Turkey Talk

What a great day, this national eating holiday. And we made the most of it. See Charlie cut the chard tart while Al looks on with pride.

So, everyone arrived at 10 a.m. to begin a day of cooking and eating and drinking together. Too much fun. The way it works is that I plan the menu and buy the food. Then everyone cooks. It is true that I assign the dishes, but people are free to switch, trade, help on additional dishes, etc. It is so much fun to do a big meal like this. This is our second year and I’m sure we’ll do it again next year.

There were 11 total people. Three buddists, one vegetarian, a thespian, a lawyer, 4 bicyclists, and a bunch of us are retired.

The TV remained off but the music played all day. Pandora was streamed and I chose Traveling Willburys as the station early in the day and then Fleetwood Mac later on. Great music to cook to if you ask me.

We ran out of shallots and brandy which necessitated a run to the store. That may have been the only faux pas on my part as far as groceries were concerned. Not bad.

The recipes are on included to your right except for the persimmon pudding. And may I say a few things about the food. It was GREAT. After years of contemplating this turkey cooking method, I took the leap and decided to have the butcher cut up the turkey like a chicken. And I also had the breast cut in half. Used a 15 pound bird which, if it had been any bigger, would have necessitated more pans. And speaking of pans. Convection ovens were marketed to us as faster cookers…which they are. What they didn’t tell us or what I missed in the sales pitch was that convection ovens are smaller. And many of my pans don’t even fit in the darn things because I had a big old Wolf before and I could, if I had desired, have roasted a goat in it, it was that big.

But I digress. So, the pan barely fit but it did fit so two pans were avoided which made things much easier. And cutting up the turkey allowed me to use my instaread thermometer on each piece of the turkey to ascertain the temperature so that I could remove each piece when it reached the desired temp. As a person that includes cooking as a hobby, the intaread should be present in every person’s kitchen. Actually, I recommend at least 2 just in case you doubt one you could verify with the other. So many people that fancy themselves cooks do not have this tool and I don’t get it. Of course, you can feel when a steak is cooked to your desired “doneness” if you are experienced in that methodology. But, there is nothing like knowing exactly where the meat is (temperature wise) thereby avoiding under and over cooking. It takes the guess work out of it and when I’m cooking a piece of meat that costs, let’s say, $16/pound, I want to know when it is medium rare. If I overcook the darn thing…I get cranky.

The recipe called for a bed of root veggies cut up that was then used as a “pillow” for the turkey. That was fabulous because all the turkey fat and the flavored butter that was used between the skin and the meat, dripped or oozed all over the veggies and they were sensational. And did I mention how easy it all was? It took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to cook. WOW.

My cousin, she had a completely different kind of experience. I called her the day after and asked her how her meal went. She had announced earlier on that she was cooking EVERYTHING HERSELF. I used to do that but have given up on that idea because by the time I sit down to eat my back hurts, my ankles are swollen and I’m just exhausted. Because let’s face it. It is hard to cook and entertain simultaneously. My cousin, she is smart and she had cooked nearly everything but the turkey ahead of time. So what could go wrong? Well…she purchased a very expensive, very special turkey that was pre-brined and it came with special instructions which she said looked “suspicious”. But she followed the recipe and the turkey (17 pounds and unstuffed) did not get done. In fact, when she pulled it from the oven there was something about congealed blood that really bothered her…you think? Well, the turkey took an extra hour and thirty minutes and when she took it out she declared that the white meat was done…but not those pesky legs so wouldn’t let anybody eat the dark meat. And did I mention that Susie is a perfectionist? This did not go down well and I can report that I know this for a fact because she was going to buy an oven thermometer and check her heat and then write a letter to that turkey company explaining exactly how they ruined her dinner and she also swore that she would never, ever, ever, ever again cook a turkey in her home. No sir. She is going to buy it pre-cooked and keep in warm in her oven. But no more cooking of the turkey. And, did I tell you? She doesn’t even eat turkey…too wild tasting for her. Well…I howled. I couldn’t help it. The story after the fact was a scream. I love my cousin. She is a hoot!! Actually, we have a storied history. One time when she was down for a visit I made banana cream pie. The crust was so hard a jackhammer would have come in handy. The cream was runny…a total debacle. And I followed the recipes to the letter.

