What I Can Tell You About Thanksgiving

November 19 – 25, 2018

Pizza

Monday:                      Lettuce with Crème Fraiche Vinaigrette / Pizza with Spiced Greens and Pecorino

tacos

Tuesday:                      Ground Pork Carnitas

Wednesday:                Spaghetti alla Tonno

Roast Turkey

Thursday:

Shrimp Cocktail / Warm Bar Nuts / Salumi, Cheese, and Olives
Roasted Turkey with Onion and Sage Gravy
Kale Salad with Caesar Dressing
Mashed Potatoes
Bread and Celery Dressing
Spicy Red Pepper, Cranberry Relish
Jean-Marc Chatelier’s Apple Tart and Pumpkin Pie

cauliflower

Friday:                         Leftovers with Cauliflower Gratin

Saturday:                     Niçoise Toasts with Italian Jarred Tuna

chili

Beez assembling a bowl of Raichlen’s ‘Pretty Good Chili’

Sunday:                       Steve Raichlen’s Pretty-Good Chili

“NOTHING”

I mean, I can tell you nothing about Thanksgiving.  Every family has its own traditions, certain dishes that are mandatory, timing that cannot be varied, even for the Apocalypse, and the family’s own schedule of frustration, anger, temporary truce and happiness for the event.

In addition to our own, pretty standard approach to the meal, we were lucky enough to visit, earlier in the day with Rosie, for her annual bash.  She may have set the record for the most people per square foot outside of Hong Kong.  I was under the weather and didn’t think it fair to dip into her version of Ina Garten’s hummus with vegetables.  I’m going to get hemoglobin shots next year during the week before Thanksgiving, in the hope that Rosie will make this again.  Without her Bloody Mary mix I don’t think I could have gotten through the day.

We were also lucky to be at Dana and Duffy’s annual, equally lively open house, featuring lots of great food (the ham was spectacular and it may have been the other thing that got me through the day – Dana’s Panzanella inspired our dinner on Tuesday this week).  I couldn’t count them exactly, but I think that there were roughly 3,400 children at the party.  There is hope for the country yet.

As for our own traditions, we dropped a few this year but reverted to some as well.  For decades, we have felt the need to produce scalloped oysters, creamed onions, shrimp cocktail and sweet potatoes along with Turkey, cranberry, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, and pumpkin and apple pies.  The general effect of this has been to bring Beez and myself to a peak of homicidal rage by mid-afternoon and to leave us exhausted, often limping and bandaged, by the end of the day.

So this year, we dropped the oysters and onions.  But we also went back to traditional, roasted-in-the-oven turkey and traditional celery, bread and onion dressing.  And that made all the difference.  Because of the oven time required for all those side dishes, we have been cooking our turkeys in an electric roaster for many years.  This produces a moist, decent turkey, but one whose skin resembles that of a mole rat.  This year we were able to get a deeply-flavored, beautifully-browned bird with skin that was not just edible, but worth fighting over.  If you’re in the market for an electric turkey-roaster, let me know – I can get one for you, cheap.

I’m not foolish enough to tell you how to cook a turkey (Ask your mother, grandmother, Ina Garten – whoever), but I’m going to give you a nifty method for creating a juicy bird with crisp, bronzed skin.  And I’ll give you a recipe for creating a snack that will make any bar you end up owning, famous and prosperous.  If you don’t intend to own a bar, then just use this recipe to please your friends during the cocktail hour.

CRISPY, BROWNED TURKEY IN THE OVEN

You’re in charge of procuring a bird (though I’d get a fresh one, if you can), and you’re in charge of how long to cook it (you can find guides for that on the web or in many cookbooks).  But I have a tip that will give you a very tasty bird with a skin that is delicious.

The day before Thanksgiving, place your turkey in a roasting pan and work your fingers under the skin of the breast and the drumstick and thigh.  (Turn the bird so that the drumsticks are aimed at you and, very gently, begin to work your fingers between the skin and the flesh.  Avoid tearing the skin if you can.  Note:  to loosen the skin over the thigh and drumstick you’ll have to get some of your arm under the skin as well.

Now salt the cavity generously and then, taking some salt into your hand, work that salt under the skin and into the flesh.  Finally, salt the outside of the turkey all over.

All you have to do now is to refrigerate the bird uncovered, overnight.  This dry brine will  change the chemistry in the bird’s flesh so that it will stay moist as it cooks.  The separation of the skin from the flesh will allow the fat to render more freely and the skin to bronze and crisp up.

Before you cook, this is what I’d do:  Rub the bird all over with softened butter.  Salt it again and season it with freshly ground black pepper.  Stuff it with a cut-up orange and lemon, a halved head of garlic, a quartered Spanish onion and a large bunch of thyme.  Tuck the wings behind the bird’s neck and tie the drumsticks together.  Now you’re ready to cook.

Bar Nuts

Serving these warm is like putting too much fish food in your guppy tank.  Your guests will lie on the floor and roll over on their backs before you even get to the turkey.  But, as noted above, if you own a bar, you’ll want to serve these warm and raise the price of a beer.

Timing:                                                          15 minutes

Ingredients:                             (This is not exact and can be multiplied)

About 2 cups – a little more won’t hurt – of assorted nuts – we used cashews, walnuts and pecans.  Ideally, you’d have unsalted nuts – but it’s easier to find salted and that’s just fine.  Our cashews were raw as well as unsalted.

2 tablespoons or so of chopped rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons each of dark brown sugar and Maldon or another sea salt
½ teaspoon of cayenne (if you don’t like hot-spicy, reduce this to ¼ teaspoon, but do not eliminate it)
1 tablespoon of melted butter

Cook:

Preheat oven to 350 F

Toss the nuts to combine and spread on a baking sheet.

Roast the nuts in the oven until a light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

While the nuts are roasting, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter in a large bowl.

Toss the roasted nuts in the spiced butter.  Keep tossing for a while to get all of the nuts coated.

Enjoy.