Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Food Musings and a Beautiful Bird

I have been hosting Thanksgiving for the past few years, which means that I have been in charge of the Turkey. Each year I have tried a different type of bird, and a few different cooking techniques, but for the last two years, I used the same technique and ended up with a deliciously moist bird cooked in only 2 hours. Two tricks that I think made all the difference: slather tons of garlic pureed with butter or oil and herbs under the skin and on top of the skin, and start with a high heat to brown the bird (in the bottom part of the oven, and then turn the temperature down a bit to cook the rest of the bird, draping the breast with foil if it is getting too dark before the rest of the turkey is done. For the last two years, my turkey has cooked in half the time I had calculated based on it's weigh, and I've had to scramble to get the rest of the meal on the table before the bird was cold. I write this in hopes that I will remember for this year!

I never posted my pictures from last year, so I thought this might be a good time to share. It was a fairly traditional year as far as side dishes and seasoning goes. I'm including links to some good recipes on my blog and in other locations:

Garlic and Herb Roasted Turkey (below)
Mashed Potatoes*
Buttermilk Biscuits
Kale Salad
Roasted Squash and Brussel Sprouts with Pecans
Caraway Roasted Rainbow Carrots (harvested that morning from my own garden!!)

I went a little nuts on dessert:
Raspberry Pie
Cardamom Buttermilk Pie (I topped mine with whipped cream just before serving)
Coconut Cream Pie
Apple Pear Pie
Pumpkin Pie (using a fresh pumpkin)

*Note on Mashed Potatoes: this linked recipe is a basic starting point. I would add a total of 4 tablespoons of butter and I boil my potatoes in the skin and peel them hot using a dish towel, then place them directly in the mixer or ricer, adding salt, hot mik and butter until they are fluffy. 1 

Perfect Roasted Turkey
1 Turkey (about 15-18 pounds)- at room temperature
1 stick butter or 1/4 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1 small onion
salt and pepper
herbs or spices of your choosing

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Puree garlic, onion, salt and pepper with butter or olive oil.
  3. Loosen the skin on the turkey with your hands or a spoon.
  4. Smear garlic puree under the skin, reserving a few tablespoons to rub on the outside of the turkey skin.
  5. Tie turkey legs together with twin or string
  6. Place turkey in a large roasting pan breast side up and place in the oven on the bottom rack. 
  7. Roast at 450 until the skin is nicely browned, roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn oven down to 350 and continue roasting until turkey meat reaches 170 degrees when tested with a thermometer, approximately 1 more hour. 

This year I am thinking of going a little lighter all around. Contemplating poached pears and fruit based desserts rather than so many pies (the picture above is missing a few pies form our meal last year), and a lot of vegetables again....we'll see if people let me skip the biscuits or not....

I came across this paragraph I wrote last year about the joys of growing and eating my own food. It was an incredible experience to have a large harvest of one crop from my tiny backyard garden and get to share it with my family.

"Growing food in my backyard is an absolutely thrilling experience. To think that I put these tiny little seeds in dirt, let the sun shine on them, give them a little water, and try to keep the squirrels, stray cats and children from destroying them, and a few weeks or months later I have food. Such was the case with 2 raised beds of carrots. Now, carrots take a heck of a long time to grow (70-90 days), so it is amazing to me that they are so inexpensive in the grocery store. This crop took up two halves of raised beds; some precious garden real estate. The great thing is that I planted them so long ago that I'd almost forgotten about them. I'd been saving them for our Thanksgiving meal, and almost forgot to pick them. I sent the kids out on Thanksgiving morning to pull some of the carrots we'd been eyeing for months. The next 30 minutes was filled with kids racing in and out of the house showing us the fat danvers orange carrots, and the assortment of rainbow carrots, skinny white ones, stumpy purples, golden yellows and oranges. The kitchen floor was covered in dirt and brown leaves, the picnic table outside was piled high with carrots (greens and all), and I was filled with an inexplicable joy, both that my kids were taking such pleasure in a vegetable, and that I actually managed to grow something so beautiful and delicious. There was no need to remind myself to be thankful on this Thanksgiving."

 Any Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes you want to share?

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