Monday, November 24, 2008

The Time Is Almost Upon Us

Chairs chairs chairs. 17 people need places to sit. I pilfered these from my office.

Yikes. Thanksgiving is this week.

The guest list has topped out at 17 people: 14 adults and 3 children. At one point there was a risk that it would become 15 adults and 4 children, but one of the lost souls needing a place to go for Thanksgiving turned down the invite.

Today I'm picking up my turkey from Whole Foods. There will be no more mail-order turkeys that arrive late and are the wrong size this year. Whole Foods actually called me to remind me to come pick it up today. If it's the wrong size, at least I can let someone know.

I'm way more relaxed this year than I was last year. I know I can get through it now because I did it once before. I do have some moments of panic because I'm worried I'm too relaxed. I don't want to be over confident and screw things up!

I have a game plan all laid out. My guest list is finalized and so is my menu.

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Hen of the Woods Mushroom Bisque (provided by my brother)
Cider brined turkey with gravy
Cornbread Sausage and Apple Stuffing
Pecan Sweet Potatoes
Garlic-Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
Corn Pudding
Green Beans and Mushrooms in Wine Sauce
Port-Ginger Cranberry Sauce (provided by Mom)
Chocolate Cream Pie
Pine Nut and Honey Tart
Apple Tart Tatin (provided by my sister-in-law)
Apple Pie and Pumpkin Pie (provided by, but probably not baked by my uncle)
Meltaway cookies (aka Mexican Wedding Cookies, aka Russian Tea Cakes, provided by Dad)

I may be the Disorder Cook, but this one time I am uber-organized. This book is my bible. It contains a guest list, a menu, a complete shopping list (I take it to the store with me and cross things off as I buy them), all of my recipes, and a game plan for what I will be doing each day from now until dinner is over, at approximately what time. My husband was quite impressed that I had managed to do all of this.
And now for the recipes.

Cider Brine for Turkey and Gravy
12 Cups Apple Cider
1 cup kosher salt
2 Tbl. black peppercorns, crushed
2 Tbl. whole allspise crushed
12 slices peeled fresh ginger
8 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1 turkey
3 oranges, quartered
6 cups of ice

Boil first 8 ingredients and allow to cool Rinse and dry turkey and trim off excess fat. Stuff cavity with orange quarters. Put all ingredients in a large stockpot and brine at least 12 hours.

I stuff the turkey with two cinnamon sticks, an apple, and an onion prior to putting it in the oven. This year I had better remember to remove this stuff before attempting to make soup with the carcass.

I get my roasting method from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

While it's roasting, I make a stock from the neck and giblets by boiling them for 30 minutes in a quart of water.

When the turkey is cooked I remove the drippings from the pan and save the fat. I deglaze the plan with wine and pour that out. Then I add the fat back into the pan with flour and make a roux. The juices, wine, and turkey stock I've made with the neck and giblets go back into the pan and it all gets stirred up until it's thick. If it's too thick I add chicken broth.

Pecan Sweet Potatoes (my own invention)
3 lbs sweet potatoes
1 cup pecans, toasted and ground
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rum
1 stick butter
1 tsp (or more or less as you desire) cayenne pepper*
Salt to taste

Roast sweet potatoes at 400 degrees until soft and mashable. Mash with remaining ingredients.

*Chipotle powder would be a nice variation on this and I might do it this year.

Garlic-Rosemary Mashed Potatoes (My recipe, more or less)
5 pounds yukon gold potatoes
3 heads garlic
Olive oil
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1 stick butter, soft
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat over to 325 degrees. Cut the heads off the garlic bulbs and drizzle with olive oil. Loosely wrap in foil. Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees.

When garlic is soft, remove cloves from their skin and place in a food processor with rosemary leaves, salt and pepper and process to a paste (you may want to add a little more oil).

Peel potatoes and cut into evenly-sized chunks. Boil until tender.

Heat half and half gently.

Mash potatoes with a masher (my preferred method). When they are as smoothas you can get them, add the warm cream. Then thoroughly mix in the rosemary-garlic paste. Add more salt and pepper if desire.

Cornbread, Sausage, and Apple Stuffing (my recipe)
2 8"x8" squares of cornbread
1 large load stale crusty bread
2 Granny Smith apples, chopped
1 Medium onion
3 Ribs celery
1 pound bulk turkey sausage (or link sausage removed from casing)
1 Tbl. sage
About 2 cups chicken broth

Cut bread into chunks a day or two before so they get dried out.

Thanksgiving Day cook sausage in a large skillet. Cook the onion and celery in the drippings until soft. Add apples and cook until they just begin to soften.

Mix the fruit and veggie mixture in a large bowl with the bread. Moisten with chicken broth as needed.

