This is melt-your-face-off-with-jealousy inducing, so you may want to brace yourself before you continue. It’s picture-heavy, too, so be warned about that, too. I mean it – over 60 pictures of “I wish I were part of the Feisty Family or at least invited to their celebrations…” As FeistySis likes to remind BF, and her sister-in-law likes to remind her, “Hey, I’m related to them, I HAVE TO like them… you chose this!” 😉
Due to unforeseen circumstances – mostly, my reliance on a thermometer as opposed to a timer for the turkey – I arrived a bit later than my sister intended to serve dinner. As I bore the turkey, there was no fear that they’d really start eating before I showed, but I was greeted upon arrival with this. A suckling pig Snorlax ordered to bring to the party. Unfortunately, as he is the one to cut it every year – well, every time we have it, the first time being in 2002 for my sister’s sort-of-pre-wedding-party – and he had to leave before I arrived cuz he had the flu and didn’t want to infect us (three generations! three lil boys in the fam now, it’s crazy!) – so my cousin took over the pig chopping duties. I love my cousin, but he’s not a kitchen expert, so he was pretty nervous.
Here he is on the floor of the kitchen, trying to get his bearings and get it going.
Not bad at all! Good job, cuz! I wouldn’t have been able to do that.
As it was, here’s a blurry photo from my camera of the turkey before I carved it (yes, I got to carve this year! WORST.IDEA.EVER).
Here’s a less blurry photo, taken with my BlackBerry Torch (ahem!) at my own home, right after I pulled it out of the oven. Last year and previous turkeys, I mention things I want to try with the turkey in an abstract sense but never write it out, which, every year proves incredibly frustrating when I’m trying to figure out what I did the year before and what to do this year. So… I wrote it down this year.
heads of garlic
I let it sit in a clean garbage bag in a covered styrofoam cooler for a little less than 24 hours in this brine as the ice melted. Oh yes, this year, I actually heated my brine to dissolve everything, but for next year: please stir it a lot right before you pour it, because this year, a lot of the sugar stayed on the bottom and you had to re-do it, which was annoying. Thank you.
My hack job, nothing like that first turkey I ever made… I have to roast more chickens during the year to practice. Oops.
Stuffed inside the turkey, aromatics:
(Put in a bowl with a cup of water and microwaved for 5 minutes, then inserted carefully – it’s piping hot – into the empty cavity of the turkey.)
This year, I actually rubbed butter on the outside liberally, but next year I will return to canola oil as butter, with its lower smoking and burning point, seems to have tipped it over into the extra crisp stage. But the skin was really good and well browned on all sides – not burnt, mind you – and super tasty…
Roast at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, then 350 degrees until my probe thermometer read 161. Super juicy and moist as I cut it and tons of juices ran out…
My brother in law grilled shrimp outside with some spicy sauce.
FeistySis made green beans. She wants me to tell you that these were gorgeously bright green, but because I was late, she stuck them in the oven to keep them warm and they turned wrinkly and ugly. I told her they still tasted fine but she seemed really annoyed – not at me, but at herself for putting them in the oven and ‘ruining’ their color.
My brother-in-law also grilled lamb chops.
Ditto for the brussels sprouts – they were bright green but stuck in the oven, they turned ugly. Also, some people went and took all the bacon off the top, so this was just brussels sprouts, no bacon. Ah well.
What’s Thanksgiving without your standard sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows?
…and a big platter of PA Dutch style dressing, with mashed potatoes mixed in? Both courtesy of my sister’s mother in law.
I also made and brought a dish of artichoke gratinata… which everyone raved about. It’s not even hard to make; I LOVE dishes that everyone goes nuts for that are super simple! Mostly, follow this recipe, though I added shallots and used whatever white wine I had open instead of buying marsala wine. Oh, and I toasted panko crumbs in the butter, then mixed it in a bowl with freshly grated grana padano (only because that’s what I had on hand, though I guess that’s a good substitute since it’s much cheaper than parm!).
Butter boiled carrots… one of my sister’s specialties.
The lovely serving platter I gifted my sister still gets a lot of use, for which I’m glad, because that means she actually likes it.
