Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving, Part I

I have moved on to the better part of my day, where the first phase of my newest project, roughly entitled "Preparing Dinner for 20-Something People, None of Whom Like Anything Raw or Spicy and One of Whom Is a Vegetarian" has officially ended. Today, I had the unrivaled opportunity to 1.) cook in a nice kitchen that has a dishwasher without anyone looking over my shoulder, since all shoulder-lookers were at work, 2.) Grocery shop at big and shiny grocery stores with more than one aisle, and 3.) Do both in my pajamas. I would like to point out that although Massachusetts is officially termed the Bay State, I couldn't find one effing bay scallop. Not one. Looks like my bay scallop ceviche may become a sea scallop ceviche, due to circumstances beyond my control.

But I did cook the following today, for those wondering how far my culinary skills extend.

*Balsamic Glazed Onions, Courtesy of Food and Wine*
The recipe calls for cippolinis but I used multi-colored pearls instead. Blanch the onions for 3 minutes in boiling water to facilitate peeling. Warning: do not try to glaze anything if you are the type of person who burns down the kitchen making a simple caramel, because step one of glazing usually involves the reduction of a simple syrup. This recipe took over an hour, but it was pretty easy once I got passed the caramel stage. For the record, I am not the type of person who sets fire to the kitchen when making a caramel.

*Ginger and Cranberry Simple Syrup for Cocktails, Courtesy of Myself*
One to one ratio on the sugar and water here, plus a handful of cranberries (mostly for color) and a cup or so of crudely chopped ginger. Don't get too occupied with the ginger; the syrup will need to be strained regardless. I'm planning on doing a simple syrup and Prosecco deal garnished with fresh cranberries.

*Turkey Stock, Courtesy of My Mother Telling Me Over and Over Again How to Make Stock*
Neck, giblets, heart sauteed until brown. Add aromatics (today, this included carrots, onions, and 2 bay leaves) and sweat down a bit. Add 2 cups chicken stock and 3 cups water. Boil and then simmer for roughly an hour. I chop the liver and add it towards the end, along with salt and white pepper. Adding the liver too soon will make it bitter. Strain the stock, keep the delicious organ meat, and skim the fat after the soup's been cooled in the fridge.

*Turkey Brine, Courtesy of the Internet*
I've finally convinced my mother to allow a turkey brine instead of stuffing the poor thing. She's rooted in the belief that the stuffing won't taste good out of the bird but I promise to use enough turkey stock and rendered fat to make that impossible. Plus, honestly, my stuffing is awesome. Awesome. Anyway, you can't brine a turkey and stuff it unless you totally love the idea of spending Thanksgiving with a mild-to-severe case of salmonella. For the brine, I went one-to-one brown sugar and salt along with many gallons of water (depends on your bird size). Aromatics in this one included oranges, lemons, onions (all quartered), bay leaves, and green peppercorns. Usually, I'd throw in some whole cloves and cinnamon sticks for good measure but we didn't have any.

*Gingerbread Cake, Courtesy of Betty Crocker*
Ok, this doesn't sound too hard but let me say that the box was thrown out after I had mixed the batter and before I had cooked the thing, so it's a miracle I didn't burn it or case some other minor kitchen disaster. Also, I'm using the cake as part of a pumpkin trifle but I decided to wait on final assembly because I am completely against using Cool Whip in my trifle and I don't think home-whipped cream will keep its aeration for more than a day.

*Doctored Vanilla Pudding, Courtesy of Me*
Vanilla Pudding Mix. Whole Milk. A host of spices that looked tasty, like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Also for the trifle.

*Mushroom Pesto, Courtesy of the Internet*
God, I love the Internet. Rehydrated porcinis and button mushrooms pureed with toasted walnuts (I did this myself), a few handfuls of flat leaf parsley, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh-grated parm. Pulse chop for texture. This is going on oil-brushed and toasted baguettes.

So, day over, it's just me and my Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. Sorry, Dogfish; we'll be drinking Ommegang Witte, Ommegang Abbey Ale, Smuttynose IPA and, ahem, Molson on the big day.

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