Thursday, December 4, 2008

thanksgiving postmortem

How is it even remotely possible that Thanksgiving was already an entire week ago?? They say time flies when you're having fun. Well, I'm going to tell you that it flies even when you're not. Okay, to be fair, it's not that I'm not having fun. I mean, it's Christmastime! The music is fun! And the planning is fun! And the shopping has even been a little enjoyable! But some of us have been sick. And some of us have been tired. And, quite frankly, I'm a little sick and tired of being sick and tired. And my ears are stuffy and not being able to hear well is making me a bit cranky and forgetful. Wait, what am I supposed to be writing about today? Oh, right...Thanksgiving!

So, here is what I made: Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter (as an appetizer, mid-afternoon) Roast Turkey, Stuffing/Dressing (Is there a difference? I never know what to call it!), Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Butternut Squash Puree, Spinach Gratin, Roasted Asparagus, Cranberry Conserve, Homemade Bread, Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Key Lime Pie (with whipped cream). For 10 people. 4 of them children. 2 of the children didn't eat anything but bread. I know, I went a little nuts. But I have to say that at the time, I didn't feel like I was going nuts. I actually felt less stressed than I ever have preparing any other holiday meal and I think that's because I was really able to do a lot ahead. Preparation is key.

Here's what worked:

1.) Brining the turkey. I used this brining blend from Williams Sonoma. And these brining bags. They both worked wonderfully. In fact, the only problem I think you could possibly have is if the person helping you fill the brining bag happens to let go of the side of the bag for a second, causing the bag to collapse and brine to spill out all over your kitchen cabinets and floor and even run under the refrigerator and then you have to pull out your refrigerator (which most likely has not been done for years! Gross!!) and clean and disinfect your kitchen (AGAIN!). But really, the odds of that happening are, like, slim to none, right?

Now, I suppose I could have made my own brine but I really liked all of the ingredients in this one and it was incredibly easy to do. Here is what the brine looked like:

By the time I bought all of those fabulous spices and such, I probably would have spent the same as I did on the mix at Williams Sonoma and the gas to drive there. And did I mention how easy it was? I'll definitely do this again.

2.) The Spinach Gratin. I think this was my favorite dish. Yes, it's a Barefoot Contessa recipe and I was able to put it all together the night before and then bake it after I took the turkey out to rest. I was very sad on Tuesday night when I finished off the last of the leftovers of this dish.

And speaking of dishes I made in advance...

3.) Mashed Potatoes. Now, I read about this potato recipe on and I have to admit I was a little skeptical. I wasn't really sure how these potatoes would taste made in advance and then warmed in the oven (I put them in at the same time as the spinach). But, since my least favorite part of making Thanksgiving dinner is making the mashed potatoes right at the end so they stay warm while you're trying to get everything else on the table, I thought I would take a chance. So glad I did. I will make them this way from now on...

4.) Butternut Squash/Butternut Squash Ravioli. I went with Holly's suggestion and looked for a recipe for Butternut Squash Ravioli and found this one, which I used as a guide. Earlier in the week, I roasted the butternut squash, pureed it in the food processor and then froze the puree. I took it out Thursday morning to defrost, made the filling and then assembled the ravioli using wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta. I think I let the sage brown butter go just a bit too long, but sometimes that happens when you're trying to cook and show your mother pictures of people you went to high school with on Facebook at the same time. (Note to Santa: Need a laptop to use in the kitchen.) Here is what the dish looked like:

Since I only needed part of the butternut squash for this recipe, I ended up warming up the rest and adding cream and pure maple syrup to serve as another last minute side dish. I'm not sure anyone ended up eating it, but it did look pretty on the table.

Here's what didn't work:

1.) Having sick kids the week leading up to and including Thanksgiving Day. Not that there is anything I could have done about this, but it really kind of puts a damper on the holiday. Not to mention the fact that it's incredibly hard to get things done when your baby looks at you like this:

I'm quite sure my house didn't pass the "White Glove Test," and so a special thank you goes out to my guests for pretending not to notice!

2.) The Gravy. I didn't take into account how the large amount of salt in the turkey brine would make the pan drippings really salty. When I made the gravy, I used some of the pan drippings and some chicken broth, and then I added some half and half at the end, but I think it was still a little too salty. Of course, Williams Sonoma does make a Turkey Gravy base...

3.) The pie crusts. I just don't know what it is with me and pie crust, but I can't seem to get it right. I've tried many different recipes...from pies that I have really enjoyed...but I just don't have the touch. So, I thought I would just get my old standby Pillsbury crusts that you just unroll and put in the pan. Only when I went to the store, they were out of Pillsbury pie crusts (which really ticked me off because I even had a coupon!), so I ended up buying the Harris Teeter brand pie crusts, and they sucked. Really, they were awful. And I didn't realize just how awful until Tuesday night when we were having our Turkey Pot Pie for dinner made with the Pillsbury crusts that Doug bought over the weekend. So, so much better.

So, I guess I'm just going to have to get over it and make pie after pie until I get the stupid crust right. (Right now, Doug is high-fiving everyone around him as he reads this...)

And so there you have it. I truly had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you all did too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

GM Carrie! Reading your Turkey-day blog. Mmm, sounds SO good.

Hmm, salty Gravy... couple of ideas from an old salt (well, older than Doug anyway!).

I brined and smoked our turkey this year, and my instructions said to rinse the brine off thoroughly before cooking. Maybe rinse more?

For brining, rather than a big ziplock, we double-lined a 5-gallon bucketd with a fresh trash bags. Then put the bird in the bucket, filled w/brine and put in our cold (brr!) garage. Less spill-thrills that way!

We had our own "under the fridge" incident anyway. Last weekend, I dropped a 6-pack of beer (bottles of course) onto the tile floor in our basement kitchen. Four of the bottles exploded (not broke, exploded!). Glass and beer in all directions for 20-feet. Walls, on cabinets, under washing machine, under fridge, and glass shards as high as on the stove-top! And of course it was one of those heavy, dark, sugary, sticky beers too... mixed with pretty little glass shards. Ugh!

bro Mark