Friday, November 23, 2012

Lots of Food and Company to be Thankful for


I’ve discovered that there are many more international readers of my blog than I had expected, and there were visits to this site—just this week alone—by readers from Australia, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Canada, Brazil, and the United Kingdom in addition to the preponderance of readers in the United States.  So, perhaps not everyone perusing this page would know that yesterday was Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States.  (But, yes, that is the reason why this post is updating a little later than usual on a Friday.)

In the exhausted aftermath of the whirlwind of activities, here are some thoughts I have about the preparation for (and serving of) our Thanksgiving meal yesterday.

1.  Make sure that the pre-dinner appetizers are relatively light—and elegant!


We all know that there is a lot of eating to be done between Thanksgiving and New Year.  Snacks before dinner are de rigueur—while we wait for everyone to get to dinner and for the last-minute preparations to conclude—but we also don’t need to be consuming too much.  What we really don’t need are huge bowls of chips and dips which will spoil our appetites for dinner while adding nothing to our culinary experience. 

For carbs, I set out a pint glass of garlic breadsticks and a small plate of olive oil and sea salt water crackers.  Otherwise, snacks consisted of Pepperdew peppers (small, round, sweet, with a slight kick) stuffed with a mild creamy Chevre goat cheese; a tiny mound of baba ganoush with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and drizzle of olive oil; and Castelvetrano olives and feta cheese marinated with Piquillo pepper strips, garlic, herbs and olive oil.

2.  Use an immersion hand-blender for creamy soups.


We love our Vitamix and use it to make smoothies, almond milk, and slushy drinks.  But I never listen to recipe directions to cool down your hot soup and then use a blender to puree a creamy soup and then reheat the soup.  If the soup is going to be served cold anyway I might use the blender, but hot soups stay hot in our kitchen by being pureed with a hand-blender.

Our Thanksgiving dinner’s first course was a Curried Cream of Cauliflower Soup garnished with—at the table—the guest’s choice of crystallized ginger or chopped chives (pictured at the top of this post).  Those who tried both said that the chives were more visually striking but that the ginger added a much more distinctive taste.  The ginger adds a healthy dose of a little heat and bite to the soup and picks up the curry flavor well.

3.  Check on the dry brine of your bird.

We roast chickens often and rely on them as a staple in our kitchen.  Although we don’t actually use a recipe anymore, we started by using one which directed us to dry-brine the chicken for many hours with a prodigious amount of salt mixed with ground black pepper and chopped thyme.  We rarely use the full amount of salt anyway (since they suggest a staggering 3 tablespoons of salt per a 3½ pound bird), and didn’t do so again this time.  Yet I noticed something slightly odd this time around when the salt didn’t seem to be dissolving as per usual while sitting in the refrigerator. 


Normally, much of the salt dissipates into the skin and the flesh—thus producing a lovely tender roast bird—but the salt didn’t seem to dissolve this time.  I wished that I had followed my instinct and brushed off the excess salt before (during, or even after!) cooking.  While the birds were extremely tender as usual, the skin was also extraordinarily salty.  All our guests, being polite, declared the chicken wonderful and flavorful, but I suspect we all thought that the chickens were too salty. 

Afterwards, Will and I wondered whether the fact that the chickens we got were Kosher might have something to do with this salt issue.  Are Kosher chickens packed in salt and therefore already have a higher salt content?  We were both convinced that we had used Kosher chickens before for our roast chickens, but perhaps we were preparing them a different way.  In fact, if anyone knows the answer to our question, please send an email or a comment.

4. “Choice” is plenty good enough for a tenderloin roast.

Will and I have decided not to consume too much red meat, but when a special occasion calls for beef we like to purchase “Prime” meat when possible.  Our experience taught us that “Prime” steaks are so much better and more subtly marbled—and thus flavorful and tender.  This Thanksgiving, we could not find a “Prime” roast at our usual meat source, so we settled for “Choice.”  Since we were planning on bacon-wrapping the roast and then char-grilling it, perhaps “Choice,” especially in a cut like a tenderloin, would suffice.  We hoped.


The tenderloin was a huge hit.  Not only was it grilled perfectly—outside, on the patio, in late November, by Will—but the meat itself was so tender, even in the more well-done end parts.  Really, it cut like butter.  (In fact, see how great it looks the next day, cut for leftovers in the picture above.)  We offered salt and pepper, but no one took any.  The bit of salt and smoke from bacon-wrap and the chargrilling gave the perfect amount of flavor—and reminded many of us why we might not want to become vegetarian any time too soon…

5.  Offer plenty of veggie side dishes to atone for the meat-fest.

To complete the rest of the menu, we had:


*Roasted root vegetable salad with Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts, and balsamic glaze
*Shredded caramelized Brussels sprouts with toasted pecans
*Buttermilk chive mashed potatoes


*Caramelized corn with shallots and thyme
*Romaine and persimmon salad with a light sesame citrus vinaigrette
*Buttermilk rosette rolls (Will’s specialty at Thanksgiving)
*Pecan and Apple pies (courtesy of our friend Debra)

Another Thanksgiving is done with, and we have plenty of leftovers to ensure that we won’t have to cook again until the end of my term.  Yet another reason to be thankful!



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