Thanksgiving FEASTival!

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There are few things that bring me as much joy as cooking thanksgiving dinner for a group of friends.  I have now completed my third thanksgiving feast and it was the best yet on many counts.  The key to a good thanksgiving meal is in the simple things:  a big moist bird, butter, happy people, butter, copious amounts of wine, pork fat, butter, pie, and wine. The butter is imperative. The wine is an added bonus for the ‘grownups’.


While I had originally planned for a traditional Thursday night feast, things over here in the lil’ middle east got a teensy bit complicated and for us folk just wanting to have a nice night with some good company– it was easier to wait until things settled down round these parts.  So wait we did. We waited for a ceasefire, we waited for our good friends to return from the army reserves, we waited until we could exhale with relief; and THANK god that relief came and we were able to feast-on.

Pictured above is a great example of what makes Thanksgiving the best holiday of the year; the food that is slaved over results in one of the world’s greatest gifts to humanity….THIS sandwich made of THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS. Thereby making thanksgiving the ultimate culinary investment. You literally get 2X the fun!

This sandwich is so good that it actually manipulates you into being hungry even when you’re clearly still stuffed-to-the-max from the night before. It makes you see black and white movies in color, this sandwich speaks to you tongues, it alters soundwaves so that there is always a jazzy Nina Simone tune playing in the background of your day. This is a sandwich of transformative qualities, with superpower strength and wit.  Ok, that was just a sidenote - now on to the FEEEAASST!

I put together a menu for guests – but I wrote it the night before and while it accurately relays some of what was served, it is a measly example of the HUGE amount of food I put on that table.  In addition to the menu we also ate:

homemade cranberry sauce, oven roasted acorn squash halves with brown sugar, more stuffing, another set of greenbeans, gravy…. you get the idea.

The whole meal comes together for me with ease. I start the night before making the soup and getting my pie dough together so it can rest in the fridge,  I make stock in preparation for the dishes it will saturate, and I make a list of all the last minute things I have left to buy (or more accurately, that I have Udi run out and buy).  Starting at ten in the morning the day of the meal I knock the pies out first, baking them off in the oven and setting them to cool. This ensures my oven is ready for the whole mess of veggies and later the big bird herself.

I proceed to boil and mash and chop and saute and blanch and roast and rub until the bulk of my sides are in place.  Slowly the kitchen table fills up with trays of this or that dish, done and waiting for their entrance.  They wait there patiently knowing that the Turkey will need the oven for several hours of uninterrupted cook-time.  But just before dinner is served they all get one last blast of heat to bring them back and toast their tops when it is relevant.  Then when the time has arrived and we are looking at a 3-4 hour grace period before dinner, is when I remove the mighty bird from the cold barren refrigerator, and begin prepping it for take off. This includes a good healthy rinse, a thorough toweling off and then a full on butter massage complete with fresh chopped herbs, lemon zest, kosher salt and black pepper.  I mean MASSAGE, getting tons of butter up under the skin is so crucial to end result of this bird. Failure to complete this step properly is a recipe for disaster.  NOBODY wants to dig into a dried out breast of the beast.  And this buttery rubdown will help ensure that does not happen to you or anybody else.  What it cannot prevent is the freakish accident of purchasing a 7 kilo turkey that has only 1 wing. ONE WING. This is what happened to us, and while the turkey was slightly unbalanced and leaning to the left, it did not effect the deliciously moist result. THANK g.

One of the many reasons why this holiday appeals to me so much is that it reminds me of my childhood. More importantly it reminds me of my Mom who cooked the most incredible thanksgiving dinner year after year.  I remember the exact flavor of the dishes she would make, down to the spices and seasonings. I try to match my sweet potatoes to hers, I emphasize the lemon in my green beans the way she would.  I cook the whole meal by heart – making each move as if completely ingrained in my being.  It’s a meditative day of cooking, full of memories (good and bad), and it helps me remember how wonderfully special my Mom made that day feel. She payed special attention to the details.  We always brought out the good silver and gave it a good shining.  She would have us make place cards for the guests out of baby pumpkins or paper turkey drawings.  We would craft elaborate centerpieces with our dad out of paper mache or clay.  She would arrange seasonal flowers and plants with the finesse of Martha.  Then we would clear the kitchen and my mom would tear through her recipe journals full of NY times clippings and handwritten notes and cook her heart out.  I never asked her if she enjoyed it, but I’m assuming I got this joy from somewhere.

