Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Recap

I know I'm slow, but this is a long post, so it took some time to write. And after my parents left, I needed a few days to recover. They have some serious energy for old farts!

Really, the dinner preparations for the big meal started on Tuesday, when I made the ice cream. My dad's diabetic, so I have tried making this with evaporated milk instead of cream and with splenda instead of sugar. Don't make either of those mistakes if you choose to make ice cream from scratch. It just results in a rock hard mess that tastes awful. I have a Krups ice cream maker, so I had put the freezer insert in on Saturday to get it good and cold for the effort. This recipe comes from the booklet that came with the appliance.

French Vanilla Ice Cream
3 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla
Beat the eggs and milk together in a 3 qt saucepan. Add sugar and cook over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, whisking constantly. It's important to stir all the time, so you don't end up with scrambled egg pieces in your ice cream. When the mixture is thick and coats the spoon, remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add the cream and vanilla and refrigerate overnight before freezing in the ice cream maker.

While that was cooling, I made a strawberry sorbet. I've also made this with frozen berries: mixed berries, raspberries, and I would think other berries would work equally well.

Strawberry Sorbet
3 cups fresh berries or a 12-oz bag of frozen berries
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup orange juice
Put berries, water, and sugar in a 3-qt saucepan and heat at medium until the sugar dissolves in the liquid. Puree the mixture and refrigerate for several hours. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the orange juice to the pureed berries and then fold in the egg whites before freezing the mixture in the maker.

Both recipes make a quart of ice cream, so I have a couple of 1.2 or 1.3 quart containers that I use to hold the frozen goodness after it comes out of the ice cream maker. That works well.

On Wednesday, I made the pie to go with all that ice cream. I discovered this whole apple pie-making thing last year, and now I make apple pie anytime I need a dessert for something. I never realized how much I love apple pie. I don't love making pie crust, so I buy those, but the filling I make.

Apple Pie
Adapted from Joy of Cooking, of which I believe I have the 423rd edition
Make your double pie crusts or take yours out of the freezer to start to thaw. Core and slice in 1/4 inch thick slices 3 pounds of apples. I used Pink Lady this time, but I've also used Gala and Fuji, and they've worked great, too. I think next time I will try Honey Crisp. Be wary of squishy apples like red delicious or granny smith, as these will get mushy in a pie. In a very large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over high heat until the butter is sizzling and smelling yummy. Add the apples and toss them around to coat them with the butter. Lower the heat to medium, cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the apples to be getting soft, but not to be falling apart. Add 3/4 cup sugar or splenda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon of salt and mix together. Turn the heat back up to high and boil the liquid and the apples until it starts to become thick, like syrup, about 3 minutes more. Remove the apples and spread them out on a cookie sheet and cool to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 425. Pile the apples and the syrup into the bottom crust. It will be a pile, but that's what makes this good. I wet the edges of the bottom crust, and then press the top crust onto it to make them stick together. Vent and bake until the filling is brown and bubbly and the crust is nicely golden, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool on a baking rack, and leave out for tomorrow.

Also on Wednesday, I tore up a loaf of whole wheat bread into pieces and let it sit out to get a little stale. Then I made the cranberries. I like to make two kinds, and this year I did half a bag one way and the other half the other way. Fewer leftovers that way.

Cooked Cranberries
half a bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp fresh ginger
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until the mixture boils and the cranberries have all popped (about 10 minutes). Refrigerate to serve.

Fresh Cranberry Relish
half a bag of fresh cranberries
2 oranges, quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup gin or vodka (but gin is better)
Put the cranberries and oranges in a food processor or blender until all broken up. Add the gin and sugar and refrigerate until serving.

I really should have made these earlier. The fresh is better when it's been sitting for 3 or 4 days, and there's no harm in making the other early. I serve them cold, so making them early is just a way to keep from going insane with the things that can't be done until the day of.

Then we come to Thursday morning. I got up and started to prep the turkey first thing in the morning. Well, a little later than first thing, since I slept in a bit. As a morning person, you have to understand that means I got up at 6:30. Just so we're all clear that I didn't sleep in so late so as to appreciably affect the completion of the meal.

