The last dish has been washed and put away, and now my family is sprawled out in the living room groaning silently. It is Thanksgiving. In typical fashion, Aaron and I went completely overboard and managed to organize a true day of gluttony. Despite my failed macarons and general "mehs" during the planning process, dinner was successful and surprisingly stress free. Quick planning and organization allowed us to pull off the meal in our tiny kitchen while engaging with our families - at least a little bit. That being said, now more than ever, it is clear that we need to move to a house.
|Pinot noir to go with the turkey.|
Here is the menu:
Winter squash soup with gruyere cheese
Pear and pomegranate salad
Roasted acorn squash
Sauteed brussel sprouts
Root vegetable puree
Cranberry sauce with persimmons
Spiced pear and cranberry sorbet
Vanilla, cinnamon and orange ice cream
|Winter squash soup with gruyere cheese|
|Pear and pomegranate salad|
Pulling together the dinner was simple, but time-consuming. The most challenging part of it was not the cooking, but the size of our kitchen. Only two people at a time can fit in our tiny apartment kitchen, so when we have to cook for guests, they usually have to wait in the living room awkwardly while Aaron and I get things ready. This is merely exacerbated when you have guests staying with you or are cooking a large feast, as much of the cooking must be done while the guests are there.
Though we have already put the plans in motion to move, this weekend made it clear that we can't get to an actual house soon enough. Friends know that I have long dreamed of escaping urban apartment living for a home with windows on four sides. Entertaining my family for Thanksgiving simply revealed that more space might be even more important than natural light!
Saturday: Made squash soup to freeze, made macaron shells
Sunday: Made cranberries, filled macarons, made ice cream and sorbet
Monday: Made pumpkin semifreddo
Tuesday: Trimmed brussel sprouts, deconstructed the pomegranates, brined turkey, made bread dough
Wednesday: Assembled and baked tart, assembled root vegetable puree, made whipped cream, shaped the bread, removed turkey from brine
Thursday: In order, Baked bread, roasted squash, roasted turkey, made salad, made and roasted stuffing, sauteed brussel sprouts, roasted root vegetable puree and broccolini, reheated and broiled soup.
I managed to space the work out over enough days that when my family did arrive on Tuesday night, I had time to go out to dinner, and then on Wednesday I was free enough to take them into the city for a leisurely lunch. Sure, Aaron spent much of the day in the kitchen on Thursday, but he was the one that demanded the turkey. I'm not sure there is a way to make turkey simple unless it is catered.
It was well-planned and successful, but not without a few disasters. Let's just say that so-called "brining bags" are not strong enough to withstand the pressure of a 12 pound turkey and a few liters of liquid. Since I took care of most everything else, as mentioned above, I left Aaron in charge of the turkey. It was mostly for him, after all. I had put forth numerous other meat options... crown roast of pork, cornish hens, standing rib roast... etc. NO, he wanted his traditional Thanksgiving turkey. Fine. I can deal with turkey but I don't want to be responsible for putting it in the oven at the crack of dawn and keeping it basted all day.
|Root vegetable puree|
He didn't complain about the assignment, instead eagerly diving into the task. I sent him a few recipes to check out and he settled on a brined turkey. Neither one of us had ever brined a turkey before (or really knew what brine was!), so this was going to be interesting. Aaron finished preparing the brine just as my family arrived. I left Aaron home alone for a little while so I could escort them to their hotel. They were staying in the new W that had opened down the street.
Not five minutes after greeting them in their hotel room my phone rings. It is Aaron, frantically yelling that turkey brining bags don't work. I get a startled look on my face and slowly ask if the turkey is okay, which sends my father into a fit of laughter. Nothing like a little turkey mayhem to entertain the 'rents. Apparently, Aaron poured the brining liquid into the bag, added the turkey and sealed the bag. When he lifted the bag to put it into the fridge, it burst sending germ-infested turkey brine spraying all over the kitchen and the refrigerator. Gross. He was a hero and managed to get it all cleaned up before I got back from the hotel, but not without getting sticky brine in the hinges of the refrigerator doors, which proceeded to groan every time they were opened for the rest of the weekend.
Dad: Hey Jen, is the turkey done?
Me: No. The thermometer says we could still get salmonella.
Dad: (laughing) We're not going to get salmonella.
Me: Hmm... okay, if you say so. I guess the turkey is done then.
For some reason his assertion was enough for me to ignore everything I had ever learned about bacteria and food safety. At least if we got sick maybe Aaron would never make us cook a turkey again. Aaron pulled the bird out of the oven and dinner was served shortly thereafter. Dad was right and nobody had to go to the hospital. Aaron still wants turkey for dinner next year.
|Cranberry with persimmons|
|Spiced pear and cranberry sorbet|
I closed the meal with a Maple Pecan Tart and Pumpkin Semifreddo. Both were carefully chosen as "lighter" options to end the heavy meal. Though the pecan tart was not exactly light, using a tart pan instead of a pie plate helped with portion control as the tart pieces were thinner than pie pieces would have been. The semifreddo served as the perfect closer - icey cold and refreshing, with a light airy texture. It served as a nice contrast to the butter laden food from dinner. With that, Thanksgiving 2010 drew to a successful close. Time to start thinking about next year!
|Pumpkin semifreddo topped with whipped cream and homemade granola|
|Maple pecan tart|
Pear and Pomegranate Salad
1/2 red onion, diced small
3 oz goat cheese
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3 medium ripe pears
Mix ingredients together and serve. Drizzle individual servings with dressing (dressing the entire salad will make leftovers inedible after a day or so). I like to use a homemade vinaigrette recipe that includes dijon mustard, olive oil and champagne vinegar.
6 cups brussel sprouts, trimmed
3 tbsps rendered bacon fat
1 shallot, diced
3 tbsps white wine vinegar
This is a good video with instructions on how to trim brussel sprouts. Once trimmed, cut each sprout in half, vertically. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat over medium heat until liquid. Add shallots and brussel sprout. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally until the sprouts start to brown. Then, add the white wine vinegar and raise the heat to medium high so that the vinegar boils off. Enjoy!