Our ubiquitous deviled eggs made their appearance…
The crudite, or… as common folk call it, a veggie platter, hahaha (inside joke)… surrounding tzatziki dip (yawn)
…underneath lay smoked gouda (yum!), dried sausage, club crackers, and cheddar.
tzatziki = yawn because I was late and of course brought the fried onion dip! As I mentioned, I knew this would become a Feisty Family staple, so here it is.
I’m very proud of my sister; coming up with recipes/methods/ways to put foods together in new-to-her ways is not her strong suit (her husband and I are much more ‘on the fly’ kinds of cooks, while she is a by-the-book kind of person), but she made an effort with these: cucumber slices topped with ripe avocado and drizzled with Italian dressing. Looks very Japanese, sort of sushi-like, right? Pretty!
The entire table, with some of the “adults” scattered around, eating… (That’s FeistyMom in the top left corner)
My first plate! I somehow forgot to take a picture of the cranberry sauce, but here’s what I did this year, and caused FeistyMom to declare loudly that she really liked it and I should make it like this every year (for the past two years, she’s complained that it is too tart and she doesn’t like it; this year, when I tasted it as it cooled, I realized I made it too sweet, but apparently, that’s what she wants… the tartness characteristic of cranberries to be abolished!):
Bag of cranberries from Trader Joe’s
Diced up one granny smith apple, skin on
Dark brown sugar
Juice of 1/3 of a large lemon
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Over low heat, bring to a small bubble, stirring occasionally, until all or most cranberries have burst. Sprinkle sea salt at the end. Let cool, then put in container – this can (maybe should) be done a day ahead.
Another shot of my plate: sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, turkey with gravy, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts, dressing, artichokes, and there’s pork in there too.
This picture has been removed at the request of someone who was not in the picture, but I assure you, it was of two adults sleeping on arm chairs.
After I was done eating, I retired to the living room and watched the mid-level adults fall asleep on the right of me… (mid-level is the middle generation, of which I’m a part… my mom and my sister’s parents-in-law are the ‘adults’!)… that’s my cousin and my brother-in-law’s brother-in-law…
This picture has been removed at the request of someone who was not in the picture, but I assure you, it was of an adult sleeping on a love sofa, and three children playing Wii (you couldn’t see their faces).
While on the left of me, one of the ‘adults’ fell asleep (my uncle, or my cousin [previous picture]’s father), and FeistySis’s niece, along with my two nephews played Wii. Loudly.
No one woke up.
Not much later, it was time for dessert, and of course, our tendency towards excess – almost our birthright as Americans, hmmm? – displayed itself front and center. A 7 layer cake…
Cookies and macarons from a French bakery in Connecticut…
My cousin’s homemade banana pudding, using the Magnolia recipe…
A mocha cake…
My cousin also made a coconut cream cheesecake that she says got smashed, but it looks totally normal to me?
…and a green tea cake. Actually, it was my uncle’s birthday, which is why it says happy birthday on it! And it was also my sister’s father-in-law’s birthday, so he got the mocha cake above!
…and it was my new nephew (my cousin’s child)’s birthday ON the day of Thanksgiving – he turned 1!!! Awww <3 so my sister made him a cake from scratch. I’m not sure why I didn’t get pictures of the cake, but it was the same recipe as the one she made for my birthday, done in layers, filled with fruit cocktail and frosted with whipped cream.
Oh, the whipped cream.
True story, and if FeistySis reads this, she’ll get a kick out of this:
The week before Thanksgiving, my sister messaged me, asking me how to make whipped cream. I’ve done it at her house a few times, so I told her “take heavy cream, turn on electric whisk, voila whipped cream. Add flavorings if you like – def a lil sugar, vanilla extract is nice, etc.”
“it doesn’t work”
“I don’t understand, what do you mean it doesn’t work?”
We went back and forth for a little while with me totally confused. She said she bought heavy whipping cream, which I don’t even buy, I just get heavy cream, period (there are additives in heavy whipping cream; generally carageenan, to help stabilize and maintain a whip), and it just wouldn’t whip. She got really frustrated and finally decided she’d get Cool Whip or Reddi Whip and live with that. I was not happy, mostly because I like making my own things and because those things are laden with preservatives and just… homemade whipped cream is SOOO GOOD. I went so far as to post about it on Facebook, wondering aloud “How are we even related? What do you mean, you can’t whip the cream?” resulting in – oh my, color me red – one of her friends telling me she would hint to my sister to just use Reddi Whip. Eeps. People offered advice (chill the bowl; chill your implements; don’t overwhip; blah, blah, blah – honestly, just use an electric whisk and you’re FINE!!!). None of it helped. My sister asked me for a metal whisk so she could chill it. I laughed at her.
