Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another Successful Turkey-day

Donna loves to cook. She loves to make big, complicated meals. When it's just her and I eating, it's usually hard to justify the kind of effort and cleanup that such proclivities entail. So, occasions like Thanksgiving gives her a real chance to shine.

It doesn't come without real effort and hard work, however. Thanksgiving meal preparations are a multi-day affair. Before we left DC, she'd had to do some last minute marketing (going to farmers markets to source fresh food stuffs). She also mixed the doughs for the pie crusts she would be rolling-out once in Carlisle. She made a fresh loaf of challah bread to be used in the turkey-day stuffing and in a breakfast bread-pudding. Lastly, she did her whirlwind packing of all the cooking supplies (knives, specialty pans, etc.) she would need for this year's spread.

That was Tuesday. Wednesday, she made the pies. This year: two pumpkin pies and one pecan pie:


The pumpkin pies were made from freshly (home) processed pumpkin purée. The pecan pie (or, as my mom frequently refers to it, "peekin pie") was made from pecans she and I had freshly shucked and flavored with her homemade vanilla extract (vanilla beans steeped, for over a year, in Ezra-B 10 year old KSBW). Pies done, she cut up half the loaf of challah bread and made an awesome bread-pudding (also flavored with the homemade vanilla extract!):

Fresh Bread-pudding

I imagine that, when she gets around to it, she'll post the recipe(s) on her blog.

The turkey-day sweets out of the way, she began her preparations of the turkey. Now, there's just the three of us, so, we don't bother with a whole turkey. We just get a couple drumsticks and a small, half-breast from a local farmer. For three people, it still manages to turn out to be a lot of meat. At any rate, over the years, we've discovered that brining turkey's is the key to ensuring that they're extra moist and flavorful. Sourcing from a good, local farm also helps a lot.

Years previous, when she was preparing dinner for five (Mom, Dad, my grandmother and Donna and me), we usually did the (small) whole bird thing. This required putting an entire turkey into a brining bag and letting it sit, over night, in a cooler out in the garage. This year, with it just being two drumsticks and a half breast, it was only two, large resealable Ziplocks tossed in the fridge:

Salty bird the bags, that is

This morning, she got up and resumed preparations. Mom was scheduled to work at the nursing home and wouldn't be back till after 15:00. So, it was to be a late Turkey-day meal. Having stayed up the night before with the prep-work (and then some pre-vacation sewing!), Donna slept in till after 10:00. Wasn't long after that (and a slice of fresh bread pudding) that she got into the actual cooking phase. On the menu:

  • Brined turkey rubbed and stuffed with herbed-butter
  • hashed brussel sprouts with onions, garlic and bacon
  • fresh cranberry relish
  • horseradish mashed potatoes
  • herbed, baked stuffing
  • fresh, scratch-made biscuit
  • gravy

No, I don't have the recipes for any of it. Hopefully, she'll make a post on her blog detailing it all. All I can really do is document it all. In the end, this was what ended up on our table:

As per usual: an excellent spread

All in all, a great way to get back into a family holiday.

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