Monday, November 28, 2011

Adventures in Cooking--Thanksgiving

In case you are all wondering, and I know you are, I cooked the SHIT outta some Thanksgiving. Between Tuesday and Thanksgiving dinner starting at 3 on Thursday, I prepared the following: a turkey breast, a 24-lb turkey, dressing (and I mean homemade, y'all, not that bought bread crumbs crap), giblet gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato souffle, hot sherried fruit, corn pudding, a winter salad with homemade dressing, a chocolate-bourbon pecan pie and a peppermint cheesecake layer cake.

I also bought a Honey Baked Ham and made more than a few northern types aware of the glory that is Sister Shubert's rolls. (True story: Last Friday, I was procuring the groceries for Cook-A-Thon 2011. Check out guy was like, "Whoa. How many people are you having over." I told him 26. He said, "You're buying this many rolls for 26 people?" I was like, "No. I'm buying this many rolls for 24 people. Kel and I have our own personal pans of Sister Shubert's already in the freezer at home. I'm not a bread person. Except THAT bread.)

So, yeah, THAT happened.

Green bean casserole? That's the easiest. I just use the recipe on the back of the onion can. And for the record, I am now convinced that the onion factory sits idle 9 months of the year before furiously beginning production in the months of October, November and December. I mean, thin about it. Have you ever heard of anyone eating green bean casserole in...June? It's kinda weird.

Turkey is fine. Whatever. My biggest complaint is that though, like my mother, I am deceptively strong for my relatively small size, turkeys, especially those that weigh 24 pounds and are in a super heavy Williams-Sonoma roasting pan to boot, are most unwieldy. And if you need proof of that, please know that I am now sporting a rather awesome burn on my arm. To the tune of more than one person saying, "What the hell? DO YOU HAVE ARM LEPROSY?" Okay, so maybe I paraphrased that a little. The brine and the resulting gravy making were from an Emeril Legasse recipe and it turned out really well. Although a little gravy tidbit: The good Lord did not intend for me to handle the parts necessary for making giblet gravy at 7 in the morning. I'm like Bridget Jones. Some days a glass of water makes me want to barf. Much less cooking a turkey neck.

Dressing, well, that's my grandmother's recipe and it involves about eleven thousand steps and also squishing your hands around in squishiness. Also, it's cooked in the pan. Not in the turkey. Hence, dressing, not stuffing. I don't want to kill my guests.

The sweet potato souffle is from the Birmingham Junior League cookbook. Which is amazing. It's also where I got the salad and the corn pudding. It's actually called "Martha's Sweet Potato Souffle" and I kid you not, it is the single most requested recipe I make. Do yourself a favor. If you are a cooking type and you don't have this absolutely fantastic cookbook, GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND GO GET IT!!! The salad involves spring mix, dried cranberries and feta. The dressing is a red wine-mustard vinagrette and I use it ALL THE TIME. Even when I don't have the feta and cranberries. It's good on any salad with dark greens. As for the corn pudding. It's actually "Cheater's Corn Pudding" because it uses canned and frozen corn rather than fresh. Which actually makes more sense because for all that Thanksgiving is a holiday with connections to both Native Americans and maize, there is relatively little fresh corn in November. The cookbook has an excellent recipe for corn pudding where you have to cut the corn off the cob and everything, but most of the time I stick to this one (although, weirdly, frozen cream corn is practically non-existent in New Jersey. Instead, I have to use canned. It seems to turn out okay.) The corn pudding is actually pretty close to the corn tomalita that they serve with your meal at Chevy's. Only about fifty times more awesome, because it has bacon and cheddar cheese on top. And let's be real...anything that involves bacon is just that much more amazing due to the bacon-ness.

The hot sherried fruit has been a Thanksgiving/Christmas thing in my family for as long as I can remember. I use a recipe from The Junior League at Home which is a GREAT Junior League cookbook featuring the best recipes from Junior League cookbooks all across the country. It's just canned fruit, but you concoct this really rich sauce involving butter and cinnamon and nutmeg and most importantly, sherry, which you pour over it and refrigerate overnight before cooking. You could, I guess use whatever canned fruit you like best. I do a mix--dark cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, pears and pineapple, but the most important part is spiced apple rings on top. And that's ANOTHER thing that I have to search high and low for in New Jersey.

But of course, the important part is the dessert. I used Paula Deen's Bourbon-Pecan pie recipe, but I lined the bottom of the pie shell with chocolate chips. Because Paula Deen recipes aren't rich enough on their own and need my help to become so. My masterpiece, though, and I mean of everything I made, was the cake. It is from the December Southern Living. I wasn't kidding when I said that it was a peppermint cheesecake layer cake. The peppermint cheese cake layers were alternated with a white sour cream cake. And the icing was white chocolate mousse. It was EPIC. I only tweaked the icing a little bit because sometimes white chocolate make me have a headache. I doubled the proportion of whipped cream to melted white chocolate and sugar. It was still MEGA sweet.

So that's it, y'all. I made it through alive (although there was a while on Thursday night when I wasn't quite sure)! No one died from anything I made! I only have one cut finger and an ugly burn as war wounds.

And in case anyone wondered about the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas? It's sole purpose is to give the Thanksgiving chef time to rest before she (or he) has to REALLY cook again.

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