So when she began decorating the cake in front of everyone during Thanksgiving, and pulled out Cool Whip, I began mumbling in her general direction that I still didn’t understand how she couldn’t whip the cream. She said I was welcome to try, the remains of that container of heavy whipping cream she’d bought was still in the fridge. I pulled it out, along with some sugar, the vanilla extract, and her electric beaters. Put it in a plastic bowl and flipped on the beater.
It looked like nothing was happening.
Half of me wanted to fail, so I could be satisfied in the knowledge that my sister is not a turd brain, and start figuring out why the hell it wasn’t working.
Half of me wanted to succeed and do the “you, you, you are stupid!” dance that makes an occasional appearance at Feisty Family gatherings.
I peered down into the bowl and looked at the frothy heavy whipping cream. Hmmm.
Another minute passed and finally, it happened.
“…FeistySis…?” I handed her the bowl, and she actually hugged me – maybe even squealed a little – and kissed my cheek. Egh. “THANK YOU!!!” she said. Both of us couldn’t figure out what she’d done “wrong” and we still don’t know…
but the rest of the day was spent with my Facebook’ing that my sister can’t whip cream, Tweeting my sister’s silliness, and occasionally walking by her singing “you cannot whippppppp cream, you cannot whippppppp cream” (to the tune of “you cannot haaaaaaaave it” by Eddie Murphy).
My cousin’s banana pudding. Really good. I took some home. Yum.
My other cousin (the one who’d cut the pig, and whose son turned 1 that day)’s dessert plate. I have a picture of him grinning and holding out the plate, but I’m not entirely comfortable posting full-facial photos of my family, so this’ll do. Best part? He said, “But I’m not done filling the plate yet, I want more.” Of course he’s family. Duh.
After everyone had to leave, though my sister invited them all to stay, I had dinner. Second seating, she called it. You’d think it’d be more of the same, but FeistySis (like myself) is very forgetful and had forgotten to serve the creamed spinach during first seating. So she served it now. Don’t get excited… it wasn’t the best damn creamed spinach you’ll ever have and I’ve already teased her about this. It was frozen spinach mixed into cream of mushroom. (The part that really bothers me about this? I tried doing that before, back when I was with my ex – I know for sure because we both stared at it really expectantly – and it didn’t turn out anywhere near what hers did. Mine sucked. It was like spinach soup. I still don’t know what I did wrong. I’ll take solace in the fact that I can make amazing creamed spinach without the can of soup now, but I’m still btiter that mine totally sucked.
So… here was my fridge when I returned home on Thanksgiving night, before I stuck anything in it.
This was my fridge after. Eep! But before adding turkey to the fridge!!!
Yes, as official-turkey-maker – that’s my title, Official Sin Family Turkey Maker – I get to take home the carcass after everyone’s gone over it for leftovers to fill their boxes. I stood over the sink and picked the meat off my turkey for a good hour and came away with this tray of meat. Lovely, lovely, yummy meat… but what do you do when you live alone and have this much turkey meat?!
Well, what do you do with the turkey frame after you’ve picked off all the meat? You make stock.
(I just simmer the frame with cold water and whatever veggie scraps I’ve accumulated for months now in a gallon bag in the freezer. If I’ve used fresh herbs for the turkey, I throw those in, too – because I never use sage or rosemary for any cooking besides this, so I might as well use these before they fuzz! I simmer for a long time, trying to get every drop of collagen out of the bones so it’ll congeal when I chill it. Yes. I like that. Very rich broth.)
First day: Thanksgiving on a cracker.
Club cracker, smeared with cranberry sauce, topped with slices of PA Dutch stuffing, slice of turkey, and a drizzle of gravy. BLISS.
A note: with the addition of diced apples in this year’s cranberry sauce, it was harder to smear just a little bit onto the crackers, which led to some of the crackers being a little over-cranberry’d. I like just a hint of tartness – and this year was pretty sweet – to cut the richness of the rest of the toppings. Hmmm.
