Thanksgiving

29 Nov

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone gorged themselves this past weekend. It’s the one day where it’s perfectly acceptable to consume 4,000 calories in one meal and have it be completely reasonable. Even homeless people get to eat a lot on Thanksgiving. It’s the one day of the year where people are eager to feed them. They’re screwed on most other days but on Thanksgiving, free turkey and gravy for all. You know who’s the only who don’t get to eat to their hearts content? Vegetarians. But they made their bed. They can lie in it. I feel no sympathy.

Last year, I didn’t enjoy my Thanksgiving meal. You see, my family doesn’t like turkey. They’re indifferent to the taste and hate going through the hassle of cooking it. So last year, we ate ham. Now I like the pig as much as anyone, but on Thanksgiving, I WANT A TURKEY. After our joyful, shitty, Thanksgiving dinner last year, my mom was encouraged by the idea and broached the subject of another turkey-less meal:

Mom: Let’s get another ham this year.

Me: That’s totally fucked, you know that?

No, I didn’t say that. I love my mom and I would never use such horrible words in front of her. Our conversation actually went like this, give or take a few words I paraphrased:

Mom: Let’s get another ham this year.

Me: I was actually thinking we should eat turkey instead.

Mom: But you’re the only one that likes turkey.

Me: I know. But we’ve always eaten turkey before. Beside, you don’t hate it.

Mom: I’ll eat it if it’s there. But we don’t have a turkey and I don’t have anything to cook it with.

Me: Don’t worry, I already bought one. And I got all the equipment already.

Mom: You what?

Me: I bought them on Monday. Don’t worry, I’ll cook it and bring it Thursday.

I had to proactively squash the idea of a turkey-less Thanksgiving before it became a tradition. So for 2009, my family had a proper, traditional meal. Our bird was a 13-pounder from Trader Joe’s. It was never frozen, free-range, and most importantly, pre-brined. It’s been oft-repeated and it’s true; brining makes dry, white breast meat taste better. Hey, it works for Jennifer Aniston (zing!). I usually brine a whole turkey for a couple of days, but it requires me to clear out half my refrigerator to find room for a giant tub filled with raw poultry juice. That’s a lot of beer to clear out and way too much of a hassle. Pre-brined bird? Score.

The turkey cooked OK. Whatever meat thermometer I used was off and registered too hot, probably because I didn’t stick it in deeply enough (insert innuendo here). I also didn’t brown the skin properly because I didn’t uncover the tin foil in time since the bird cooked too quickly. I will say though that the white meat cooked perfectly. I had to cook the dark meat for another 45 minutes after carving the breasts off, but it worked out at as none of the white meat dried out and the dark meat ended up being cooked perfectly at the end. I wish the brine had more flavor besides just salt, but it was still flavorful. My mom, despite being an avowed turkey-hater, enjoyed it greatly. She had thirds. As did I.

I also made mashed potatoes. Every year, my mom tells me not to use so much butter because it’s obscenely unhealthy, and every year I slowly up the amount. Subsequently, she always remarks, “this is the best mashed potato yet.” This year, I got about 35-40% butter, I think. My goal is to eventually get up to 90% like Joel Robuchon’s pommes puree. That’s the secret to mashed potatoes. You gotta do to it like what Marlon Brando did to Maria Schneider in “Last Tango In Paris.”

I also made brussel sprouts and bacon. Brussel sprouts are one of the few vegetables in season right now (green beans are not and an insiduous plot from Campbell’s). They’re also bitter and not that palatable unless it’s cooked with bacon fat. But then, anything is good in bacon fat. I’ll have to test this theory with Play-doh. I made this same dish two years ago for Thanksgiving, and my mom now cooks every vegetable with rendered bacon. Asparagus, green beans, kimchi, it all gets bacon. And you know what? It’s ingenious. It has yet to not taste good. Parents, if your kids won’t eat vegetables, throw bacon in there. Just make sure you limit their servings so they don’t end up like Precious. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of parenting to do with their low self-esteem and teen pregnancy, and that’s a pain in the ass.

Finally, I made yam souffle at the last second with no marshmallows (I HATE marshmallows on yams. It’s a side dish, not a dessert) and a very basic cranberry sauce because I left my spices at home and was too cheap to buy new ones for one-time use. I never make gravy because separating fat and making roux is a thankless task that blows. And I bought stuffing because, well, I was lazy. And my mom and my brother got their ham, a 6-pounder. So it all worked out at the end and another family crisis was averted. I hope everyone enjoyed their turkeys and had quality family time as well.

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