Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

It takes so long to prepare for, and it's over before you know it.

We had a nice day for it. The ducks who live behind my building were very happy that they weren't on the table that day.

It was a successful day. I think the food came out just fine. I was a little worried about my mashed potatoes. They were really garlicky. I was afraid my family would spend the rest of the night cursing me out for their constant garlic burps, but that wasn't a problem (at least I haven't heard about it yet). My turkey came out wonderfully. The desserts were all delicious. The company was fabulous.

It wasn't without moments of panic. I had planned to do my final shopping on Tuesday morning. I wanted to get out early before the crowds became really bad. Unfortunately, I also had some plumbing problems in my kitchen. I needed a new faucet installed. I had hoped the plumber would come and be in and out quickly, but the problem went beyond my faucet and extended to the valves, so he took three hours to finish. It also ended up costing me four hundred smackeroos. I did not need that kind of bill two days before Thanksgiving. The supermarket was a madhouse when I got there. Navigating the produce department felt like the demolition derby, but I made it out alive, managed to accomplish everything I needed to that day, and still made it to tap dancing class that night.

Wednesday was the day I was making most of the side dishes and one of the desserts. I woke up in the morning feeling totally unmotivated. I knew I had to get my chocolate cream pie ready, but I had this Rachael Ray moment where I felt like saying, "I don't bake." As I was stirring my pudding, I felt like that horrid episode of Iron Chef America where all Rachael Ray did was stir a custard and complain about how baking takes too long. Well, I had to remember that for reasons unknown, she won that competition, so I figured if I stuck it out, I'd be a winner of a different sort.

So let's meet some of the supporting players in yesterday's meal.

These were wines I bought from Cava Winery, a new vineyard in New Jersey that opened up right down the street from where I keep my horses.

The famous hen of the woods mushrooms. Don't worry. I didn't steal them. My brother freely gave them to me.

If there is any time when you can act like Rachael Ray and say, "I'll take all the help from the store I can get," Thanksgiving is it. I was very grateful when I saw these and realized I didn't have to trim up a pound of green beans.

I had to chop a lot of shallots to top my green beans. Before starting I gave my knife the sharpening of its life. Note also the goggles and the candle. I was determined not to cry.

Do you think I have enough bread for my stuffing? I made way more than I really needed. I ended up with two pans of the stuff. The next time I am using a smaller loaf of Italian bread with the cornbread.

My obsession with staying organized extended beyond the book. I posted up lists of pots, pans, and serving dishes I would need.

My tables all set up. One thing that was not on my to-do list was "Iron Table Linens". I ended up going over all of the napkins with an iron right before this shot was taken, but the one tablecloth I had that even came close to being able to cover the folding tables was wrinkled beyond repair. I tried ironing it the night before, but the attempt, like resisting a Borg assimliation, was futile (or useless, like resisting a Vogon guard).

The beverage table. I spent a lot of time here. One nice thing about making dinner is that you don't have to drive anywhere. Drinky drinky drinky.

The pre-dinner snacks. We had Terra Chips, marcona almonds, and cheeses from Cato Corner Farm, courtesy of my uncle.

I had to take some cooking breaks between drinks.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. Walk right in it's around the back, just a half a mile from the railroad track. You can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant.

Oops. I'm sorry. Where was I? I was very lost in song while cooking up the stuffing. Thank goodness there are still some radio stations that play Alice's Restaurant on Thanksgiving. Noontime was my Alice's Restaurant time, no exceptions. This stuffing will always be tied in my mind to that song now.

Guests begin arriving. I was pleased this year that my nephew decided to eat the chips instead of carpet the floor with them.

My mother and her boyfriend and my mother-in-law are the first to sample the wine selection.

My niece Penelope, being cute.

My uncle's wife and my cousin Casey. He seems a bit overwhelmed by all of these people and food. At least he's not as picky an eater as his cousins.

Kevin surveys his domain. Although not one for cooking, I could not have accomplished the day without him. He was my chief bottle washer for the day. *mwah!*

Time to get dinner started. We began with my brother's hen of the woods mushroom bisque. I was a little irked that my helpers handing it out started mixing the table settings. This bowl should not have been on top of this plate!

