Saturday, November 29, 2008

thanksgiving, how i love you

thanksgiving, how much i love thee...despite the last-minute panic attacks, fighting through swarms of people in the grocery store, throwing my principles out the window and buying sweet potatoes from israel because i didn't want to make another stop (generally we don't by stuff from israel, not until the israelis are nice to the palestinians--but when the dread of making a stop at another grocery store sets in, principles are the first to go), spending far too much time on setting the table before i actually started cooking (what was that about?) are the very best holiday. seriously, what is it about thanksgiving that makes it so wonderful?

is it the candles, or the pretty table settings or the abundance of food?

or is it the kids eating turkey legs?

or is it the pie?

which we served like this...

...because the crust was so ultra flaky (i tried a new recipe and i have to admit that i find pie crust to be generally temperamental and never the same twice) that it wouldn't come out of the pie tin looking pretty, so we covered it in freshly whipped real cream, plopped on four forks and the adults all ate off one plate. i think more food should be served this way, it's the best.

i think what makes thanksgiving the best is a combination of way too much great food, much laughter, people who are actively grateful, and the fact that you have that festive, holiday feeling without all of the gift-giving madness attached to it. and leftovers. thanksgiving leftovers totally rock.

and i can highly recommend doing the turkey brine thing. it was the best, juiciest turkey ever. i will never go back to the old way. here's the brine i used (modified from the fabulous nigella lawson's new christmas cookbook, because i can never really follow a recipe to the letter):

turkey brine

1 orange, sliced
big handful of parsley
handful of black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
4 fresh bay leaves
2 roughly chopped onions
3 star anise
1 good hunk of ginger, roughly chopped
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup sea salt
1 good squeeze of honey
1 good glug of real maple syrup (do not bother with fake, ewww)

stir together with warmish water in a very large pot (or other container that your turkey will fit into) to get the sugar and salt dissolving, add your turkey and fill with water until the turkey is covered.  allow it to brine at least overnight (two nights would be even better) in a cool place (i simply set it outside with a lid on the pot because our weather allowed that). i had a 5.5 kilo turkey (11-12-ish pounds). 

i took it out the brine, stuffed it, body-buttered it with maple butter and cooked it 2 hours and 45 minutes. it turned out perfectly (we just neglected to photograph it) and was the juiciest, most succulent bird i've had, well, ever.  we're going to do duck for christmas, i wonder if brine will work for that...hmmm...


Delena said...

Your table setting was beautiful. We are from Canada but as we are guests of the US we have so much to be thankful for. Our Thanksgiving dinner was in our new shed. We thought it was going to rain and it didn't but we already had the table set inside the shed. We laughed alot in our private dining room!

Molly said...

What a yummy looking table, and very creative pie presentation - I too am famed for recovering from baking mishaps with piles of whipped cream. Totally makes the mishaps worth it.
Thanks for the brine recipe, I'm passing it on to my mother who is responsible for the Xmas turkey.
Husband and I do Nigella's trash food deluxo - gammon in coca-cola- for Xmas. Sounds gross but is amazing. Husband did it one year as a kind of a joke - now we do 3 every year, one for my family, one for his and one for cold ham sandwiches - it's a winner!