Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011, version 2.0 (Roasted, braised turkey)

Thanksgiving this year was a quiet affair. Having used up most of my vacation time for our wedding and honeymoon, I volunteered to work a half day at the paper, then we went to a good friend's house for a potluck.

The potluck was wonderful -- my first Thanksgiving with egg rolls. I think I may never go back!

But, that left us in the curious position of not having any Thanksgiving leftovers, except for a few slices of pie.

So, Friday night, we hit up Cub Foods and bought the smallest non-frozen turkey we could find (12 pounds) and a few other provisions for Thanksgiving 2.0.

I spent most of Saturday cooking our very first married Thanksgiving. Jake also points out that Michigan, his favorite college football team had a miraculous win on our wedding day, then had another big win on the day of our first married Thanksgiving. This appears to reaffirm that our marriage was, indeed, the right choice.

Having never actually roasted a turkey before, I did some internet research. I decided to follow Michael Ruhlman's Roast/Braise method, as the idea of keeping the turkey really moist seemed to be the biggest challenge.  Basically, you stuff the turkey with all the good stuff: onions, herbs, citrus, then fill your pan with stock making goodies: more herbs, more onion, some carrots, celery (I used fennel, it was grand), a little tomato paste, a little alcohol (I used half a bottle of Riesling, but beer, whiskey, probably anything would do), then add water until the dark meat is resting in it.

When the white meat is cooked to 160 at the fattest part, you remove the turkey (this is harder than it sounds...), slice off the dark meat, and put the dark meat back into the braising liquid for a bit, while you cover the white meat to keep it juicy, tender and awesome.

So, aside from probably using too much tomato paste (so the broth was redder than I would have liked), I think it turned out really well.

In Carey family tradition, I removed and devoured the turkey neck.

Here's the turkey after the initial "roast" stage. This was the maiden voyage for the roasting pan we received from our wedding, as well as the baster (which was metal, so hard to see how much liquid you've pulled into it) and the meat thermometer. What Ruhlman's recipe doesn't mention is that one half of the turkey may cook faster than the other, so on one of your basting times, pull the turkey out, get the temp on each breast, and rotate accordingly. He also fails to account for the 12 lb turkey and 2/3 a roasting pan full of liquid being REALLY FREAKING HEAVY. Use adult supervision accordingly for the lifting, turning, whatever.When the cooler breast has reached 160, that's when I declared it done.

So, while the turkey was roasting, then the dark meat braising (seriously, the meat on this thing was so tender, and stayed so moist even through the week of leftovers), I got to work on the other aspects: mashed red potatoes with roasted shallots, Wendy's pecan sweet potatoes, and stuffing.

Although I have grown to appreciate real, gourmet stuffing, I still love the Pepperidge Farm stuff my mom used to make from the bag. We made two bags (yes, for two people... deal with it). This year I branched out a little and crumbled in a little cooked "all natural" sausage (about 1 1/2 packages for the two bags), but truly, that's as fancy as I'll get.

Here's the finished plate: Clockwise from top left: mashed red, turkey, stuffing, mashed sweet with pecans, and bread (which I picked up from Diamond City Bread in Elk River, after reading a colleague's profile of the place)

At some point, I also decided on a whim to use up the rest of my buttery pie dough and make another pie. I had already brought two pecan pies to the potluck (one with a homemade crust, one with a store-bought crust, which happened during my frustrating with my sticky homemade crust), and two chocolate pudding pies (again, tribute to my mother. They're simple, but she made them, and I love them). This was my fifth and final Thanksgiving 2011 pie: and yes, I'm still using that damn Pioneer Woman recipe from last year

So, all in all, I would call Thanksgiving 2.0 a success. You can see Jake smiling as he piles up his plate here. Happy husband, happy wife, happy Thanksgiving. :)

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