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Monday, December 1, 2008


We had a small, relaxing Thanksgiving...even though we waited until Friday evening for our special meal. I was stuck in lab until after 9pm on Wednesday (my professor and I were running a very "cranky" instrument that decided to crap-out on us around 7:30pm and I had to stick around to prepare new samples so he could re-run them after the holiday) and Dave didn't pull into Davis until almost 10pm. We were both so tired that we decided to postpone the festivities (and all that cooking) until later. In fact, we didn't even get to Livermore until Thursday afternoon.

Our meal was planned around all the wild-picked, garden-grown, and homemade food we've collected for the past year specifically for Thanksgiving. Back in October I pre-ordered a heritage variety turkey. It was quite expensive but turned out to be totally worth it--the flavor was wonderful. The fact that it was a "heritage variety" means that it was not one of those standard-issue, commercial, all-white-breast meat, so-top-heavy-they-can't-walk turkeys. You could totally tell, too--I ate one of the drumsticks and was surprised to find tons of tendons in the meat. I was pulling them out as I cut the meat off the bone and asked my dad why there were so many. He laughed and said that most turkeys are so crammed together that they don't have a chance to walk and develop such things as leg tendons (that's sad and gross). Besides which, since commercial white turkeys are bred for maximum breast meat they can't usually walk because they'll just fall over (that's sad, gross, and sickening).

We defrost our turkeys in a pot of cold water, changing it often to prevent ickiness and illness from ensuing. Typically it takes a day of in-the-fridge defrosting per 5 pounds. Water defrosting takes much, much less time. Once it begins to thaw we open up the cavity, pull the paper sack of liver and gizzards, and fill the cavity with water. Once it is pretty well thawed we drain the meat and fill the pot with fresh water and a bunch of salt (I don't measure it but it is probably about a cup per 2.5 gallons of water). The turkey "brines" in this solution until we're ready roast it. (If it is going to be a while, we sanitize the outside of the pot and put it in the fridge.) To cook the turkey we dry it with paper towels, drizzle it with olive oil or melted butter, and then sprinkle it with salt and poultry seasonings (thyme, marjoram, savory, etc.). Then we tress it and pop it into a preheated roaster oven. No need to baste at all since these roaster ovens work by roasting and steaming the food. The meat is always super moist and perfect. These ovens are cheap and cook a bird much faster than a normal oven because of the steam action. (I like them so much that I have two!)

I didn't get a picture of the turkey before Dave carved it so this looks unimpressive--but I promise the roaster oven yields a picture perfect turkey every time.
The roaster pan collected almost 3 cups of drippings (with very little fat) which we promptly turned into gravey with wild mushrooms simmered in white wine. If my waistline would allow it, I'd have eaten only gravey for dinner.

To accompany our delicious protein we had stuffing (or is it called "dresssing" since I didn't actually stuff the bird?) made with my daddy's homemade bread, browned breakfast sausage we made in May, dried wild mushrooms we picked up in Gualala last fall, and parsely from our winter garden. It was super good, but a bit clove-y since we used our "antiseptic sausage."
We simmered a huge pot of greens (kale and other random types) with chopped bits of ham. We were going to use frozen greens from last year's winter garden but decided to use fresh greens I received in my produce box from Farm Fresh To You (I get the local-only Capay box twice a month). I could have eaten that whole pot of greens, they were so good! Another yummy dish that is a must at our house is baked mashed sweet potatoes with raisins and chopped pecans.
No Thanksgiving is complete without cranberry relish (the recipe is on the back of the cranberry bag--so good!) and Dave's requisite can of cranberry jelly.
While we dinned my giant Gualala-picked apple pie baked, which made the house smell incredible. Unfortunately, the pie wasn't my best work. The apples were old and a little mushy. I prefer crisp and tart (but not incredibly sour) apples cut into 1/8ths so the pie has a little tang to it and some texture. This pie was a family affair: my dad peeled and cut the apples for me while Dave rolled the dough (I was busy brining the turkey and disinfecting the sink). My dad cut up like 10 or 12 cups of apples. He was concerned that we had too many apples for a single pie. Ha! I loaded all the apples and cinnamony goodness into the pie with no problem (he underestimated my pie dough strechability. =)
Of all the things in life to be thankful for, I'm most thankful that my mom could be home with us for the holiday (and that she had enough of an appetite to enjoy the meal).

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