So we begin, here are some of my ‘recipes’ and tips for making the best of the best of thanksgiving.

THE TURKEY *this recipe also works great for roast chicken just with some amount adjustments

1 Big ass turkey ( mine was 7 kilos and fed 17 people plus leftovers)
The RUB:
250 grams butter softened to room temperature
handful of rosemary, sage, thyme finely chopped
zest of 2 lemons grated
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

Underneath/INside the cavity the BIRD:
2 onions quarted
3 carrots roughly chopped
1 bag baby potatoes
1 bunch of celery roughly chopped
3 lemons halved
more fresh herbs
5-6 ladles of stock (you can use whatever you got but it’s best to use homemade)

Start by taking you bird out of the fridge one hour before you need to cook it.  Rinse well and dry thoroughly. The drier you get the skin the easier it will be to slather it in butter.

While it’s drying make your butter rub. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl.  Begin by rubbing huge amounts of butter inside the cavity of the turkey.  Next get under the skin and smear as much as you can in there. Be sure to coat every part of the turkey inside and out with butter and don’t be afraid to manhandle it a little to get the job done.

Lay your chopped veggies in your roasting pan to create a base. Place your buttered turkey on top breast side down. Take some of the veggies (being sure to grab a half lemon and some onion) and stuff it inside. Fill the rest of the cavity with remaining fresh herbs.

Add your liquid to the pan and carefully place in your hot oven.  I like to start mine off at 400F for about 40 minutes THEN I tent the whole thing and drop the temp to 350 for around 2 1/2 hours.

If you don’t have a digital thermometer you can check doneness by piercing the turkey to ensure the juices are running clear. I like my thigh to read 160F.  This time the bird was at temperature after the 2 hour mark so I pulled it out and left it tented until I was ready to carve.

PAN DRIPPING GRAVY *this is also relevant to roasting a chicken dish of the same nature

Drippings from pan
1 turkey neck
2 -3 tablespoons of flour (to taste)
salt and pepper if you need it
squeeze of roasted lemon (from the roasting pan)

Remove your turkey carefully to rest.  Scoop out all the veggies that were hanging out in the pan into a bowl – they are good to go.  Take all the juices you’ve got and place them in a small sauce pan (this is if you are using a disposable roasting tray – if you are fortunate enough to own a giant roasting pan you can just place your pan on the stove to cook your gravy)

Take the neck and remove the meat from the bone, chop it, and add it to the sauce pan

Placing your sauce pan over medium heat slowly add flour in increments of 1 teaspoon or so, whisking as you go.  Add a squeeze of roasted lemon and taste for seasoning.  Once you get to the consistency you like take it off the heat and pour into a serving vessel or gravy boat if you got it.

SWEET POTATOES WITH MARSHMALLOWS

5 – 6 big sweet potatoes peeled and chunked
1 cup cream
50 grams butter cubed
3 tablespoons brandy, bourbon, whiskey whatever you got
1 tablespoon cinnamon
tons of freshly grated nutmeg, let’s say…2 teaspoons
2 -3 swigs of maple syrup, molasses etc
salt and pepper
1 bag baby marshmallows

Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain and return to the pot. Start by mashing them aggressively. When they are beginning to soften add butter and cream. Continue mashing until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine thoroughly.

Transfer mash to a baking dish and cover with marshmallows, toast in hot oven for 5 minutes or until marshmallows are nicely browed and melty. If you have a broiler, use it. But watch these guys like a hawk.

GREEN BEANS WITH PANCETTA & WALNUTS

1 kilo green beans trimmed
200 grams pancetta cubed
handful of walnuts toasted and chopped
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
juice of half a lemon
pinch chili flakes
big pinch of salt

Start by blanching the green beans in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove, rinse and place in ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Eat a heavy (cast iron) pan over medium heat. Add your cubed pancetta and cook until done.

Remove pancetta to a plate and immediately toss your beans in to cook in grease leftover in the pan. Toss the beans to coat and continue cooking until they are just beginning to get browning on them. Add the syrup, chili flakes, salt and some generous squeezes of lemon.

Taste for seasoning and plate

OOF this is exhausting….ok. more recipes in the next post. STAY TUNED!!!!!!!!!!