19 November 2009

on the road... again

I have been singing the Willie Nelson song to myself all week, since I had barely three fulls days at home before traveling again. Fortunately, I'm in DC this week, which feels much more like home than the other places I've been traveling... though it has, amazingly, been almost six years since I moved away.

Given my short time at home, I didn't have time to fix Mark any sustaining food, or even to water the plants. (The outdoor ones of which, shockingly, are actually producing a fall crop of tomatoes that's fairly aggressive -- and they're doing so in almost complete neglect conditions; of course, the indoor ones are shriveling up and dying). The only thing I sort of accomplished was finally flipping through my Thanksgiving-themed magazines and pulling out the potential menu recipes, which, of course, I left back home in LA. Sigh.

(At this point in the blog, my 11th grade English teacher Mrs. Reynen would scold me for using so many interrupters! ... "...,shockingly,..." "..., amazingly,..." "..., of course,..." Apparently I revert to bad habits when I am out of my element.)

Despite my best efforts to delay finalizing the Thanksgiving menu, I've actually made pretty good progress, and things have sort of fallen into place on their own. Mark sent me a link for dry-brining a turkey, which was a follow-up to the article I read last year that made me want to dry salt instead of doing the full immersion brine. So we have our recipe. (Last year's immersion brine yielded a tasty bird, but it was just a tad rubbery.)

Last year's bird in the brine

Even better is this nugget from the piece:

My first major discovery came after several e-mails asking whether it could be done with frozen turkeys too, rather than adding three days of defrosting time onto the three days of dry-brining. It seemed like a good idea, so we tried it in the test kitchen and it worked perfectly.

So no longer do you have to buy your turkey a week in advance. Just rinse the frozen turkey in cool water (to start the defrosting process), pat it dry and salt it. Then proceed just as you would with a fresh turkey. By the time it's defrosted, it'll be seasoned and ready to go.

Since I don't really know whether our bird will be frozen, nearly-frozen or fresh when I pick it up on Monday, it's great to know that it doesn't matter too much for the actual salting.

So here is a complete status report on our Thanksgiving table, with links where appropriate:
  • Turkey: bird reserved, recipe selected (see link above)
  • Stuffing: repeating Gourmet recipe from last year
  • Turkey stock: made two weeks ago, stashed in the freezer
  • Gravy: exact recipe TBD, but basically just stock, drippings, roux, etc.
  • Mashed potatoes: Mark will make from the recipe in his head
  • Brussel sprouts: final recipe TBD
  • Other side dish: TBD
  • Cranberry sauce: from the can, unless Jenn tells me she wants the real stuff (frankly, I'd just as soon skip it)
  • Pumpkin pie: repeating Cooks Illustrated recipe, but maybe will do a real pastry
  • Whipped cream: recipe in my head
  • Wine: TBD, though we have a few good contenders already

So, basically, I've been a bit stressed over nothing. All the major components are planned, and it's too early to shop for most of it anyway. And I'm actually impressed that I got the stock done weeks in advance (same time as the great lasagne foray). So what this comes down to is a brussel sprouts recipe, when the truth is that I can make one up easily, and any other side dishes we may want but are not mandatory. The real task now is planning the shopping, and then the actual timing of the food prep. And to me that's the fun part. Yippee!

Now that that's done, I can just focus on going back home tomorrow night. I am SO ready to be home, and to have the long holiday weekend (with Jenn's visit -- yay!). As if I weren't homesick enough, Mammoth just sent out their weekly snow report... thanks for rubbing it in!

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