(Belated) Thanksgiving Recap 2006

Jeremy thought I should be the one to post about our Thanksgiving dinner this year, probably because he spent most of the day out in his studio painting while I was in the kitchen. I guess that’s fair. We did a fairly traditional Thanksgiving feast for the two of us, in thanks for the opportunity to finally spend the holiday together after two years apart.

I did desserts the day before Thanksgiving, and had grand plans to do more in advance, but we got sucked into watching episodes of Project Runway. On Thursday morning, I dove right in after breakfast and got some things going: bread cubes toasted and stuffing mixed up to go in the slow cooker, sweet potatoes baking, dough mixed and kneaded for the whole wheat butterhorns. Around the time I was dividing the dough into portions for shaping, Jeremy started looking around for lunch, so while the sweet potatoes finished up in the oven, I shaped the rolls and got started on lunch: a mushroom bisque. Jeremy kept me company while I worked and sliced shallots for me, commenting partway through that the contents of the sauté pan would make the best burger topping ever. I saved a ladleful of mushrooms to stir back into the pureed soup at the last minute, and by the time the soup was ready, the rolls were coming out of the oven, soft, wheaty and crunchy with walnuts. Jeremy told me that this was the best soup he’s had in a long time, and there certainly weren’t any complaints about the butterhorns either.

After the lunch dishes were cleaned up, I got started on the next wave of food, meaning the turkey and trimmings. We did a simply roast turkey with herb butter rubbed under the skin on the breast meat, and I also topped the breasts with foil for the first hour to keep them moist. I kept a turkey stock simmering on the stovetop, full of giblets and all the veggie trimmings from the morning’s preparations. A few cups of that got ladled over the turkey (sans foil) for basting and also went into the porcini gravy we made from the pan drippings. While the turkey cooked, I prepped the green bean casserole (a homemade version of the popular canned-food casserole), chopped and acidulated the Brussels sprouts, and peeled and pureed the sweet potatoes. After the turkey came out of the oven, we made a pot of Brie-mashed potatoes, tucked the green beans into the oven, finished off the vanilla sweet potato puree, and quickly sautéed the sprouts. Jeremy had just enough time to carve the turkey while I finished off the gravy, and we sat down with sparkling cider and groaning plates. A few hours later we had pumpkin chiffon pie and apple crisp for dessert.

So how did we like everything?

  • The mushroom bisque was a definite winner, but rather on the spendy side with all those wild mushrooms and dried porcini. Still, I think we’ll be making that again.
  • The whole wheat butterhorns were just as soft and tasty as when I made them for my folks last year.
  • The turkey came out beautifully, glazed brown on the outside and moist inside with a flavorful gravy that worked nicely with all of our sides.
  • Jeremy thought the green bean casserole smelled like curdled milk; I didn’t get that at all and really liked it, but wish I had let the beans cook a minute or two longer before saucing.
  • On the other hand, I didn’t care for the Brie-mashed potatoes, which didn’t exactly taste bad, but kept making me think, “What’s up with these potatoes?” before remembering the cheese.
  • The sweet potato puree was an unadulterated hit: I don’t care for sweet potatoes personally, but still ate a small portion, and they made Jeremy break out into spontaneous expressions of bliss. The recipe is also really versatile in terms of leftovers, and we used a portion of them to make sweet potato pancakes for dinner one night as an alternative to straight leftovers.
  • The slow-cooker stuffing is a recipe I’ve made for the past few years, and I like it because it lets me start it first thing in the morning and not think about it for the rest of the day; this year we used day-old pain a l’ancienne from Jeremy’s bread-baking repertoire, and it held up beautifully.
  • The Brussels sprouts were tasty, and since I could prep them in advance, incredibly quick to make during the cooking finale. We weren’t huge fans of the poppy seeds in the recipe, so maybe I’ll cast my eye around for some mustard seeds in future, or just stick to Lidia Bastianich’s garlicky recipe for skillet-cooked sprouts.
  • The pumpkin chiffon pie, for which I made my own puree for the first time by roasting a sugar pumpkin, had a lovely flavor and texture, but the crust came out pretty rock-like at first, and then basically dissolved in the fridge. I would consider using the pie filling in a sort of parfait with crumbled gingersnaps and candied nuts instead, but would otherwise stick to my standard pecan-topped pumpkin pie or a paradise pumpkin pie.
  • The apple crisp was good, but I don’t seem to have good luck cooking with Braeburns, so it was a bit liquidy, and Jeremy requested more topping next time.

Whew! That was a mouthful, in more ways than one. We finished off the bulk of our leftovers on Monday night, but still have a container of turkey to contend with. Any ideas?

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