Thanksgiving Postmortem 2006

Turkey, fresh, about 12lbs from Westside Market, brined and prepared along the lines of this Good Eats recipe, but using a turkey roasting bag. The brining was done in one of those giant XL Ziploc bags. Note that the big Ziploc had a slow leak, and it was a good thing I put the whole thing in the roasting pan as it sat in the fridge overnight. The aromatics were placed in a little bag of cheesecloth to facilitate removal.

The turkey meat came out fine. The skin wasn’t that brown and crisp, though, possibly because I put the roasting bag on a little too closely, rather than leaving more slack for it to expand. Next time, leave a little more slack for the dry convection heat to work: there was little danger of the plastic bag coming in contact with the top of the oven.

Stuffing: apple chicken sausage and acorn squash stuffing. The sausage and the squash were on-hand ingredients. Add in a standard mirepoix.

Roasted sweet potatoes: four large sweet potatoes, approximately 1″ cubes, plus olive oil, salt, paprika.

Both the stuffing and sweet potatoes (in separate casseroles) went in the oven about 45 minutes before the turkey was expected to be done.

Garlic mashed potatoes. Standard boiled potatoes, mash with garlic, butter and half-and-half. Sprinkle a bit of parsley and sage on top later.

Steamed cauliflower, broccoli, carrots. A little bit of a misfire, in the sense that they were a bit raw. I started the steaming, but forgot to set the timer, and then took the veggies off the heat prematurely.

Brussel sprouts, sauted with balsamic vinegar. Somewhat “eh”. The sprouts wound up a little overcooked.

Cranberry sauce: around 24oz of fresh cranberries, plus 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 orange rind. The rind was taken out a bit before the cranberries completely cooked down, because the sauce was becoming a bit bitter. A little more sugar was also added.

Mushroom gravy. Baby portobellos, some garlic, a bit of finely chopped onions, 1/2 cup of soy sauce. Sort of following this, but without the wine, and with the addition of the juice from the turkey (the roasting bag is good for keeping the juice in one place: just snip the corner of the bag, and drain out it out into a bowl, for fat separation). This worked pretty well, though there was a bit of a timing problem because the turkey is done and sitting there, and you need time to reduce the gravy, which you may not have. We used the expedient of corn starch.

Apple crisp. Following this, but reversing the proportions of flour and oatmeal. There was a misfire, in the sense of not properly creaming the butter and sugar to begin with. This resulted in “lumpy” crisp mix, rather than something crumbly, before going into the oven. I don’t think anyone noticed, though.

Pumpkin cheesecake. I can’t find a link to the recipe I was sort of working off. Basically, I used a six-inch high-walled springform pan, 8 ounces (by weight) of graham crackers and enough butter to hold it all together to make the crust. 16 ounces of Neufchatel cheese (or whatever that company was calling its lower fat cream cheese), plus one cup of low fat cottage cheese (hey, new technique: unleash the stick blender on the cottage cheese to beat it into smoothness! Use this in places that call for ricotta or cream cheese, if you’re going for the healthier substitutions.), 1 cup of sugar, 3 eggs, 1 can of pumpkin puree. Add with baking spices, and a dash of vanilla extract and (I think) a tablespoon of flour, and beat it all in the KitchenAid until more or less smooth, then pour into the prepared springform. The baking time was a little weird, in the sense that this was a high-walled springform that was filled close to the top (so the volume:surface area ratio is different from using a 9″ springform), and I was using a toaster oven (this was the day before) at 325F. Total time wound up to be around 90 minutes, though the thing bears watching. I might have overcooked it slightly, to make sure the center was properly cooked. I also put the springform pan into a water bath during baking (The toaster oven comes with a solid roasting tray of sorts. Wrap the springform in aluminum foil so the bottom is water-tight, put a water in the tray, then put the springform in there. Stick the whole thing in the pre-heated oven. Replenish the water as it boils off.) to help maintain the temperature and provide a humid oven environment. Cool overnight in the fridge.

Fruit bowl. The usual mix of pineapple, honeydew melon. Plus, Asian persimmons are in season right now, as well as pomegranates.

NYT no-knead bread. Here’s a good write-up. I used a little too much water (the infamous extra 1/8 cup) which made the dough a bit formless. Also, I was using 1 cup of fresh ground whole wheat and 2 cups of white flour. The crumb was very good, but the crust a little tough, though this may have had to do with it sitting around for many hours, before dinner started.

This was, to some extent, a logistics exercise, in terms of, uh, kitchen tasking orders for the various pots and pans, as well as oven time. For example, the bread was done first, with the turkey going in the hot oven more or less immediately afterwards. The apple crisp was started once the sweet potato casserole dish was freed up. The gravy couldn’t be completed until the turkey juices were ready, but this wasn’t a big deal, since you want the turkey to rest for a while after it comes out of the oven. And so on. It was more or less non-stop from 11AM to about 3:30PM, when guests were supposed to arrive. Of course, no one showed up until around 4:30PM, so I suppose the tight scheduling could have been relaxed, say, for the gravy, for a reduction instead of the corn starch thing.

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