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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

thanksgiving food fun

as i usually do when we're hosting a gathering, i got up early to get things started.  the first thing i wanted to tackle was getting the turkey out of the brine and giving it a bacon weave.  we'd bought a ridiculous amount of this at costco:

i got the turkey out of the brine bucket and patted it dry, and got to work on the baconizing.  just like last year, i felt like i was violating the poor thing as i peeled the skin carefully from the meat to add a layer of salty porky goodness:

and as i got started on the weaving, i felt like a pro as i got through it in mere minutes.  isn't it pretty?

as the oven preheated, i chopped up the "aromatics" as directed by alton brown and tossed it all into the microwave to steep for five minutes.

i reached into the cavity to put a few slices of bacon inside and found that there wasn't much room in there.  i thought that was weird until my fingers touched something...odd, which i promptly pulled out.

gross, man.  the neck was stuffed in there and i hadn't realized it.  bah!  that shit looks like lorena bobbitt got to my turkey before i did.  heh.

with the cavity all clear, i poked a stick of butter (or two) in there, along with the bacon and the aromatics and some fresh herbs.

all ready for the roasting!

at this point, i got the call from my buddy lilcee, who'd offered to pick up a couple of pies for me when she went on a run to house of pies in silverlake.  i hopped in the car and met up with her at a best buy halfway between her house and mine, and we chatted for a few minutes and poked fun at the three tents of crazy people who were camping out for black friday.  i was grateful for the pies, since i didn't have a backup plan and thanksgiving dessert isn't the same without them.

with that taken care of, i turned to my next project - the place card cookies.  i was excited to finally have a reason to use my set of edible markers, which i'd had in the pantry for weeks.

i pulled up the page with the instructions on the iPad, set it on my easel next to the cookies, and got to work.  except that my brilliant idea of using the softer, more pliable royal icing totally backfired on me.  as i started drawing the lines and coloring in the drawings, the markers poked right through the hardened surface and i ended up having to dot the colors in.  poop.  i guess they turned out okay, though, considering.

the mayflower:

pumpkin pie:

a feather:

a really, really sad looking turkey.

you can tell this is a turkey leg, right?  the teen snickered and snorted when she saw it, and i realized that it resembled something else if you wanted to look at it that way.  oy.

it took the better part of an hour to finish, but i was quite pleased with the results.  i randomly chose designs for each person and carefully wrote their names on a dozen cookies.

duh, you knew i wasn't going to post the labeled cookies.  but you get it.

then it was time for the part i dread the most - peeling and chopping potatoes for mashing.

while i worked, MIL and the bean got to work on putting the flowers i'd bought into those frappuccino glass bottles that have turned out to be quite handy.  MIL would cut the stems and hand them to the bean, who actually did a great job of arranging the flowers very nicely into four different bottles.  we were both surprised at her handiwork, because she's usually all about separating things by color rather than mixing them up.  then they worked together to set the table, and did a lovely job.

while the potatoes were cooking, i turned to the fresh cranberry sauce.  the teen has raved about some homemade sauce over at her dad's, and so i thought i'd give it a shot.

the timer went off for the turkey, and after sticking the thermometer into the breast and watching it go up to 162 degrees, we pulled it out and turned the oven off.  with no counter space left, we ended up putting it on top of the washer while we got everything else ready.

except for that when FIL got ready to carve and sliced into it, he found that it wasn't cooked all the way through.  crap.  brother wan took over then, covered it with foil and turned the oven up high in the hopes of getting it up to speed quickly.  it was nearly 2, which was when we'd planned to serve the meal.  yikes.

with everything else done, the girls and i sat around and took some pictures.

the bean hid in her ball pit and giggled so hard, the balls kept jiggling.  can you see her?

as the clock ticked away and the turkey still wasn't up to par, i decided to offer the teen a plateful of the sides and some ham.  i had to take her to meet up with her dad, and we only had about an hour left by that point.  poop.  but she seemed to enjoy what she ate, and plucked her place card to eat it before we had to go (she's gonna kill me for posting this).

i was bummed to have to take her before we all sat down together to eat, but there was nothing i could do.  boo.  i strapped the bean into her seat for the ride, since she hadn't taken a nap and the car always puts her to sleep.  and by the time we got back home, fighting a bit of traffic on the way, she'd already been asleep for nearly an hour.

