Friday, November 26, 2010

The Day After Thanksgiving - Oh My Achin Belly

I did not take any photos, yesterday, of the culinary delights that we enjoyed. Although I wish I had done so, the mental picture I have of them and the memory I have of just how wonderfully enjoyable they tasted will not fade at least throughout next year. That is important to me because I want them to be there, in my mind's eye, when I cook again next Thanksgiving as sort of a mental go-by.

We had turkey with all the fixins. To achieve that end, my wife had left $100 with my son when she went to Germany just over 3 weeks ago. The money was meant for him to buy a turkey, a small one as per her directions, and to buy the rest of the things for a meal. Come Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving - our cupboard were bare and there was no turkey aquarium in our fridge. There was no turkey at all! Someone had not gone shopping and when I asked him for the hundred bucks he said he put it in the bank. (He actually went to the bank later and took kit out to give to me.) This left me to do the shopping because he was in bed and obviously not getting up. I headed out to Costco figuring for sure they would have turkeys of all sizes and knowing I could also pick up other things we needed for around the house. Well Costco had turkeys alright, fresh ones at that. I followed my wife's directions to my son and got a small one, in fact just about the smallest one they had. It weighed in at a mere 18.13 pounds and went for .99 cents a pound. I sort of figured I could find it at a less expensive price elsewhere but since it was the day before gobbler day, I took it.

Then I was off to the supermarket to get the rest of what we needed for the big meal. I grabbed 5 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, a Spanish onion (never got used), 3 bunches of scallions (used 2), some string beans, a loaf of bread, a package of English muffins, 2 packages of sliced almonds, a bag of cranberries, and two types of tart apples (the last 5 items for the stuffing) and some other stuff and headed home. I spent just over $50 at the supermarket, just enough to qualify for their sales on turkeys. Buy $50 worth of groceries and get a turkey for .29 cents a pound. I would have saved over 12 bucks had I shopped here first for the bird. I was tempted to buy one anyway but knew there would be no room in the fridge for 2 turkeys, so settled for getting the fixins at that store. Sleeping beauty was up when I got home and he helped me throw everything into the fridge, it was crowded in there. hen I rushed off to JFK Airport to pick up the other half and our daughter. The 2 Chihuahuas accompanied me as meet and greet team members. We were at the airport all of 2 minutes when I realized that the big board showed their flight had arrived about one hour before we got there. That would be about one hour early. With Immigration and Customs and waiting for baggage, they had not yet left the baggage claim area and after a brief 10 minute wait - there they were. As soon as I saw them, I went into stealth mode by crouching down. I told the dogs 'they are over there' but the dummies didn't pick up their scent. So we snuck up from the side, and were spotted when only a few feet away, by Celina. Linda and Celina were very happy to see the dogs and even I got a kiss from each of them (from the ladies not the dogs, the dogs were busy kissing the ladies).. We were off to home in no time and ten hit the wall. The wall was traffic on the Belt parkway outside the airport. Nothing special for the holiday crunch, just regular, everyday, miserable, bumper to bumper traffic moving at about 5mph. Well maybe it was for the Holiday, it was only just after 3PM. Usually this stuff holds off til 4 around there. The traffic broke up after a few miles and we were on our way on the city streets. Less traffic on the streets is why the traffic had broken for us. As we drove along and talked about this and that, I realized I would need to hit the supermarket again. I stopped at one along the way and got those things and they we jetted home.

Yesterday, I was up early then went back to bed. I had it all planned, that is my cooking regimen for the day. I would get up at 9, bake an apple pie, make the stuffing, stuff the bird, cook the bird once the pie was out of the oven, and cook everything else while the turkey was in the oven. Wound up, I had to cook the bird and the pie at the same time, thank goodness for double ovens. As for the bird, it was supposed to be fresh, but when I pulled out the gizzards, I found that the inside of the bird was frozen. Not frozen solid but crunch from ice in the meat. Home Depot to the rescue and I guess I did have a turkey aquarium of a sorts for an hour or so. I filled one of those Home Depot specials, an orange 5 gallon 'Homer bucket' with hot water and put the bird in their for a warm-up. Worked like a charm. As that was thawing out, I threw the stuffing together.

