We all know that on the third Thursday of November we take the time to travel (far or near) to be with family and friends to devour large amounts of food. It’s a national holiday and it’s been celebrated since the pilgrims landed. It hasn’t always been the fourth Thursday, but I’ll let Wikipedia tell you the history, I’m here to talk about the food. And food there was at my Thanksgiving this year. With 13 adults, 2 kids and an infant at the table, we had a turkey weighing in at 21 lbs, 3 lbs of garlic mashed potatoes, 3 lbs of sweet potatoes, 2 lbs of pearl onions, 2 cranberry sauces, a 2 lb green bean casserole, stuffing made from 4 loaves of bread, 2 lbs of squash and apples, a huge salad, 24 dinner rolls, giblet gravy, a pumpkin pie, 2 apple pies and 2 chocolate cream pies. Needless to say, we had more than enough food. (Disclaimer: I will not be be sharing all the recipes, especially since I didn’t cook some of the dishes, so please forgive me now.)
Dad and I started on the stuffing about 8:30am. Since we always stuff our turkey it’s the first thing to do. The stuffing recipe we use is one of my grandmother’s and over the years there has been much discussion about whether to dice the bread or shred it so we’ve now settled on half and half. Green onions, white onions and parsley are all chopped. Then we melt the first (but definitely not last) sticks of butter of the day. Sometimes I think the day should be called ButterGiving, haha! Okay, I’ll try to stay away from the bad jokes. Toss in the veggies to the melted butter and once the onions are translucent, pour the mixture over the bread and mix. (By the way, the loaves should be stale. Leave them outside 2-3 days before Thanksgiving and they’ll be perfect!) We also add some chicken stock or broth to add more moisture.
Turkeys can be cooked many different ways, and everyone seems to have their own preference. Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever get on the bandwagon of deep frying a turkey, but if that’s your choice, all the power to you! We like to keep it simple, letting the natural juices and simple spices and olive oil speak for themselves. With all the other flavors on the table, the turkey is the simplest dish that can be mixed with everything else or just with the gravy. Either way-yum! My dad swears by a Butterball turkey and we take out the bag of the giblets and set aside to use for the gravy (another recipe of my grandmother’s), dry out the inside then stuff it at both ends. Not all the stuffing fits and the rest is put in a baking dish and set aside to finish baking later in the day. The turkey goes into the oven, breast side down for the first 3 hours with an onion, carrots and celery in the bottom of the pan along with about an inch of water. The turkey juices will drip down into the pan and we’ll end up deglazing the pan to use in the gravy. Mmmmm. It was now about 9:45am.
Since my dad pre-made the cranberry sauces and the dinner rolls, we were able to relax for the first hour the turkey was in the oven. My uncle is an amateur photographer and I asked him to take some portraits of me as well as photos throughout the day. So we went out to the porch and under the beautiful sun of San Francisco had some fun. (Those pictures will come later!) The weather was so beautiful this year, it was hard to go back into the kitchen, but I did, as there was still much to do! The heat was turned down on the turkey and we set our timer to baste every 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, my mom made her yummy hummus and my aunt set out some appetizers to knosh on. There were cheeses, baguettes, veggies and the wine was opened. Mom’s hummus was homemade and mixed with grilled eggplant (which is the basis for baba ghanoush. This gives her hummus extra texture and taste!) and she chopped up a small home grown jalapeno for a little spice. It was a great mini lunch before we started in on the rest of the side dishes. Those side dishes will be in Part 2 later this week, as will the finished turkey, so stay tuned!