Next: cream of turkey soup.
Minced garlic, onions, shallots, whatever aromatics you have on hand and want to use – I also diced up a carrot (optional)
Flour (I use all purpose cuz that’s what I stock)
Stock (you can use whatever’s leftover from making everything else, you don’t NEED to use turkey broth you just made, since mine wasn’t ready yet when I made this soup)
Cream, milk, whichever
Salt/pepper to taste
Reserved turkey meat, roughly chopped up or hand-shredded
Melt butter in bottom of soup pot. Add minced garlic/onions/shallots/aromatics/carrots/celery/honestly anything is fine here, bell peppers too… Once they’re softened a little bit, add flour (I usually do a 1:1 ratio, 1 tablespoon of butter to 1 tablespoon of flour), stirring to coat all the veggies and letting the flour incorporate into the butter. Cook the flour until it starts to brown a little and smell really good. Add stock, deglazing the bottom a bit, stirring the veggies vigorously so the roux incorporates into the stock. Once the flour has been blended into the soup and it thickens a little bit, add enough cream till it’s where you want it to be. Salt/pepper to taste, add the reserved turkey meat, stirring until the turkey is heated through, then turn off the heat and enjoy.
Keep this in mind because I’m going to use this as a base recipe for something that’s coming up in a few minutes.
And sometimes, I just want to eat Thanksgiving all over again, but not quite so much because I still wouldn’t like to be a billion pounds. Roasted brussels sprouts, ‘creamed’ spinach, and some turkey covered, literally, in gravy. Yum.
I didn’t mention my giblet gravy recipe! I made a few changes and I think this year it came out really well. REALLY well.
Mixed in a bowl:
1/2 sleeve of saltines, crushed (I used multigrain and it didn’t change the flavor or texture)
minced shallot (only because I had them- feel free to use onion)
dried sage leaves
one beaten egg
2 containers of button mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons of butter
giblets from your turkey + neck
4 cups of turkey or chicken stock
2 chicken bouillion cubes
3 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/3 cup of cold water
Sautee the mushrooms in butter until the edges are browning; remove and set aside.
Sautee the giblets/neck in the same pan/pot with minced onion until starting to brown nicely. Add stock to ‘deglaze’ pan; bring to a simmer. Add chicken bouillion and the first part that’s been mixed in a bowl. Make a slurry of the cornstarch and cold water (be sure to blend until cornstarch is thoroughly dissolved in water), then add to the boiling stock mixture, simmering until it thickens. Add browned mushrooms to gravy, then salt & pepper to taste.
This gravy is really, really good. I tend to add a lot of poultry seasoning and dried sage to it and go easy on the salt; it’s very flavorful and in case you accidentally oversalt anything else, you then have an excuse to drown the over-salted item in gravy. What? Like you’ve never oversalted something by accident 😛
After a bowl of the cream of turkey from above, I decided to take that soup and do something different with it. So… I added a lot more turkey meat, chopped up/shredded, and then added a big bag of frozen vegetables. Then I thought “Hmmm” and cut up one piece of crescent roll dough – I’d bought some the day before for a different project I had in mind – and did a basket weave on top of my 8 ounce ramekins and baked it at the recommended time and temp.
Fake turkey pot pie! It’s pretty Sandra Lee of me, right? Well, she’s 70/30, and I’m more 20/80, but same concept. I don’t even like pot pie – too much crust, and the bottom is always soggy, and it’s completely… thin and just not my style. But this dough bakes up super buttery, and pretty airy without being flaky (like a real croissant should be flaky; these are not even close). I loved pressing it into the turkey ‘stew’ concoction below and spooning it into my belly, so good on these past few cold days!
The remaining dough actually went towards a different project I had in mind after watching It’s Complicated. Before rolling them up, I cut some Scharffen Berger chocolate into it. Here’s a hint: don’t use the bittersweet. I don’t enjoy things that are too sweet, but that’s a little too bitter for me.
Also, use lots of chocolate, it tastes much better, creamy, oozy melty chocolate against the buttery dough.
