Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful For You, and You, and You, and You, and..

There are a lot of people at my Thanksgiving. We only gather with my Dad's side of the family - but he has 10 brothers and sisters and among them all I've racked up something like 30 cousins. It is not usual for our dinner to count to reach 60. And the amount of food we serve could feed twice that - and does with a follow up party the following day. My family is slightly crazy and completely unabashed and there are plenty of hilarious stories that provide conversation fodder for years to come - but that's a different blog.

The best part about all those people and all that food is all the options and innovations it allows for. For starters, there are four turkeys (technically, only three are served Thursday and one debuts on Friday). Here's the rundown:

1. Smoked: People love this Turkey. But even if they didn't, my Dad would make it anyway just for the sense of manliness that comes from smoking an entire turkey all day. All dinner he can't stop talking about the subtle flavors different woods impart - hickory this year. The favor is (predictably) smokey and the meat moist from hours of brinning pre-smoke. That's him with his masterpiece to the right.
2. Fried: My aunt and uncle fry an entire turkey and, like most fried food, it is sinfully good - crunchy skin, tender meat and surprisingly rich in flavor.
3. Charcoal Grill: This is today's turkey so so stayed tuned for an update on the the newest method.
4. Turducken: That's right, we had a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with stuffing courtesy of my culinarily ambitious aunt. When cut open it was a bit of a showstopper and people raved. One slice was almost enough for a full meal but on a holiday as decadent as Thanksgiving why not have meat with meat with more meat... plus everything else. The stuffing in the Turducken was bread and wild rice based with no meat - just different enough for people to take notice.

Side Dishes:
1. 30 pounds of mash potatoes: enough said.
2. cornbread: Ok, so the cornbread fell short this year. My grandmother offered to takeover one of my usual obligations and whether through ailing eyesight or negligence ended up using something other than corn. But we forgave her because her other carb contribution lived up to to its usual heady expectation.
3. homemade sourdough and pretzels: My grandmother has been making the bread for her family since my Dad sliced it for sandwiches in grade school. Nowadays, all 30 grandchildren flock to her house for fresh baked bread from miles away. My brother, Sam, is particularly enamored.
4. Cranberry sauce: This one has subsets. My immediate family takes great pride in our cranberry sauce and we whipped up options before the big day and were greeted by two more variations. Our classic cranberry sauce has a port wine base and lots of orange peels to add flavor (after a few days the peels become candied and are my favorite part). For a twist this year, we also made an "exotic" variation that included cardamon and tons of vanilla. It was certainly exotic, but for foodies looking to add some spice to one of the most classic meals of the whole year, it was a worthwhile adventure. The other chefs in the family (those responsible for the fried turkey and turducken) supplied a simple cranberry sauce and retro cranberry jello-like mold full of pineapple and strawberries. I regret being turned off by the texture because from my unscientific polling, it won in the "seconds" round.
5. Empanadas: So maybe the pilgrims and Native Americans didn't share these Spanish treats!

To save you any more salivation, I'll save the desserts for the round two wrap up after tonight's dinner. Happy Eating All!

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