Put into greased pan and cover with foil cook at 350 for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes more or until brown and crispy.

Corn Pudding
I use this recipe. The only variation I make is that I use frozen corn. Don't look at me like that. It comes out just fine.

Green Bean Casserole
I use a deconstructed version from Michael Chiarello. I will be using my brother's hen-of-the-woods mushrooms in this.

I don't bother breading and frying onion rings. I simply thinly slice a lot of shallots and fry till brown and crispy and sprinkle them on top.

Triple Chocolate Pudding Pie
No holiday in my family is complete without this recipe. I make a slight variation by using cinnamon instead of chocolate graham crackers in the crust. I like the flavors together. I also don't decorate with espresso bean candies. I might dust some cocoa nibs on top this year.

Pine Nut Tart
I am using recipe I found on Tartlette. My variation is that I will be using one regular tart pan instead of tartlettes. Helen assured me it would work and that the dough can be pressed instead of rolled if the kitchen isn't too warm. Yay.


Sue said...

Wow, you ARE organized. And it all sounds wonderful. I'm not willing to commit my menu to the published page...yet, in case something goes wrong (or many things).

I still have a hard time believing that the drippings from a brined turkey are okay for gravy...that they're not too salty. But you and about a trillion people say it's fine.

I LOVE that pie. I make it all the time. But actually the only chocolate that will find its way to my Thanksgiving table is a chip or two (hundred) inside a cookie.

Darius T. Williams said...

Seems like you've got it all worked out! I can't wait to see pics.

cook eat FRET said...

i wish you all the very very best
you have quite the wonderful menu

remember to have fun!

Emily said...

What a feast! I love that the menu is traditional, but not... you know?
The stuffing/dressing sounds especially delicious. Oh man. I'm drooling.

I can't wait to hear how it all turns out. I kind of wish I could fix dinner.

noble pig said...

OMG you are going to great with your playbook, that is so, so awesome!

Theresa said...

I'm an organized person, but you got me beat!!! I'm not panicking yet with 20! Have a Happy!

Maria said...

Happy Thanksgiving! It looks like you are ready! Enjoy the holiday!!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Sue - Maybe I just like salty gravy? Maybe there isn't as much salt in my brine as there are in other brines? Not sure. I know I had a lot of leftover gravy last year, so maybe it wasn't as good as I thought it was. Next year I think I'll try a different method with the turkey. I'm willing to experiment.

The chocolate pie is necessary. Sir Pickypants and I don't like pumpkin and he's lukewarm on apple, but we both love chocolate. Once I met him, I had to bread the anti-chocolate Thanksgiving taboo. That pie ends up being the one that gets eaten first.

Darius - I hope to do a little photo essay of the day. My camera is ready to go.

CEF - Thanks. And it is fun, in a torturous kind of way.

Em - Maybe you should volunteer to make dinner next year? Maybe you were saying that my meal is traditional but not too ordinary or bland? (at least I hope that's what you meant instead of a more negative adjective).

Cathy - Just so you know, halfway through T-day I threw the book in the trash. I'd had enough of organization. Let's see how long it lasts this year. :-) BTW, your post on wine was extremely helpful.

Theresa - if yo'ure not panicking with 20 people, then you are the calmest person on earth.

Maria - Thanks and I feel so far from ready! I know what I need to do, but it's so hard getting it all done!

The Blonde Duck said...

Holy crap! Sounds like you've got it down! I can't imagine Thanksgiving with 17 people. It sounds so overwhelming!

Happy Thanksgiving and good luck!

jesse said...

Whoooaaa, you are reaaaaaally organized. Seeing all that paperwork made me giggle... you're so adorable! The food you've listed so far sound amazing though!

Adam said...

I like how you're taking this challenge with an awesome stride. Everything looks so well organized and put together. The stage is set for quite a nice event.

How big of a bird do you use for that 17 people? You have a ton of sides, but that turkey has to be huge.

I really like your sweet potato recipe. I'm in charge of quite most of Thansgiving, so I'm always up for new ideas.

Stacey Snacks said...

Your menu sounds AMAZING!
I am impressed!
and you better be careful what you pilfer from the office!
Have a wonderful time on turkey day!

Peter M said...

Rachel, one has to be organized on such an organized cooking day. The menu is ambitious and I envy those in attendance...this sounds delish!

Colloquial Cook said...

Gosh, this is truly impressive!! I wish I could retro-plan that well! Let us know how it went!

Bunny said...

To say your organized is an understatement! You put me to shame girl! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Lo said...

Fantastic looking spread, my dear. I hope you feasted with abandon!

Can't wait to hear how everything went off.

Maris said...

I can't get over how organized you are! I had hen of the woods mushrooms this year for the first time. They're so funny looking but very tasty!