So…back to my party. I digressed again and people wonder about me digressing. But there are worse things…like wandering into the pantry and then looking all around it hoping that whatever you were going to get in the pantry would present itself because you don’t have the foggiest idea of what the heck you’re doing in there. But there I go again.
Anyway, we started the party with billinis, a chard tart that Al made and brought to us and scones around 10:15 and the party lit up right away…I made the persimmon pudding which required 2 1/2 hours of steaming on the top of the stove. K.C. started the pumpkin pie because the crust needed pre-baking and then after cooking, the pie needed to cool completely. Al, who is of Italian descent and for whom I chose the Italian theme for the dinner, made the Italian sausage dressing, Bob cooked the pancetta, Jake cut the root veggies up, Bub made one of the cranberry dishes, his sister Charlie, married to Al, made the other cranberry cherry, shallot compote, …the lawyer, Katy and her beau Brandon, the thespian and teacher, made the vanilla cream and hard sauce for the persimmon pudding and they did dishes and helped in many things as the craziness transpired. Margaret did the Brussel sprout salad which required hours of carefully shredding 3 pounds of sprouts….meticulously. Good thing I didn’t do that one…I would have thrown them in the cuisinart and shredded them in about a minute…but the process was important to her and the shredding continued by hand. Did I mention it took hours? Oh, I kid Margaret. Bob did the fresh beans. Perfectly. Actually, everyone did everything perfectly. It was wonderful.

Jake chops the roots.
Of course, how would I know? As we cooked we drank. There were a zillion wine bottles left empty and two of the eleven didn’t even drink. Oh, my. This may have slowed us down. It did take from 10 a.m. until 3:30ish to get the dinner done…with all hands on deck…yes, wine may have contributed as we would chop and slurp…mince and sip… dice and then pour another glass.
Margaret toasts, Bob stands by his beans.

When we sat down we all had plenty of energy left and ate with great gusto. Seconds were had. And the stimulating conversation continued. Seriously, it was wonderful preparing the meal together and then partaking of it together. A communal happiness emanated from the kitchen and dining table. Everyone had a great time.
From the left, Bub, Katy and Brandon

Well…I did manage to burn myself with steam so I applied aloe vera 100% gel on it and that stuff worked like a charm to calm the heat. I keep it by the stove at all times because I do tend to burn myself with some regularity…this may fall within the category of standing in the pantry. Oh, I forgot I just took that pan out of the 400 degree oven two minutes ago and the handle is HOT. Yikes. And I do this sort of thing all the time. Oh, well. If you do something, something is bound to happen. And I’m embarrassed to say I think I was the only person to self inflict pain. Uhmmmmmmmm.
Our beautiful plate. So colorful, so delicious.

After dinner, we moved to the couch and comfy chairs to let things settle before dessert. Well, about a half an hour later, half the group was dead to the world…sleeping. OMG. And I wasn’t even showing them on vacation pictures at the time. And did I mention, everyone brought slippers to the party? and wore them? Yes, they took casual to a new level! How cool was that? Myself, I can’t cook in slippers because if I drop a knife on my foot…it wouldn’t be pretty and there is, unfortunately, a few gouges in my wood floor that prove that knives have fallen. Sometimes coordination fails me. Although, sometimes I get hurt through no fault of my own. This Tuesday, Ray and I arrived at the golf course and started unloading our clubs and I bent down just before he started pulling his clubs out of the back of the SUV so that when I stood up the bottom of his bag hit my on the head…sort of keystonish. He was horrified and I was seeing baby birdies. And I didn’t play so good that day either.

But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes. All the cooks were sleeping except for me and Ray and the lawyer and thespian (they are young) and we simply could not allow ourselves to fall asleep at our own party…this time. But when they started coming to, we went back to the table and ate dessert and that pumped us all full of sugar so we could continue the fun.

Reminded me a bit when I was a kid…I grew up around all adults (in terms of age) for the first 10 years of my life. And so after every thanksgiving meal I can remember…all the adults disappeared and took naps…of course they were all related and had worn themselves to a frazzle in the annual family fight…but I digress.

Thank goodness for friends!!! We pick them!!

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