This year I’m making Thanksgiving dinner for 8 adults and 2 kids. My ambitions are high: Nobody dies this year. Not on my watch. At least, not from the food anyway: The occasional knife fight is inevitable and completely out of my hands. This IS family after all. Shit happens.
A few weeks back I called out for recipe suggestions from friends in the hopes of trying something new instead of my usual fallback dinner of Rib-Eye Steaks and Stove Top Stuffing. I got a number of great suggestions from friends, a couple of which I even tried out in advance. I’ve only made Thanksgiving dinner once before, and if there’s one lesson The Great Stuffing Soup Incident taught me on that dark day, it’s that you never try a new recipe on T-Day. Because the stuffing wasn’t MEANT to be soup. It just decided it needed to be.
We have a fairly large turkey this year (18lbs) that I will be cooking using Alton Brown’s method. I was not very surprised at the number of people that suggested it. AB is kinda awesome. I’ve cooked a great number of recipes from his shows over the years, although it sometimes isn’t worth the extra work… I used his turkey recipe a few years ago with great success- the only problem I ran into is that my bird cooked noticeably faster than I was expecting. So this time, I’m willing to bet at least a dollar that it’s going to take LONGER than I plan. This afternoon I’ll make the brine and right before bed, the bird takes a dunk in our briney cooler which for some reason is the only vessel we own large enough to fit gallons of liquid, ice, and birdie.
Tomorrow morning, once the turkey is placed in my oven, I will have enough room for probably 2 more dishes. I intend one slot for the stuffing. The other slot will somehow need to fit between 3 and 7 casserole dishes that guests will inevitably turn up with that will contain various mushy vegetables that they each associate with their own native west michigan traditions.
Stuffing is my favorite part of thanksgiving. (a VERY close second is Apple Pie). I figure turkey only exists as an excuse to pair with stuffing, and if I had my choice, I’d skip the bird and go straight to the stuffing. I’ve done a number of stuffing recipes over the years, but this year I’m going to be using this Apple Pecan Stuffing. The don’t want to talk about the stuffing soup incident any more, but I will say when I tested this recipe a few weeks ago it ended up a little gooier than I would like, so I’ll be using a little bit less of the liquid than the recipe calls for. I’ll add more and give it a stir mid way through cooking if it looks like things are going to dry out.
Last week I tried out this Butternut Squash Recipe using homemade stock in place of the bouillon and water that the recipe called for. I also cut the cream cheese a little which was a good choice. I thought it was awesome, but I’ll be trimming a bit of the cayenne pepper this time around to account for the dutch taste palette of my guests. They are universally allergic to spices of any kind save for salt. I’ve delegated the chopping of the squash themselves to my lovely wife.. she has a dex bonus that all but guarantees the freeing of the squash without the loss of the fingers. If I tried, my schedule would have to include “ER VISIT”. But this soup is pretty good and really easy. Since it has a lot of cream cheese in it, I figure a cup will be plenty, but I’ll going to double the recipe since soup goes good with the turkey sandwiches that I hope to enjoy for the rest of the weekend. I’ll be picking up a few loaves of fresh bread at the bakery for soup dunkin’ and sandwich construction. Leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving.
Mashed potatoes and Pies have been outsourced to my lovely wife. She also mandates the presence of a strange cylinder of red gelatinous goo that she says is “Cranberry” but I’m pretty sure it has more hit points than me. She prefers the cranberries to retain their natural cylindrical shape at the kitchen table. I prefer it to be on the opposite end of the table as me. We have an understanding: I won’t stab the cran, and it won’t touch my plate.
I’ve also decided to make a salad. Not because anyone will eat it, because nobody wants to dedicate valuable stomach capacity with salad on thanksgiving, but because it will look very pretty in bowls on the table that everyone will politely each 3 bytes of before discarding it entirely. My salad will feature kathleen’s favorite cheese (blue) and my favorite dressing (vinagrette) as well as nobody’s favorite “Grape Tomatoes”, which may or may not end up disposed of simply because they are tomatoes and tomatoes are by their very definition: yuck. Although I have a sneaking suspicion at the 2 year old will eat them because they are the most delicious of colors.
My final concern is seating. Since my kitchen usually seats 4, and my math says that I will have to seat 2.5x my usual capacity, I’ve decided to stack multiple kitchen tables on top of each other in the traditional tower formation. The people on the top table will sit on the shoulders of the people from the tier below. At the very top of the tower, my two year old will stand and scream for peanut butter and jelly with a mouth stuffed full of grape tomatos.
All in all, it should be a good time. When it’s done, I’ll make grandparents wash the dishes and I’ll hopefully retire to the living room to engage in the same ancient thanksgiving traditions defined by the pilgrims hundreds of years ago: Playing Skyrim and ignoring my family, content that I have fed them, so from that point on, social responsibilities can be delegated to my lovely wife.
Here is my rough schedule of kitchen events
- WED: Make Brine
- WED: Dice Squash
- WED: Start Brine Before Bed
- -4:00 TURKEY: Prep, Preheat Oven
- -3:30 TURKEY: in Oven at 500
- -2:30 TURKEY: Drop Oven to 350
- -1:30 SALAD: Make Vinaigrette
- -1:15 STUFFING & SOUP: Prep
- -0:45 SOUP: Simmer Onions,
- -0:40 SOUP: Add Squash/Stock Simmer for 20
- -0:35 STUFFING: In Oven
- -0:30 SALAD: Prep Lettuce
- -0:30 TURKEY: Out at temp!
- -0:20 SOUP: Puree soup, blend in cheese, Keep warm!
- -0:10 TABLE: Set
- -0:15 SOUP: Blend in Cream Cheese
- -0:10 KATHLEEN: Deploy Cranberry goo
- -0:10 KATHLEEN: Blend Potatoes
- 0:00 NOM NOM NOM
- 0:20 Skyrim
- 3:00 Eat Pie
- 3:01 More Skyrim