Friday, November 28, 2008

Adventures In Entertaining: Lessons Learned

1. Glazed onions congeal when left overnight, even at room temperature. To restore the glaze, bring them up to temp on a low heat and re-glaze them in the pan.

2. Brined turkeys release a fair amount of salt during the cooking process. This means that the drippings are saltier than they would be with an unbrined turkey. To cut the salt for the gravy, de-glaze the pan with white wine rather than chicken/turkey stock. The acid in the wine makes a big difference and you won't have to dilute your gravy.

3. Adding extra milk and butter (I like to simmer them separately, adding ample amounts of salt, pepper, and nutmeg for good measure) to mashed potatoes and making them a bit in advance makes the whole process easier. I made my potatoes in the morning, oversaturated them a bit and left them in the oven warming tray. Any dehydration suffered was tempered by the extra milk, whole, of course.

4. If you're making homemade whipped cream and are concerned that you'll lose the whip if you make it in advance, err on the side of caution and whip longer than you normally would, almost until you reach the butter point. I like to add just about a teaspoon of vanilla extract to every 8 oz of whipping cream.

5. Browning the organ meat before adding stock veggies and water really does enrich the stock. We made two batches, once we realized that the additional 6 lb breast we had came with its own set of organs. The first batch tasted better than the second. A lot of people discard turkey liver because it is strong and can turn bitter in stock, but a rough chop and a few minutes' simmer at the end of the process adds flavor.

6. More people drink light beer than you think.

7. People will try things that scare them as long as these things are presented on pretty plates and are decorated with colorful garnishes, like mango.

8. Even the best manicure cannot hold up to three days of peeling, washing, brining, toasting, mashing, slicing, sauteing, and basting.

9. Always set a timer when toasting bread or nuts. Always. By the time you can smell bread (or pecans) toasting, it is too late.

10. The best thing you can do for yourself when planning dinner for, like, a million people is to cut and peel EVERYTHING in advance, even down to the onions and garlic for saute. The more prep you do the more you can actually sit down and enjoy Thanksgiving, the profits of which (for the cook, at least) are best collected the day after, in the post-T-Day bacchanal known as Leftover Lane.


HolisticGuru said...

I love your Turkey Day Adventure! Re: Lessons Learned #10, it is best to have an assistant do the chopping and prepping for you! Come on... everyone will help you eat, they must be willing to help you chop.

Let's cook soon at my place. It'll be fun. The healthfood nut and the healthfood hater team up.

ramster said...

a very zen idea. i feel a podcast coming on.