We love Thanksgiving! We spend weeks making lists and checking them off, arranging every little detail and shopping for the perfect ingredients. And even though the time period between laying out the serving platters, full of autumnal decadence and perfection to the huge pile of drippy dishes and laundry feels like it goes down in about 20 minutes it’s still a very satisfying experience to be thankful with loved ones. Waking up on Black Friday with a tryptophan and pumpkin spice hangover makes one realize how truly blessed we are in life.
This year Scarlet wanted to take a big role in cooking and she made all the lists during our long drives to Stanford each week. She made at least 20 lists that included doing things like making more lists and even timetables for when we could sleep. She’s a chip off the old block I’m proud to say! We had 25 guests coming in all. Family, friends and family of friends. It was sure to be fun!
Preparations started Sunday. We made the cranberry sauce, spiced nuts and cornbread for the stuffing.
Here I’m pouring the nuts onto the baking sheet while my ever helpful sous chef empties out the cabinets below. A typical scene while cooking.
Tuesday we converted our living room into a huge dining room with three separate tables. We purchased some enormous chop plates at an antique store years ago which we use every Thanksgiving. You can really pile everything on at once. Rarely a need to go back for seconds.
Wednesday we prepped everything else we could. Dry brine for the turkey which we would fry in our infrared cooker. This turkey is a special heritage bread from Five Marys Farms. We picked it up from the five Marys (and Brian) in person at their farm stand along with turkey feathers for our table decor and some yummy sidecars.
The girls made two pumpkin pies. The recipe we use calls for a ground up layer of gingersnaps and toasted pecans which adds some flavor and texture in addition to keeping the crust from getting soggy.
Scarlet and I made cornbread and sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (steamed for the best texture) and honey butter balls. She took extra precautions chopping onions.
And the final dish on our list was Carmelized Brussels sprouts with bacon and spiced pecans, a family favorite that I’ve adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. We got these beautiful stalks at Bianchini’s market in Portola Valley.
At long last (1:00pm) our guests arrived with a smorgasbord of appetizers, another turkey, a ham and more pies!
There was football.
Ranger and Segway rides.
And of course a guest appearance by Tinker and Bell.
We set out our ham, two kinds of turkey (5m fried in the center and apple cider roasted at the end), and all the fixings. We started frying our turkeys in 2002 and have never looked back. They are so juicy and flavorful this way and cook in just a couple of hours. We’ve used the peanut oil fryer and the infrared fryer and the results are very close. The infrared version doesn’t have the mess or danger of all that oil so it’s usually the one we use now. The only downside to fryer the turkey is there aren’t any drippings for gravy. I buy the gravy at Williams Sonoma, always delicious, never any lumps and so far nobody is the wiser.
After consuming about 10,000 calories of turkey, pie, champagne, wine and bourbon it was time to say good night to our guests. Most of them headed back to town in our Sprinter van with Craig, the designated driver (he must have drawn the short straw).
But the dishes still remained. A true sign of a good time right? Holy mother of turkey! This is the point where I realized that accidentally stabbing myself in the hand with the sharp end of a filet knife just as the guests were pulling up was actually a blessing in disguise. Guess who didn’t have to do any dishes?? ????+✋????=????????????????
At some point mid-day Friday the house was back in order and turkey stock was filling the air with comfort. We have gallons to freeze and use for cooking beans and soup.
SO we decided to decorate for Christmas and make up some fresh egg nog! Welcome to the holidays!! No rest for the grateful!
Links to the recipes we made for our Thanksgiving feast:
Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing (tried and true, have been making this for 14 years and it’s always a hit)
Spiced Nuts (we used about half the amount of cayenne pepper. From experience I can say using the full amount is way too hot, and I love spicy food!)
Pumpkin Pie (the best recipe due to the pecan and gingersnaps layer and lack of canned milk)
Mashed Potatoes (so tasty with added nutmeg)
Sweet Potatoes (steaming really makes a great texture. Not starchy at all. We left off the pecans and added marshmallows to some)
Carmelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Spiced Nuts (Coming soon)
Infrared Fried Turkey (we’ve fried our turkey almost every year. The result is always juicy and it cooks so much faster. This infrared fryer makes a delicious bird that’s tender on the outside and juicy on the inside. It’s as good as the peanut oil fryer with less mess).
Turkey carcass and reserved neck
4 carrots, peeled and halved
4 stalks celery
2 onions, peeled and quartered
4 bay leaves
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and add water to cover turkey. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 2-3 hours. Let cool to room temperature, strain and discard solids and cool. When the stock is cold the fat should rise to the top and solidify making it easy to scoop off. Store in 2-4 cup servings for future recipes.