Yesterday my father-in-law broke up some white bread for the stuffing. You can see that in the background. It's now perfectly stale. This morning, Megen and I made cornbread with stone ground corn from he farmers market. That was also get torn up (or crumbled) for the stuffing. Off to get my brother and his girlfriend from the airport. Stay tuned!!
My house official smells amazing. I love, love, love the brine that we use for our turkey every year, and one of the reasons I love it is the aroma it generates. Boil 6 quarts of water, 2 quartered onions, one cup of fresh, chopped ginger, 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, 1 cup coarse salt, 4 bay leaves (this year I found fresh ones at my local market - OMG what a difference!!!), 4 star anise, 12 crushed black peppercorns. Once it boils and the sugar and salt have dissolved, let it cool completely and then brine the turkey in it overnight. The recipe is from an old Bon Appetit and I'm incredibly loyal to it.
A quick brining tip: I never have room in my fridge, so I use a cooler. I put the turkey and the brine in a turkey oven bag (you could also use a giant ziploc), and then put the whole thing into the cooler and out on my cold porch. If you leave in a warm climate, add some ice to the cooler.
Tomorrow, the turkey will go on the grill. I'll share pics!
Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, right? In traditional foodmomiac fashion, we take that one step further by making TWO types of cranberry sauce. I love, love, love both. Below are the two recipes (which I've posted before but re-posted here for your convenience).
Cranberry Horseradish Relish
This is from the
1994 Thanksgiving Bon Appetit. It is one of our favorites. The tangy
flavor provides an excellent foil to the rich turkey. My sister-in-law
is vegetarian, but she eats this with EVERYTHING. She especially loves
it with the creamed corn.
2 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces) 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup prepared horseradish 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Chop berries with sugar in a food processor. Place it into a bowl.
Add horseradish and lemon juice, and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap
and chill it for at least 1 day. (Can be made up to 5 days ahead).
You are correct in reading that the cranberries are raw in this recipe.
If this relish doesn't sit for at least 24 hours, it will be too
Cook's Illustrated Cranberry Sauce Every
Thanksgiving, my mom made homemade cranberry sauce. And, while some of
the berries were sweet and delicious, there are always plenty that were
almost too tart to bear. After I found this recipe by Cook's
Illustrated in 1999, the too-tart berry became a thing of the past. The
secret? Salt!! The salt brings out the sweetness from EVERY cranberry,
yielding the perfect cranberry sauce.
3/4 cup water 1 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 12oz.bag of cranberries, picked through
Bring water, sugar and salt to a boil in a medium pot over high
heat. Stir occasionally to insure that the sugar dissolves and doesn't
burn. Once dissolved, stir in cranberries and return the mixture to a
boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens. You
want about 2/3 of the berries to pop open. (CI says this takes about
five minutes. I ALWAYS cook it longer, because I like a thicker sauce.)
Pour the sauce into a bowl (not metal) and chill. This can be prepared
up to seven days in advance. CI recommends serving it at room
temperature, but I like it nice and cold.
I have a confession. I'm one of those people. You know those family members who throw a hissy fit if you don't make a certain, traditional item on Thanksgiving? Yeah... that would be me. If certain items aren't on my menu, I am not a happy camper. I realize that this is boring. I realize that this is out of character for someone who is obsessed with food. But, I might as well embrace my faults, no?
So.. the first item that is non-negotiable is the Creamed Corn (sorry three lactose-intolerant people coming to our Thanksgiving). I've written about this before, but I don't think I've ever actually shared the heart attack-inducing recipe. It came from a mid-90's article in Saveur Magazine by R.W. Apple, a brilliant writer who passed away two years ago. The recipe can be found right here. You'll see that it calls for four cups of milk and three cups of heavy cream. Oh, and also a half stick of butter. You can definitely cut back on the cream a bit (just up the milk). Don't lose the cream altogether, though. The texture will suffer, and this IS Thanksgiving after all. It's not a night for watching diets.