My turkey, out of the oven and flipped upside-down as per Sue's instructions. This turkey was so big (just under 19 pounds) that I had to take a rack out of my oven to make it fit. It was so heavy you can see the indentations the roasting rack made in it.

Time for Bro to start carving.

Ah Erik, you should have been a surgeon!

Turkey is all carved up. The buffet begins.

Clockwise in the second photo: Turkey, Pecan Sweet Potatoes, Rosemary Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Corn Pudding, Port-Ginger Cranberry Sauce, Green Bean Casserole, and Apple-Cornbread-Sausage Stuffing.

Everyone gets down to the business of eating!

I am Henry The VIII. Henry The VIII I am!

Some shots of the dessert buffet. We had chocolate mousse, chocolate pie, pumpkin pie, pine nut and honey tart, upside down apple cake, apple pie and melatway cookies (this list is in no particular order).Everyone leaves and the fun begins. Now it's time to clean up this mess!

You can find additional photos that Kevin took on my website. These are more people-oriented.

It always feels really good to throw this out. Need I say I threw it out long before dinner was on the table? I can only stick to a rigid plan for so long. ;-)


Bellini Valli said...

A very successful holiday if you are surrounded by those you love...and good food of course!!

noble pig said...

Wonderful play by play...but how can you throw out the playbook? All those'll be there soon!

Peter M said...

Ahhh Rachel, luv the pic of you chomping on the drumstick! lol

Thanks for opening the door to your home.

Zen Chef said...

You've made it Rachel! You survived Thanksgiving! :-)
Thanks for sharing with us.
I cooked for 25 people on Turkey day but i was too much in the weeds to even take pictures. Oh well, maybe next year i'll post about it.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Val - I kind of envy you Canadians having Thanksgiving out of the way a month earlier.

Cathy - Please, come over! I have more lefotver dessert than I know what to do with.

Peter - I'm glad you liked that photo. My husband thought it was kind of classless, but I had fun with the turkey leg.

Zen One - 25? When people tell me things like that, I don't feel so bad about the number of people I had. I'm sorry I won't be seeing photos, but I'm sure it was spectacular.

Stacey Snacks said...

I am loving the goggles next to the onions!!!
Your feast looks fabulous!
(I also like the decoys!).

Emily said...

Ground roundup! I felt like I was there. I bet everything was delicious, especially the crispy-golden-brown skinned turkey.

I've used goggles before when I was cutting onions...

The Blonde Duck said...

It looks like you did a great job!

Heather said...

Sounds like it was a big hit! I'm totally jealous of your snow and backyard ducks.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Stacey - Someone in your line of work would have a sharp eye for that little background detail. Yes, my husband is a decoy collector. He doesn't hunt, but he fell in love with the art form during our annual trip to Chincoteague. If you happen to come across any good ones, feel free to let us know.

Em - I'm glad I'm not the only one. It's not jsut the eyes. My nose starts to run and then I have to stop everything adn grab a tissue, then I have to wash my hands, and it takes way more time than it should to chop a stupid onion.

Blondie - Thanks.

Heather - You can have the snow!

Maria said...

Looks like a fabulous day! Thanks for sharing your photos!!

Bunny said...

It looks like everything went very very well for you! I loved all the pictures of your family AND the food!

Proud Italian Cook said...

You pulled off a beautiful buffet! Everything looked terrific and so well organized. Your family looked very happy and content!

Joie de vivre said...

It looks like you had a wonderful day (and quite a crowd!) Excellent post!

Sue said...

That was a great post. I loved you channeling Rachael. And I am SO impressed that you managed to take pictures, as well as cook all that fabulous food. I just couldn't do both.

My comments:
NEVER worry about an un-ironed tablecloth. If anyone cares, they should be banned.

Your uncle's wife is really young.

I promise you there will be no after-effects to the garlic if you remove the center stem piece. It's an amazing pain, but I swear it removes any indigestibility.

Where were the scenes of the kids in the bathtub eating their dinner?

joe@italyville said...

looks like you had a wonderful Thanksgiving... what did you do with the Hen of the Woods? Put it in the stuffing?