So, with a whole eight weeks of culinary school under my belt, I felt totally qualified to volunteer to host the in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. However, shortly after I committed us to the job, I was working on my mise en place. The menu (or at least what I was providing) was completed within a couple of weeks, and I used the remaining time to "test" out the recipes on my family (they were willing participants).
The turkey, the centerpiece, the piece de resistance...how was I going to do it? Enter NPR (National Public Radio). I happened to be driving to or from school when I heard Alton Brown being interviewed about dos and don'ts of Turkey Preparation (don't - stuff your turkey or baste it). He mentioned brining as a method of preparation, and right there is when I knew I wanted to try THAT for my turkey. Then, he talked about 'spatchcocking', and that sounded less appealing (the concept, that is...the word itself is actually very appealing to say).
After that initial exposure, I began to see brining all over the place...in my daily recipe inbox, on the Google, etc. I'd planned to go with a straight up sea salt and water brine when I found this at a organic food grocery some days ago.
|Courtesy of Urban Accents and Gateway Market, Des Moines, IA|
Read instructions on container label. Execute said instructions. Done. This here is how Mr. Turkey looked this morning at 8 am. I took the liberty of covering him up with a little olive oil and poultry rub before bunging him in the oven. The only thing I regret here is that I did not get a picture of the bird after it came out...because I was so awed by its perfect appearance. It truly looked like a bird you'd see on the cover of Family Circle or similar. And my in-laws crowed with compliments about its juiciness.
|We're sorry we had to eat you, Mr. Turkey, but we're kinda not. You were delicious.|
I'd tried this recipe out on my family a couple weeks before the Big Day. Earning rave reviews, I decided to do this Green Bean Casserole Stuffed Mushroom recipe because a.) the family liked it; b.) I love mushrooms; c.) it's a departure from the typical cream of mushroom soup laden dish common to Thanksgiving tables everywhere.
Here's the cauliflower au gratin. Gotta represent the white vegetable. I used yellow cauliflower the first time I tested this recipe, and it was amazing! And of course, in my intent to duplicate the dish for the Big Day, I couldn't find the yellow. White only. However, I would love to try making this again, maybe with some of that frozen cauliflower-broccoli mix? Honestly, I'd do this dish in lieu of mashed potatoes...but, my in-laws are old-school people, so potatoes were on the menu!
And this guy here is the stuffing. My mother-in-law was quite nervous, because, let's face it, this is not your traditional sage and bread stuffing. This here's a sausage and cabbage combo, courtesy of the folks at Taste of Home. It scored high marks with the family, but I knew there was room for improvement. More bread cubes, for example. When I prepared this dish in advance yesterday, I made my own tweaks, like: I used half white cabbage, half red cabbage (although my father-in-law said he liked the red cabbage, I didn't like how the color faded and bled out). I threw in some oysters and a Maiitake mushroom for fun. And definitely, this stuffing recipe is a keeper. However, the next time I make it, I'll use way less sausage.
Items I don't have personal pictures of and it's too bad because they were cool:
My cranberry upside down cake and the endive-goat cheese-fig bites. To my in-laws' credit, most of them tried the bites (even though they'd never had any of the ingredients before). The cake competed with an apple and cherry pie in the dessert category...thus, suffice it to say we have plenty of that left. :)
So that you have visual, I thank Williams-Sonoma and Chow.com for their photos of these dishes.
I admit, I now feel a little lost now that I don't have a major menu to plan and prepare for. How long till Christmas?