Most of you are probably wondering where to find dried corn. It's become a bit easier to find, so do call around to local gourmet stores to see if they have it in stock. If you can't find it locally, you'll need to order it. I searched around, and the best price is from John Cope's, the actual manufacturer. I realize that Thanksgiving is just a few days away. They charge $15.42 for two day shipping. That's a lot, but this dish is worth it, I promise.
(Note: I don't know where to find the corn in Chicago, but in Toledo it can be found at Churchill's, and in Ann Arbor, it can be found at Zingerman's. If anyone finds it locally in other cities, please share in the comments!)
Last year was the year we sent out our ill-fated Thanksgiving Manifesto. The meal and the company were amazing, but it wasn't the giant family event that I associate with my favorite holiday of the year. Though I expect it will take a few years to reach maximum Thanksgiving capacity, this year we're getting close! Michael's mom and sister Melissa unfortunately can't come, but his dad will be here with bells on. I also managed to talk my brother and his girlfriend into coming which is especially exciting. David has not yet been to visit us in Chicago (yes, it's been about 3.5 years), and we'll be the first of the family to meet his girlfriend Stefanie. We're also going to be joined by my stepfather's granddaughters. They both go to college in the Chicagoland area, but their mom is now living in Spain, so we invited them to join us for the big meal.
Most thrilling (sorry to everyone else) is the fact that my Thanksgiving partner in crime Megen is coming back to join us. I haven't had a Thanksgiving with her since 2006, and that is truly a travesty. I MIGHT have given her a little bit of a guilt trip ("My childhood memories of giant Thanksgiving dinners are my best memories. It is so sad to think that you will deprive your niece and nephew of that experience.") Fact is, Thanksgiving isn't the same without Aunt Megen. Not for me. Not for the kids.
The picture above is from my beloved Thanksgiving folder. In there is every menu from every year's celebration since at least 2001 (I'll need to check). We list the attendees, the menu, and include notes about the meal ("everyone loved it" "this made too much!")
Starting this week, I'll be sharing some of my favorite recipes and talking about our preparations. What are you guys all doing for next week's holiday? (And for my Canadian friends - MARY - what did you do for Thanksgiving last month?)
Those of you who follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook are already very much aware of this fact, but for the past week, I've been on jury duty. I went in on Monday with every intention of being released that same day. At this court, they have the one day system, where if you aren't put on a jury, you're done.
Unfortunately, I ended up with a very strict (but very awesome - I'll have lots of stories next week) judge who was not taking no for an answer from ANYONE. Those who were clearly trying to get released were sent to the back of the room with instructions to wait for a lecture from the judge at the end of the day. I am the world's biggest chicken to begin with, and I'm pretty much incapable of lying (or lying well), so the cards were stacked against me.
I'm actually an alternate, so I won't even get the satisfaction of participating in the verdict, but I have had all of the pain of sitting on the panel. Jury duty is particularly torturous for a person like me. I'm CONSTANTLY multitasking (as I'm sure you guys all are as well). Even when I'm just sitting around, I'm checking my BlackBerry, or looking through a catalog, or surfing the web. When I'm sitting at my desk at work, I have about 8 tabs open on my browser, and in between meetings and answering emails, I flit around from site to site, checking updates, reading blog posts and getting my news.
You can imagine, then, what it's like for me to just sit in the same chair every day with no multitasking at my disposal. I'm a mess. My doodles have become increasingly intricate, my sweaters are completely lint free, and I've mastered every yoga stretch that can be achieved while sitting in a jury chair.
I also should add that I'm amazed at how thoroughly exhausting it is to sit and do nothing. I think I passed out on my couch every night this week. The good news is that both sides have rested and all we have left is closing arguments and deliberation. The judge is hopeful that we'll be totally done by the end of the day tomorrow. Let's send some thoughts to the universe that the old guy is spot on.
(P.S. I'm still training for my half marathon, and I'm actually having a blast doing so. Yesterday marked the end of week two of training, and I ran four miles for the first time since 1996. I'm blogging about the training over here if you'd like to follow along...)