Thanksgiving Dinner 2009

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Thanksgiving dinner – my family’s favorite holiday because it’s about family, food, and alcohol. No pressure on presents… not excessively expensive… hopefully not too much drama. Just that lovely turkey coma. The day started at 8am when I got up to start simmering the giblets (chicken) for the stuffing. Once that was going, I cleaned up and started making room for the cooking process and all the dishes.

9am the kids arrived with some extra serving dishes and casseroles dishes. My daughter immediately started toasting the bread (3 loaves of regular old store-brand white bread). We tried doing a bunch in the oven but some got TOO toasted (read burnt) and the rest were a little Too crouton like. She wants then toasted on the Outside but still slightly soft inside. We use the liner for the huge roaster for mixing the stuffing… we LIKE stuffing so we make a ton. The roaster is some 50 or so years old and is just a simple electric roaster which is Huge and a real pain to move around but ALWAYS welcome at Thanksgiving – means the oven is free for Other things. During the toasting process, I chop up celery and a massive Vidalia onion. The giblets are done so they are left to cool slightly.

Also in the kitchen is my Heart, who is making sausage rolls (raw ground pork sausage wrapped in pastry and then cut into bite-sized pieces). The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is playing in the background and we are getting occasional photos on my cell phone from my best friend who lives in NYC and works for Macy’s and has been at the parade doing “stuff” since 5am. It’s fun to see the background pics. First bottle is open also with Prosecco for all and the kids are nibbling on the chocolate-covered strawberries a friend gave us the night before.

All the bread is finally toasted, veggies are chopped, giblets are chopped in the food processor – the mixing begins. My daughter insists on doing this with her hands because she knows exactly the right texture. First the broth from the cooking of the giblets is added and then chicken broth. Also a whole jar of poultry seasoning and lots of ground black pepper. The mixing continues with additions of broth and seasoning until the right taste and consistency is reach for Inside the bird, this stuffing is drier because it will become moist in the cooking process. Out comes the fresh turkey – odd, there were no giblets inside even though it said that there would be, oh well. The bird (17 lbs) is thoroughly washed – the inside cavity is then lined with cheese-cloth and stuffed with some of the stuffing. This makes getting to the Inside stuffing much easier once the turkey is done cooking. My daughter finishes the remaining stuffing, adding additional liquid because this stuffing will be baked in a casserole dish. The stuffing is put into a large oiled baking dish (did I mention we Love stuffing?). Quick we wash out the roaster liner and oil it. The now stuffed and buttered turkey is placed in the roaster and the lid is put on… it doesn’t fit… I Never get this right & the turkey is Always too large for the roaster. (sigh) Solution – a phone book on Top of the cover to hold it down. (smile) Turn on to approximately 350 – approx. because the light burned out a couple years ago but it seems to still be pretty true to temperature. Kitchen is cleaned up and the next process starts – I put together a quick bread dip. Most people use spinach but I use frozen chopped broccoli instead. It’s the traditional bread dip recipe: chopped broccoli, softened cream cheese, sour cream, dried vegetable soup mix, chopped water chestnuts all mixed together. This is put into the fridge to “age”. My Heart now starts the Trifle – pictures below:

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Cubed angel food cake with raspberry jam soaked in sherry

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Topped with drained, chunky fruit cocktail

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Our first bottle was this delicious Prosecco – a new vineyard… it was delicious

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Next step – cooked vanilla custard, cooled before it topped the lower layers This was now put into the fridge.

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Our second bottle, this time a wonderful Champagne, was opened as we nibbled on the cooked, hot from the oven, sausage rolls. Another round of kitchen clean up. My daughter put together the green bean casserole (using the traditional recipe), which is a favorite of hers and something the rest of us could either take or leave (except for my son… who won’t eat it). But it’s part of the tradition so has to be on the table. Another round of kitchen clean up and then the final step for the Trifle

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REAL Whipped cream goes on top of everything

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Then chocolate shavings

Another kitchen clean up and a break. With the National Dog show muted in the background (we have to see the dogs and who wins), we put on a movie, “The American President”, and sit down to relax with cheese (Brie, Cambozola, Stilton, Stilton w/ Cranberries), pate, and bread dip with the necessary crackers & bread. The kids wanted this movie because it is so very American and so is Thanksgiving. Movie ends and I make the Bourbon sweet potato casserole. The first thing to know about this is that I’ve been making it for some 30 years, got the recipe from my Sister-In-Law’s Mormon family. which always makes the Bourbon part amusing. Second, it shouldn’t be called “sweet potato” since I used canned yams but Yam casserole just doesn’t sound as good. Oh…and this was the only emergency trip… needed another large can of yams, don’t know what I was thinking. This dish is two large cans (depending on the size of the casserole dish you are using) of yams, drained and put in a microwave-safe dish (reserve some of the juice, just in case). Heat the yams for about 3 mins. so that they are soft – then mash. During the mashing process add in a few pats of butter (I think the original recipe called for a whole stick of butter but I pared that down dramatically over the years). Then mix in brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (to taste and my daughter is the mixer taster in this process). Once totally mixed add Bourbon… this is both to Taste and to consistency. If the mixture seems Dry and/or you don’t want to add more Bourbon (or ANY to start with)… you can use the reserved juice. The dish should be smooth but not soupy. Scoop into the buttered casserole dish and refrigerate. (or put on a cool window sill if you don’t have room).

All during this we are checking the turkey (the phone book is still on the top) and basting. My Heart has added a bit of sherry to the pan for flavor and moisture. It’s cooking happily.

The next movie is totally stupid but fun – we watch “Rat Race”… it always makes us laugh. Nibbles are done. Another incredibly stupid but funny movie is put in, “Evolution”. The Turkey is actually reaching temperature a bit early, I turn down the roaster and turn on the oven for the side dishes (350). My Heart puts together his Yorkshire Pudding batter, which has to rest before being baked. 30 minutes later the side dishes are all heated. The oven goes up to 400-degrees and the Yorkshire pudding and asparagus (just a drizzle of olive oil and ground black pepper & Herbs de Province) go in. My Heart takes some of the turkey drippings and makes his delicious gravy, just a bit of the wine we’re having with dinner is added and makes it perfect. Once the Yorkshire Puddings and asparagus are out of the oven, the temp is dropped and the Bourbon sweet potato casserole is returned to the oven covered in miniature marshmallows, which melt and brown slightly.

Turkey is carved, cranberry sauce forgotten (my son reminds me), side dishes ready, wine poured, music in the background – dinner is served.

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Everything was delicious. We finish dinner and settle in for our last movie for the day “The Brothers Bloom” (this is our first time seeing this movie… it’s quirky but fun and interesting). The Trifle is delicious (and my Heart, being the dear man that he is, made a special “Trifle” for my daughter without the custard… she’s not a fan) and glasses of port finish the meal. The kids head for home early – my daughter has to be at her job at Best Buy at 4am and my son is driving her. We actually head to bed early ourselves. Seems like a quiet day at home but it is surprisingly exhausted.

Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with Food, Family and Fun!

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