforeseen technical difficulty, it had to wait until today.
So the Thanksgiving meal is over and the turkey hangover has begun. We’re entering that grim limbo time where everybody starts to look toward Christmas, but the truth is I don’t feel it yet.
I woke today to a miserable gray and rainy morning. Nina is off to work, and I’ll be damned if I leave the house to hobnob with the throngs of Black Friday shoppers. I don’t really understand the Black Friday mentality, to be honest, but then again, I don’t really like to shop. I would rather pay twice the price, and buy things at my leisure, than stand outside of a Wal-Mart with all of the other mouth-breathers in the freezing cold at 5 AM.
I’m going to try my best to not leave the house today. I briefly toyed with the idea of going to the gym, but that just seems feeble after my 7,000 calorie day. Too little, too late.
Instead I’ll recap my Thanksgiving, which I believe is my 5th year in a row away from home. Well, “home” being my folks’ house in Joliet. I guess I’m home, home, now.
Either way, our turkey day started out like all things—with the best of intentions.
Nina and I predictably woke up later than anticipated and had to immediately scramble to get things in order for our proposed 4 o’clock dinnertime. We bought a turkey breast and I brined it in salt, sugar and spices for 24 hours before the big day. I pulled the bird out of its brine and rinsed it and set into the oven to air dry.
Nina made pie crust the night before, and started assembling the insides of our bourbon pumpkin pie. She boiled potatoes and I picked bunches of fresh thyme. After the third mid-kitchen collision, Nina kicked me out. “OK, you need to go” she said, and frankly, I know better than to argue. I got dressed and started cleaning up our dining room, replacing the piles of library books and bills, with tablecloths, tapers, and plates.
When I came back into the general area around he kitchen, Nina was furiously kneading ropes of potato rolls and tying them into knots.
The pie went in the oven, the potatoes were whipped with cream cheese and thyme, the rolls were painted with egg wash and dusted with sesame seeds, and it seemed like a good time to break for lunch.
If there’s one thing we like in our house, it’s appetizers. On holidays, we often make appetizers to have as a lighter meal before the main event. For Thanksgiving lunch, I made Liver Pate with peppercorns and we ate it with sour apples, water crackers and three kinds of cheese. I love cheese. We regularly drive 80 miles to Sacramento just so we can go to Nugget Market and Whole Foods to indulge in their cheesy bounty. For this particular cheese tray we had three offerings. A double-cream, cow’s milk, brie-like cheese, called Fromager D’Affinois, another cow’s milk cave-aged Gruyere, and a cheese that was introduced to us the previous weekend during a high-end beer dinner: Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold. This cheese is bizarre because its makeup is similar to cheddar, but it is treated and aged like Parmigiano-Reggiano resulting in a quite sharp, dry-ish cheese, with tons of flavor. Tasty. We had this cheese-feast with some 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau, which was frankly disappointing. Not to be deterred, we drank the whole bottle anyway.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Nina and I were talking and as it turns out, neither of us really likes turkey, and neither of us really like stuffing. This is what they call in sales, a “come to Jesus moment” when things suddenly become clear. The turkey, we can’t do without… (It is thanksgiving after all, we’re not godless Communists,) but the stuffing got the old heave-ho. We decided instead to make a recipe we found in Gourmet, for a roasted onion and Gruyere dressing, instead of the usual bread, sage and gizzard version. This recipe called for: white onions, red onions, pearl onions, Vidalia onions, shallots, green onions and garlic to be tossed in olive oil, and roasted until brown and sweet, then topped with bread crumbs, chicken stock, and Gruyere cheese. (See above.) It is something like a French onion casserole. Awesome.
With the onions roasted, we tossed the bird in the oven and set to ironing out the details for the rest of dinner.
This, for me, is where things began to go wrong.
I like brining turkey, because the result is super juicy meat. The only problem is, that I have a hard time getting the damn thing browned while cooking. The breast meat was up to temperature and it was time to take it out, but the thing was corn silk pale and not the most appetizing to look at. I though, no problem, I’ll toss it under the broiler for a few seconds and get it to brown right up. Unfortunately, I got distracted while opening bacon, and a few seconds turned into a minute and my beautifully roasted turkey, had a burn spot the size of North Dakota on the top.
Then there was the gravy. I have a problem with gravy. No matter what I try, or what I do, it always turns out bad. This year was no different, we go the drippings out of the pan, separated the fat, and added flour but the gravy was WAY too salty. I tried doctoring it up with apple cider vinegar, sugar and some cream, but no luck, we were stuck eating salty gravy…again.
The dinner actually turned out OK. Despite the burn spot on the bird, and the salty gravy, everything else was tasty. The brussel sprouts with bacon were nice, the onion casserole was good, the company mashed potatoes are always good.
In addition, we had rolls, canned jellied cranberry (I can hear the disapproval, but back off, I love them.) We ate all of this with a bottle of wine Nina and I bought on a recent trip to Mendocino County; 2008 Husch Vineyards Chenin Blanc.
My friends Brian and Sophia stopped by and we had Bourbon cocktails, pumpkin pie, and played some Wii Bowling. A good time was had by all.
The real tragedy didn’t come until this morning. Nina got up to go to work, and I joined her. While gathering coffee I noticed a tiny ant trotting across the top of the tin foil covering our leftover pie. I peeled back the foil and there were, roughly, 10,000 tiny pinhead ants having some sort of party in our pie dish. We had to chuck the whole thing in the trash, only 3 slices in. Tragedy in the purest form. Luckily, Nina has another pie crust in the fridge and we might be able to have leftover pumpkin pie, yet.
Today, there is nothing left to do but start in on the leftovers and look ahead to next year.