Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving: Prep Day One

Thanksgiving is a mere three days away.  The food preparation begins now.

The menu planning began four weeks ago, and the to-do list was sorted out two weeks ago.

And now, my mostly American (and one Russian) friends, execution is key.

I must admit, I sort of expected a lot of people to ask me what I'm doing for Thanksgiving.  But surprisingly, not many have.  Don't people want to talk about menus like I do?  Don't people want to know what a chef-in-waiting is going to prepare for, like, the biggest food feast of the year?

No?  Oh, the hubris.   I shall soldier on anyway.

My to-do for tonight included:

1. Make mashed potatoes and freeze.
2. Make cranberry chutney.
3. Make caramel sauce for vanilla bean bread pudding.

But first, the filling of four dozen pumpkin whoopie pies for my son's Boy Scout banquet tomorrow night took precedence, and that set me back 45 minutes.  By my account, Item #1 was the most expendable...so making mashed potatoes was moved to tomorrow night.

1. Make mashed potatoes and freeze.
2. Make cranberry chutney.
3. Make caramel sauce for vanilla bean bread pudding.

Chutnies and compotes are probably one of the easiest things to make, and not to mention one of the tastiest.  And this year, instead of the typical cranberry-sauce-in-a-can, I opted for a cranberry chutney to top the turkey.  Chutney is a condiment of Indian origin, and it can be fruit or vegetable-based, and usually has a little spicy-ish kick to it.  Now, because my in-laws are coming this year, I left the spice out.

Sauteed shallots and minced garlic, whole cranberries, brown sugar, diced dried apricots, apple cider vinegar, water, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper...all of it simmered down in a thick, chunky mash.  The tart integrity of the cranberry is still intact, but tempered with a savoriness that comes from the shallot and garlic.

1. Make mashed potatoes and freeze.
2. Make cranberry chutney.
3. Make caramel sauce for vanilla bean bread pudding.

The caramel sauce instructions that came with the bread pudding (November edition of Food + Wine, btw) were terrible.  Caramel can be a tricky thing...if you don't keep an eye on it, or have your heat too high, it will burn.  So, my original instructions make these mistakes:

- Cook sugar-water until it turns an amber-caramel color, about 5 minutes (Uh...at what temp?  If I have it at medium-high heat, it takes WAY longer than five minutes.  So, I'll turn it up, and boil it...WHOA!  That browning happened fast!)

- Add room temperature cream to hot caramel (Uh.  NO.  Caramel seizes immediately and it becomes impossible to incorporate the two).

Like I should have done before, I refer to my Baking textbook.  Sure enough, the instructions there say I should heat the cream and incorporate a little of it into the hot caramel.  And it worked, boy howdy, I was able to whisk the heck out of it.

The caramel sauce and the cranberry chutney
I think my caramel sauce is a little too light, however, I was VERY nervous about my sugar being too brown.  If I have the time, I may try it again for kicks.

Oh, and, this caramel sauce has about 1/3 cup of Black Velvet Toasted Caramel-flavored whiskey added to it.  So, it's, you know, really caramelly.

My mom is making me add raisins to the bread pudding...and I think I'll soak the raisins in the whiskey before I assemble the dessert.  Ha.  That'll show her.

1. Make mashed potatoes and freeze.
2. Make cranberry chutney.
3. Make caramel sauce for vanilla bean bread pudding.

And as Meatloaf once said, two out of three ain't bad.  Tomorrow night, my mom is coming over to help with Day Two of food prep, and I'm sure we will get a lot done.  If we don't open any wine, that is.

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