Notes on Thanksgiving

No, this is not going to be some witty Thanksgiving piece. This is no Consider the Lobster, though the crustacean was on the First Thanksgiving table. I don’t know what the lobster’s standing was when Lincoln invited his “fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

I’m just putting some notes up about Thanksgiving dinner. It went pretty smoothly, but there’s always room for improvement.

There were seven adults and two children, 6 and 8, who didn’t eat so much. There were PLENTY of leftovers – I don’t think we ate more than half of any dish, as low as one-third. There was enough room in the refrigerator for the dry-brined bird, prepped sweet potato dish, a couple of pumpkin pies and everything else.

Took a break a few hours before serving time to visit the neighbors with sparkling wine and plastic in hand – everyone seemed in full gear already with beverages. Yipes.

The Bird
The 12 lb Wilie Bird (a NorCal turkey; purchased from Puritan Poultry / Marconda; $4.20/lb) was salted 2 days prior with 3T kosher salt and some pepper – under the skin; some sage and thyme under either breast; loosely tented with plastic wrap. Spatchcocked the morning of per Serious Eats’ directions. It then barely fit on the grate upon the baking sheet (actually used broiler pan) – a larger bird would not have fit.

Per Serious Eats (here and elsewhere) at 450F it should have taken 80-90 minutes. Sometime short of that (70 minutes?) I took the temperatures and they were in the 180s vs. desired 150/165 breast/leg. So it rested quite a bit longer than the recommended 20 minutes, tented for part of the time. Yet it wasn’t too cold by the time I cut it up for the serving platter.

It probably took a solid 15 minutes to carve it up. If it were only rested 20 minutes a glove may have been handy.

Oh, the drippings on the heavy duty foil over the broiler pan were great and incorporated into gravy, but couldn’t get half of them off and tore the foil a couple times. Next time deglaze gently back in the oven and maybe use a silicone whisk? Also, I only had half of a red onion to go under the grate with the drippings and it tasted really good. Next time do the full mirepoix mix!

Anyway, even though it was overcooked it was very good – moist and great flavor. Jennifer’s brother thought it was the best he’d had and I might agree.

The Roots
The day before Jennifer made her yam and sweet potato dish and placed in the refrigerator, using the larger rectangular glass baking dish. Receipt shows 4.2lb sweet potatoes. Also 0.5lb yams, but we already had a couple yams on hand. Put a couple cups of roughly chopped raw pecans on it for putting in the oven before dinner. Very good.

About seven medium-large russet potatoes – per receipt 4.3lb, but may have had one or two on hand too. Cubed into cold water in pot morning of, adding ice cubes to keep cold. Boiled while turkey cooking. One stick of butter, some milk, salt, some freshly ground pepper. Very good. Fine to make a bit ahead of time but I always think they’re best made close to serving time.

Four rutabagas – 3.0lb per receipt. Same as above but less butter, no pepper.

Jennifer’s Mom ended up putting the potatoes and rutabagas in serving dishes because I was busy carving – next time have that all done.

Other Food
We had some cheeses, crackers, and olives out ahead of dinner.

Jennifer par cooked and shocked the apprx. 3lb green beans a few hours ahead. It’s a good thing I’d made lots of extra ice. She cooked them fairly last minute and they were really good.

Jennifer’s Mom made the stuffing and gravy and there was plenty of all.

Jennifer’s friend made the cranberry sauce and it was really good – it’s a simple method in which she steeps the clove in water for the day to extract the flavor. Besides that it’s just cranberries, sugar, and I think orange zest.

Her friend also made a salad with greens, shaved fennel (I did with mandolin), apple, walnuts, blue cheese (Stilton), and some other stuff.

Make sure everyone has water glasses filled – ice and pitcher(s) of water available.

Get beverage preferences prior to dinner if possible – even before guest arrival if possible so we don’t have to have so many choices at the ready (taking up space)

We made sure coffee was ready to make ahead of time.

Pumpkin Pies
Made the two pies the day before. The Libby’s and Marie Calendar frozen pie shells is still a winner. One pie would have been enough, but the big can makes two and leftovers of pie are good.

Pre-chilled the pint of heavy cream and stand mixer bowl in the freezer before dinner. Made whipped cream after dinner, adding some vanilla and then some powdered sugar when complete.
UPDATE: The leftover whipped cream might actually taste better five days later! There is no need to make it immediately before serving the pies!

Need more plates and glasses if we want everything to match perfectly. Make sure all plates and utensils available.

Should have proper server in dining room next year, but the fold out table with tablecloth worked fine.

The kitchen nook should also be better set up next year for easier interaction with guests – can have the kitchen exterior side door to the porch open too.

I’ll cook circles around you.

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