Wow, here it is finally; the Thanksgiving post! I am giving thanks to have written and lived through it as it as pretty full on but also lots of fun! Thanks to all the Sniffers who participated in the voting on Facebook, that was awesome!
Many, many people asked me, whilst putting this together, what my Dad and I had done for Thanksgiving, as he was American. The answer is, simply nothing, I don’t remember a time ever celebrating it and I think I know why. As a child born into the extreme poverty and wayward existence of circus life in the 1930′s my father came to know such celebrations as Thanksgiving and Christmas with more dread than excitement. The family rarely had much to eat as any spare money was spent on laudanum and other opiates to keep my grandparents on an even keel. Plus, as it was coming into Winter, this meant cold weather brought much illness to their communal tribe of misfits. Dad always had quite a melancholic air about him around this time and onward to Christmas, which was also around the time both his beloved mother and grandmother had passed away.
So, I think the main reason I wanted to do Thanksgiving was to pay homage to my heritage and get a good group of friends together in order to celebrate life and each other. Coincidentally, the following Monday we received the news that we have to move, so it was fitting that this was the final celebration in this wonderful house that e have enjoyed entertaining in so much.
First things first, this feast was three weeks in the planning and three days in preparation and I STILL thought I should have started earlier! I was in a little bit of a state on the night but it all went very well. The main game was finding a GREAT turkey recipe. Having never cooked it before, I wanted something spectacular and out of the ordinary. This was no mean feat as most recipe sites err on the traditional side or are SO out there, you wouldn’t contemplate cooking it. So I headed over to my favourite site for Southern inspired food www.southernliving.com and had a browse, this is where I cam across Emeril Lagasse’s “Funky Bird”
If you are a reader of this blog, you will know Emeril as I’ve used his recipes before. A New Orleans legend, he cooks sublime food and writes amazing recipes. Some simple, some complex but ALL are tasty. Needless to say, I did not pick a simple recipe, with over 50 separate ingredients and three cooking stages, this turkey was a loooong ass time in the makin’!
STAGE 1: BRINING
Brining is like marinating but on a massive scale. Basically you make a liquid out of water, salt and spices and then submerge whatever meat you have in a non-reactive vessel (like a plastic bucket) for 24-48 hours, pat it dry and then cook it. The theory is that the salt cures the meat and tenderizes it and the spices infuse flavour as well. Many people don’t believe in brining and prefer just to roast but many of my chef friend swear by it, especially if you have a tough or not so great quality cut, brining will make it better.
This brine was amazing, it smelled great and had lots of complimentary flavours like coriander, lemon juice, whole oranges and Mexican oregano (sweeter than regular, very lovely) plus onions and a bit of garlic. I ended up putting in BBE’s Esky as this would keep the turkey cold. I only brined for 24 hours as I did not want to risk Salmonella at my party!
STAGE 2: EMERIL’S ESSENCE
I took the turkey out Thanksgiving morning and rubbed it in what Emeril calls “Essence”, essentially a dry rub of many spices: more Mexican oregano, yellow mustard powder, onion powder, chilli and salt plus waaaay more. So many people commented on the lovely flavour and crispiness of the skin, I will do this again but with chicken I think.
The turkey I bought also had a fancy blue thingy that pops up when it is cooked, which I was quite relieved about, I can tell you!
STAGE 3: Chocolate Mole Sauce
Wow, if there was ONE thing I wish I had done earlier it was this. I just did not cook it long enough. It was delicious but I could also taste the potential of this wonderful, Mexican inspired sauce which has a rich blend of Poblano chillis, semi-sweet chocolate, pumpkin seeds, almonds and coriander. It was a huge hit but next time I am letting it bubble away for a few hours
For starters or ‘appetisers’ as the Yanks call them, my lovely Sniffers chose the following: Proscuitto Cups with Pear and Blue Cheese, Crab Cakes with Chipotle Remoulade and Bacon and Grits Fritters. YUM!
These were the things I wish I had started the day before rather than on the day. The main reason being, the crab cakes and the bacon and grits needed time in the fridge to set and I had issues cooking them. It all tasted great but the fritters kinda fell apart and didn’t look the best
The prosciutto cups were dead easy and a BIG hit I would do these again for sure.
Another question I was asked a lot was “WTF are grits???” I only remembered them from a long lost 70′s TV show where an actress used to cry out “Kiss my grits!” as a euphemism for her butt….hmm, I am OLD!
Grits are essentially ground maize that has been processed to become a porridge-like dish eaten at breakfast. Mostly it is a savoury dish but you could have sweet grits, I suppose? The great thing about them is they don’t really have a flavour of their own, so you can add anything to them. I made the grits fritters and also a side dish of Shrimp and Grits Dressing, in the South ‘dressing’ means a type of stuffing but not one you put IN a turkey, you cook it separate, which is a bit odd.
I also made a fabulous Creamy Tarragon Dressing for some steamed beans which was very well received and pumpkin that I roasted with sage and crumbled Amaretti biscuits crumbled over. I can’t stand pumpkin unless it has something sweet on it like Maple syrup or biscuit crumbs LOL!
It would not be Thanksgiving without good ol’ Mac ‘n’ Cheese, so I found a great recipe of Jamie Oliver’s that worked really well.
The ‘piece de resistance’ was the pecan pie I baked using a recipe from my Dad’s book; ‘Hushpuppies and Possum Pie’, a collection of stories and recipes from his childhood and beyond. The recipe is actually my great grandmother’s which is kind of wonderful. I had never made a pie before and it wasn’t without its issues…..
Goddamn PIE CRUST! It s the Devil’s work, I tell you…..I made 2 of them, one with a crappy Jiffy box mix I got from USA Foods and then another from my Dad’s book that is supposedly ‘fail safe’. Hmmm, darling Daddy, I am here to tell you it was not!
However, I had some Graham Crackers and made a pretty foolproof crust, like a cheese cake one, that worked a TREAT! I think the Pecan Pie was the biggest hit of the night and it felt fantastic that I was cooking a recipe that had been handed down from generations past. Adding in a little Maker’s Mark bourbon really worked wonders and I served it with some vanilla bean gelato from good old Cow & Moon which cut through the richness (because it basically just sugar, eggs and butter!).
As I said, it was a gorgeous night with some of my nearest and dearest, we ate, drank and were merry. But the nicest part was when we all stopped eating and said one thing we were thankful for that year, some were funny, others touching but all were heartfelt and it really made me happy to be alive.
Here are some more pics of the night and the links to some of the recipes below them as well, enjoy, Sniffers!