Sunday, November 29, 2009

T-Day 09 Post Mortem

by Xani

While we didn't do too many (read: any) pre-Thanksgiving postings, we're about to make that all up to you. Here is a down and dirty run-down of Thanksgiving 2009 at the BCD house. It was another one for the books....

Just to set the mood of the ridiculousness, I'll start off by saying that the night BEFORE Thanksgiving, we just "whipped up" an EIGHT POUND, bone-in, wet-aged prime rib roast for dinner. And Yorkshire pudding. My Dad claimed it was necessary to "make room in the freezer." Yeah.... gluttony, here we come!

Because we had a grand total of five people at Thanksgiving this year, we decided it was imperative we have TWO turkeys, lest we might starve. OK, the actual reason for the two-turkey plan was to allow us to use two very different, and somewhat experimental, preparations (in case one failed miserably, we'd have an emergency backup turkey!)

Turkey #1
Turkey #1 (a fresh, 12-lb, additive-free bird) was prepared by awesome boyfriend and meat-smoker extraordinaire, David. He started the process many days in advance by rearranging all the contents of my fridge to accommodate the giant bucket he needed to brine the turkey. The brine included apple juice, ginger, cloves, oranges, and, of course, salt. After a 24 hour soak, it came out of the brine and air-dried for a day in the fridge. Then, into the smoker, and David worked his magic...

there's magic in that smoke...

beautiful bird!
omg, it worked!

with amazing results!! Have you ever seen a more gorgeous bird!? When we carved it it was amazingly juicy, with a sweet-and-smoky flavor. Well done David!

Turkey # 2
Turkey #2 was the smallest turkey I've ever seen. At only 7 lbs, we started calling it a "turk-lette." Not that I'm complaining, as we're already up to 19 pounds of turkey, or almost four pounds per person, if you're keeping track. It was an all-natural bird my parents picked up fresh from the Amish market in Easton, Md. They dry-brined it using a revised dry-brine method from the LA times (you might recall we used this LA Times method last year.) By including black pepper and bay in the dry-brine mixture, they infused lots of flavor into the bird. But the true genius move in the preparation of Turkey #2 came from BCD Dad. We were running out of precious fridge space on the big day, and the turkey, while small, was still taking up more than its share as it was drying out (after we removed it from the brine). Dad suggested the weather on Taylor's island that day was a perfect "mock fridge"-- about 40 degrees, dry, and 35 knot winds! Moments later #2 was perched on the deck, skin flapping in the breeze, enjoying his last moments of glory. The fridge was suddenly that much roomier, and all we had to do was make sure no one let the dog onto the deck... and keep a lookout for hungry eagles. In the end, the air-drying worked PERFECTLY-- the bird was totally transformed after a few hours out there. We roasted it up, and aside from a few timing issues (tiny turkeys cook WAY fast, who knew?), it came out with super-crispy skin, and moist, flavorful meat. Success!

fly, turkey, fly!

into the great blue yonder...

Dad's hand for scale

Turkey was clearly the star of the show, but we had plenty (and I mean plenty) of other great dishes. Our family starts every Thanksgiving with some traditional nibbles- crudite, blue cheese dressing, olives- and this year we added BCD Mom's fantastic chopped chicken liver, dressing it up with some pickled red onions to make a fabulous little crostini.

Alongside of the turkey, we enjoyed a lovely bacon, onion, and rye bread stuffing, goat cheese twice-baked potatoes, cranberry sauce, glazed brussels sprouts and apples in browned butter and cream, and two kinds of rolls (yeast rolls and sweet potato rolls). These were all brand-new recipes, with lots of new and interesting flavors. Maybe we'll go back to traditional recipes next year, but this year was all about trying new things!
the Thanksgiving plate-- never a pretty sight

The rolls were from a local vendor, but everything else we cranked out from scratch over a day or so before Thanksgiving. And they were all big successes! I especially liked the stuffing and the cranberry (which had a very deep, spicy flavor to it), but the brussels were SO rich and delicious... and who doesn't like a twice bakes potato?? No friend of mine! What can I say, I liked it all!

The sweet finale was a sweet-potato pie with marshmallow meringue. I was making sweet potato pie for the first time and little worried-- first, that it might not come together correctly, and second, even if it did, that I might not like it (I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie). Turns out I didn't need to worry on either front-- it was delicious. Buttery graham cracker crust, rich, sweet, and earthy filling, and marshmallow-y soft topping. YUM!

Another delicious Thanksgiving has come and gone, and even the leftovers are dwindling (ok, that part is only partly true- still LOTS of turkey in the fridge). Guess that means its time to start planning yummy holiday meals. Plus, EP and I have a super-special, like, once-in-a-lifetime experience coming up very soon that will MOST DEFINITELY be a blog post. Coming soon...

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and celebrated all you have to be thankful for. I know I did!


update/P.S. OMG, I forgot the gravy! After a life-long struggle (?) to create a delicious, rich gravy, this year, I finally achieved my goal. The secret? Make turkey stock a day or two BEFORE Thanksgiving. To make the stock, we roasted up some turkey wings until they were nice and brown, then threw them in a pot and barely simmered them for about 6 hours. Then added carrot, celery stalk, onion, garlic, a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. An hour later, strained, cooled and chilled. On Thanksgiving, I added this glorious stock to a roux made from 50% chicken fat, 50% butter, and flour, and voila! Gorgeous gravy. A drop of apple cider vinegar was the perfect finishing touch.


  1. Everything looks like it was delicious! Well done!

  2. Rye bread stuffing - Hmmm - sounds interesting. Need to find the more adventurous to try it on.

  3. I am drooling with jealousy - there is no way I am that expert on cooking meat but I see I have something to aspire to!

  4. Lou and I are converts to the smoking preparation as well. You may want to invest in the brining bags sold at Williams Sonoma if there is lots of brining in your future. We've had ours for 4 years and they hold up well to all kinds of refrigerator abuse. They also cut down on the space brining meat takes up in the fridge. We brined our smoked turkey for 4 days- it can really osmos a lot of salt!


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