The stuffing was made up of several slices of potato bread, a couple of English muffins, a bagel (all allowed to go stale and then broken into small pieces), about 2 Granny Smith and 2 Macintosh apples cut into small chunks, 2 bags of sliced almonds, a few handfuls of dried cranberries (very raisin like in consistency), 2 bunches of cut up scallions, poultry seasoning, allspice, cinnamon and about 1 stick of butter. The butter was that in which I sauteed the scallions and almonds (just a bit for the almonds or they will burn) before mixing them with the other ingredients. I then took the bird, patted it dry inside and out, stuffed it, closed it up, coated it with a light covering of extra virgin olive oil, rubbed a good amount of salt onto it, and threw it into the preheated oven! I was on a roll because I had gotten all of this done and the kitchen was still clean and I was happy. My wife dreads when I cook because of me making a mess and me losing my temper if some little thing goes wrong. Everything was going right, I was making sure of that and it was a breeze because as the guy said in Monty Python's Search For he Holy Grail: "I'm getting better". I cleaned as I went along and just kept myself under check and kept it that way for the few hours it took to get it all done.

he bird went into the oven at 10:30. The apple pie went into the lower oven about 2 and a half hours before the bird was done. The wife cut up a few of our crop of squashes and made 3 different dishes with them, one with some of the potatoes mixed in. One tray of that went into the oven on the rack under the bird and the other two took the space in the bottom oven once the pie was done. As all this was going on I cooked up the remaining stuffing in a frying pan on the stove top. Of course that meant more butter - mm-mm good. After about an hour or a bit more of cooking, I realized the bird was already browning. Since it would need another 3 to 3 1/2 hours in the oven, I tented it with foil and soon started to baste it with Spaten Oktoberfest bier. I basted it 3 times and took the foil off with about an hour to go. It wound up getting nice and golden brown all over. No nigthmares here - Gordon Ramsey will never need to come to my kitchen to make things better but he would be welcome any day and I would gladly take cooking lessons from him. As it is now, I am self taught with a good cook book at hand and always have liked to watch others cook. I guess it sank in and that was evidenced by the meal yesterday.

At about 3:15 yesterday, while sitting at the PC and sending out emails, I suddenly realized it had been awhile since checked the bird. Whoops, it was probably ready at 2:45 or 3. I checked, it was ready, took it out and let it sit for about 20 or 25 minutes. I was concerned it had been in too long and would be dry. Linda put the finishing touches on the veggies and by the time she was done, I was carving. Some of the the white meat crumbled a bit, probably could have cooled a bit more before carving, but we were hungry so I kept at it. We sat to eat, just the two of us because Celina was at her beau's parents' home and Brendan was working. Just as we were about to chow down, who comes in the door but Brendan. He had his break timed perfectly and got to enjoy dinner with us. It was ever so enjoyable too. Good company and good eats - not much better except maybe if you add good drink but for some reason all I imbibed up to and through the meal was a sip of bier while basting and a glass of OJ. The turkey was moist and it skin was crisp. Both were delicious. The stuffing from the bird was wonderfully aromatic and tasted great. The pan cooked stuffing was also great, that had more butter, a bit of bier and a bit of apple juice added along with an extra Granny Smith apple. The squash was good, but not what we had expected. That was not due to Linda's cooking - it was due to the squash itself. Was supposed to be butternut squash but grew much bigger and must have been another much less sweet variety. With what Linda had added to spice it up though, it was yummy enough for us. The beans were crispy and delicious - nothing fancy there - just steamed but great.

The dogs ate when we did, I did not want them begging at the table. They enjoyed their regular dry dog food smothered with pan drippings and basting liquid and mixed in with the innards and with some white and dark meat. I boiled the organs to make sure they were well done. I had a few bites of heart, liver and gizzards - mixed it in with my stuffing and had some plain - and all was delicious. The dogs were wild about it and ate with gusto. They will be hoping for another meal like that for awhile before they get one - probably around Christmas.

After dinner, Linda and I cleaned up the remaining mess, did the dishes and put away the leftovers. Then we sat down for a slice of homemade apple pie. I am no pastry chef but have been know to be a fair to good baker and did not disappoint this time. The pie filling was made up of Macintosh and Granny Smith apples, a good amount of both cinnamon and allspice, and two small handfuls of sugar. The crust was simply flour, shortening, water and salt. It was truly delicious.

Once all that was done, I made up a plate and headed over to see my mom. My timing was off by about 2 hours, mostly because the bird had been partly frozen and needed to be thawed, so when I got to my mom's she had already eaten. I am pretty sure she will enjoy the dish I made up for her sometime today. We spent a couple of hours together and it was time to head back to the castle. I got sidetracked though and stopped first at a local purveyor of fine spirits and had a couple of Jamesons on the rocks and a couple of Heinekens too. Spent a few hours at the bar and only got home after midnight.

Today, all I can say is oh my achin belly. I ate way too much yesterday but certainly did not eat anywhere nearly as much as I have in past years. Still though, I think I grew a bit rounder just from one meal. I am looking forward to doing more cooking.I have not been at it all that much in recent year, I lost interest, but after eating what I cooked yesterday I see I need to start enjoying my own cooking again. I may try baking a couple of loaves of bread this weekend. I make a pretty good bread, heavy, chewy, hearty - one of this mushy soft white bread type junk from my kitchen. Gotta go, time for my breakfast - I finally have some room for it. I hope your Thanksgiving was at least half as nice as was mine!

Later for you,