Yes, another semi-homemade kind of thing, but I don’t do doughs, and this makes everyone happy. A tube of 8 pieces of this dough cost me $1.50, guys. That’s worth all the aggravation in the world it would take for me to make bad dough and not have room to roll it out, and for it to suck and me to cry at wasting chocolate in it… seriously. (Making my dough, let’s say at its absolute cheapest in a fantasy world, would be 1c. That’s 1c wasted since it would suck and go in the garbage; this is $1.50 well spent.)
The food in my fridge is multiplying by the day (there’s also a tortellini e fagioli soup in there that I will post about… soon).
I had plenty of turkey stew leftover, so tonight, I took what was left and grabbed all of my pretty ramekins – these are smaller at 5 ounces – and filled them, then topped with strips of dough. Yeah, I cheated with the dough. What of it? Well, these miniatute pot pies were tossed in the freezer for down the road when I’m hungry and looking for some comfort food… from my freezer! Booya!!!
These two were dinner tonight. Yeah, I ate two of them… sue me 😛
So my basket weaving isn’t the prettiest. It covers the top with dough and that’s what matters, right?
Here’s a close up of one of the ones that went in the freezer.
Here’s the first one I baked and ate early, just to ‘make sure’ it tasted good.
Mmm… digging in while it’s still piping hot.
Huge chunks of everything healthy for me.
Okay, fine, that’s a piece of turkey fat that’s blurry cuz it’s falling off my spoon. But it’s healthy fat because it’s from a turkey, right?
Of course, for a more balanced and complete meal, just stick a salad on the side. My salad of Romaine lettuce (from my CSA) was topped with radishes (also from my CSA) and tossed with marinated artichoke hearts. I also took some of the marinade from the jar of artichoke hearts to use as dressing… that needs more salt, but I left it out as I’ve been bloating a little lately from all the salt, heh. Yummy salad.
Close up of my beautiful pot pie. I ate this while watching my two hour TV block on NBC (followed by Always Sunny in Philadelphia). YUM. Cozy snug TV night for me with awesome homemade food… what more could a gal want?
Gratuitous food porn shot.
I’ll tell you what more a girl could want: warm, freshly baked chocolate croissants with a glass of milk on the side.
Happy to oblige! Here is one in my hand, waiting to be devoured. And I’m sorry to tell you that I ate all three of them while watching The Office and Outsourced.
That is almost pornographic – look how soft the center is. Oh my, that was damn good, and not too sweet. This time, I used the Scharffen Berger semisweet 62% chocolate and it was perfect… perfect. I know this is totally cheating, but it was so easy and honestly, so perfect for this super cold night in NYC, I can’t imagine wanting to make the dough myself.
Well, guys, I hope you enjoyed watching what me & mine made and ate for Thanksgiving, and what I’m continuing to make with my leftovers. I still have a fridge full of them, honestly, I should take a picture right now of what it looks like with the 2 and 3/4 quarts of stock I just stuck in there, but I’m just too tired to add MORE pictures (when there are already 60+ in this post! crazytown!)… and I’m excited to see what else I come up with in the next few days. It’s been a fabulous, fantastic, better than usual Thanksgiving, with the entire family around for the festivities – it’s been so rare to see everyone in one place, and with new babies, happy occasions, it was just a very wonderful Thanksgiving… followed by amazing food, with fabulous leftovers…
(BTW, I guess I’ll always be the baby in the family: the theme of Thanksgiving was, “Wait, who made this? YOU made this?! This is SO good!!! Wow!!!” I’m not my sister! and guys, I make and write about food for a living… hahaha. I guess even though I’m a ‘grown’ woman of 30 who spends her time in the kitchen as part of her profession, I’ll always be the baby in my family’s eyes… and even though this is the third year in a row that I made the turkey successfully, everyone has to remind me that “hey, this wasn’t bad – you have permission to make the turkey next year, too!” – ha! Part of being the youngest on my level in the family 🙂 Funny thing is, nothing I made was even difficult to make – everything was fairly straightforward, including the turkey, which was just a pain as opposed to difficult. Hehe, that’s how it works out I guess!)
How did you celebrate this year? What’s a staple, always-on-your-table? What was new this year? What was your favorite part? Share in comments! I’m always looking for new ideas to incorporate into the Feisty Family’s traditions 😀
Hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving, everyone! 🙂
Please excuse some of the photos: they were taken with my BlackBerry, for some reason I didn’t duplicate them with my regular camera.