with dinner finally ready, great-grandma took her place at the table and held her silverware up as FIL directed her to, and then laughed when she saw my camera pointed at her and realized what was going on.

while the turkey still wasn't thoroughly cooked, the parts that were already done were starting to dry out considerably.  crap.  so we opted to slice up what we could and hoped that the ham we also had and the sides would be enough to fill everyone's bellies.

with me sitting on the opposite end of the table, the hub hopped up to make me a plate.  i love him.

later, after we'd stuffed ourselves silly, it was time for something sweet.  i don't love pie, but everyone else seemed to enjoy the pumpkin and french apple ones we had on hand.

my lemon cupcakes, which i'd topped with some cream cheese frosting and a bit of lemon curd, were really delicious.  and see - a little plate!

with our first fire in the new house, a wonderful day with family, and oh, so much to be grateful for, we bid farewell to thanksgiving 2010.

on to the rest of the holidays!

Monday, November 29, 2010

prepping for turkey day

i spent my wednesday evening prepping for the big thanksgiving meal, which we were hosting for the hub's family.  with my folks out of town for the holiday, we were expecting a dozen people and MIL and i had done the dreaded grocery shopping the day before.  we'd managed to whip through trader joe's and costco and get it all done in an hour, which i thought was pretty darn good.

for the turkey, i'd decided to go the alton brown route and prepared the brine in our giant stock pot.

after it had come to a boil and i set it aside to let it come back down to room temperature, i mixed up a batch of sugar cookie dough for the edible place cards i wanted to make.  i'd seen this blog, with step-by-step instructions on how to draw cute little thanksgiving/fall pictures on marshmallows, and i figured i could pull it off despite my lack of artistic skill.  i took a short cut in chilling the dough by wrapping it in plastic wrap and tossing it in the freezer for 30 minutes - i lack patience, you know, and waiting for two hours for it to chill in the fridge wasn't gonna work for me.

in the meantime, i got started on a batch of lemon cupcakes.  i've been wanting to make some from scratch and found a pretty good looking recipe to use.

as i'd seen on other blogs, i decided to use paper soufflĂ© cups to use as baking cups.  they're just a bigger version of condiment cups, and when you go to eat the cupcake, you can spread the pleats open and it makes a little plate.

yeah, i'm a dork.

by the time i got those in the oven, the cookie dough had chilled sufficiently and i pulled out the rolling pin to cut it out into nice, big circles for my place cards.  have i mentioned how wonderful it is to have all of my old baking supplies again, after surviving for a year in that thimble of an apartment with zero storage space?  oh, how thankful i am to have a real kitchen again.

when i'd cut out all of the cookies, i peeked into the oven to see how the cupcakes were coming along.  and i found out the hard way that the instructions to fill the cups 3/4 full were off.  the batter had puffed up and oozed out over the sides, making a lovely freaking mess.  damn.  i swear, my cupcakes are always a failure in some way.

i'd have been better off going half full instead, like this one i'd scraped the bowl out to fill.

the cookies baked quickly, and i mixed up a batch of royal icing for them.  the plan was to frost the cookies and leave them to set overnight, and then do the decorating in the morning while the turkey roasted in the oven.  this recipe promised a lovely consistency that wouldn't dry rock-hard like traditional royal icing, which sounded good to me.

i laid the cookies out onto the dining table and outlined them with the frosting, then left them for about ten minutes to set a bit.

then, i thinned the remaining icing out with some water to "flood" the cookie, so that the whole top would be frosted nicely.  i drizzled the middles with the icing and then used a toothpick to spread it out and cover them completely.

see?  all done.

by then, my brine was all ready.  pouring it into my big ass bucket, i added the heavily iced water as directed.  it smelled really good, with the allspice berries and candied ginger and whole peppercorns.

like last year, we'd opted for fresh vs. frozen.  this bird was heavy - a little over 20 pounds.

i found the bag o'giblets easily and pulled it out.

the turkey fit nicely in the bucket, but the brine didn't cover it completely.  i decided to weigh the turkey down a bit with my big pyrex measuring cup and the teen helped me cover it up for its overnight stay in the brine bath.

by then, i was pooped.  with everyone else in bed already, i cleaned up and happily plopped into bed next to the snoozing hub.

phew.  the things we do to put together a lovely holiday meal.  and i wasn't done yet.

squeezing in all the sightseeing

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