Thursday, November 28, 2013

Adventures in Cooking

OK, so the Trophy Wife was busy sewing this year, and I got to make the whole Thanksgiving spread this year (it's not the first time, but we usually share the cooking these days - she's better at it than I am, so she's usually driving the bus, but I'm right there plugging away).

But this year, since I was in charge, I decided to go the traditional route. We tend to be pretty hard on tradition: ham is relatively normal, but we've had Thanksgiving pizza, and one year we decided that everybody does "pilgrim food," so we needed to have Indian food. So we had chicken Korma, cucumber raita, homemade naan, a whole spread - it was awesome.

But this year, I just decided that I was cooking, and damn it, I like turkey. So I went with the standard menu - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, sweet potato pie.

The green beans are an old Southern recipe, with versions on both sides of our family: boiled for hours, with a ham hock, salt, sugar and a little apple cider vinegar. By the time they're done, there's nothing remotely healthy about 'em. I had Aunt Drew in Texarkana, who used to put on a huge spread whenever anybody in the family came to visit; and the wife had any number of relatives who did the same. And they all used basically the same green bean recipe.

The stuffing was an interesting challenge, because I wanted to duplicate the Trophy Wife's cornbread stuffing, which is awesome. But when I asked what recipe she used, it turns out that she basically fakes it every year. So that was interesting.

But for the main course, I decided to see whether Alton Brown's turkey recipe was a winner - he starts it at a high heat, and then backs it down, to end up with both a crispy skin and a juicy bird. But that didn't work for me as well as I'd hoped.

We didn't use a standard brine, because, truth be told, I'm not entirely sold on the joys of brining. (Your mileage may vary.)

We started at 500 degrees for half an hour, and then lowered the heat to 350 for two and a half hours. But at the end of that time, we had a browned chicken which would have been way underdone in the middle (which isn't good in poultry). But keeping it going at too low a heat would have resulted in turkey jerky, so we cranked it to 425 for another hour, and it turned out amazing: moist, flavorful, and exactly what we wanted. But I'm not going to proclaim the joys of the three-stage cooking method - the usual low-and-slow method makes it just as good, without the random moments of panic that this one had.

(Please note: all temperatures are in Fahrenheit, because we're American and stupid.)

So, in the end, everything worked out, with only a tiny amount of tension. And a good time was had by all.

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