Roast Turkey
Remove the giblets and neck and wash the turkey (I did a 17.5 pound one). Rub an even mixture of salt, pepper, and thyme all over the skin and the inside cavity of the bird. Into the neck and butt cavities, fill with quartered onions and celery and carrots cut into 2-inch lengths. Put breast down in a covered roaster and into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes per pound (that's 5 hours and 50 minutes for my turkey). Baste every 30 minutes with turkey or chicken broth, adding 1.5 to 2 cups of liquid each basting until the broth in the pan starts to be more than the last time you basted.

This doesn't make the prettiest roast turkey ever, since the breast is down in the broth, but it sure makes it juicier. I figure I'm going for tasty rather than for a turkey that belongs on the front of a magazine, so it's an easy tradeoff to make. Since the turkey was in at 7am, I knew we would be eating about 1:15 or 1:30, so the rest of the pieces of the meal are timed for that. The next order of business was to make the dressing. Since I only have one small oven, and it was taken up with turkey, I decided to try making my regular dressing in the crockpot.

Sherry Pecan Dressing
Saute 2 chopped onions in 3/4 cup butter until just tender and golden. Dump in the crockpot with 2 cups of chopped celery, 1 tablespoons chopped fresh parley, 1 1/2 teaspoons each of thyme, margoram and salt, 1/2 teaspoon each of celery seed and nutmeg, and 1/4 cup of sherry. Once combined, add the torn bread we made and left for stale yesterday and a cup of chopped pecans. Cover and set the crockpot on low, and check it periodically, adding chicken broth as it gets a little dry. Once the turkey comes out of the oven to rest, put the uncovered crockpot insert in the oven for 15 minutes just to make the top of the dressing crunchy and crispy.

Once all that was going, it was time for breakfast and a little card playing or other diversions (my mother watched football, one of the benefits of living on the west coast -- the games start at 8 or 9am). About noon (the turkey is coming out at 1, after all), I started making the mashed potatoes.

Mashed Potatoes
Quarter (or smaller, just so all the pieces are the same size) 3 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes. Put them all in a pot with water covering them and boil until a fork goes into the pieces easily (25-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces). Drain off the water, but leave the potatoes in the pot. Add a stick of butter and 1/2 cup of milk, and mash with a hand mixer on the slowest setting. If the potatoes aren't creamy enough, add more butter and/or milk. Add salt to taste.

While the potatoes were boiling, I ended the green beans and prepped the asparagus. Both were in their respective pots for steaming as soon as I was done mashing the potatoes. Mashed potatoes hold their heat well, so you can finish them a little earlier than the other pieces. About this time, the turkey was done, and I took it out of the oven and removed it to its serving plate to rest. This leaves the broth in the roasting pan to make gravy.

Turkey Gravy
Mix flour and water (about twice as much water as flour) in a tightly sealing plastic container. Shake vigorously to remove any flour lumps. Bring the broth in the roasting pan to a boil on the stove. Drizzle the flour/water mixture into the broth while stirring constantly. Once thickened to the desired consistency, ladle into a gravy boat for serving.

As the veggies finished up, I put them in their serving bowls with a pat of butter and a little salt. Everything was served, and the turkey was carved to a plate to make getting food easier. We drank a local wine from the Presidio winery we visited on Tuesday with the meal, and it was very nice.

After folks had had a chance to let their food settle, we had dessert. I set the oven back to 350, and put the pie back in for 15 minutes to warm it up. Served up with homemade vanilla ice cream, you'd think there was no space to put it after all that eating. However, I may have mentioned that I like apple pie, so I managed to find a crevice to stuff it into.

And there you have it -- my Thanksgiving dinner. And now I'm fooded out, and don't even want to make dinner tonight. But, we all have our burdens to bear. Off to the store again!


Rosa said...

I'm impressed! I don't think I could have kept up the "new food every day" for this long. Especially after all that cooking.

Just think, you only have 4 more days! I wonder if you will really be relieved or if you will miss it.

Heather said...

I wonder, too. But at least I know this: I am *not* cooking on December 1st. No matter what happens.

Except maybe I will make a little appetizer something for a party I'm going to that night...

stephanie said...

I think you could host a cooking show - - you made this all seem incredibly easy! I don't remember cooking Thanksgiving dinner sounding so relaxing, like watching a well-oiled machine! Perhaps it's your "years" of experience now.

Heather said...

It was easy. Sure, I could have made toasted almonds for the peas or made rolls from scratch or tried to make the dressing fit in the oven, but then it would have been more complicated than necessary. And I like simple. Plus, I think mashed potatoes sound better without brandy-soaked raisins and pecans. Maybe it's just me. :)