Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving (No Knitting Content)

What I cooked: same old stuff as the past 20 years or so, but this is why we like Thanksgiving. Turkey (duh), cornbread and sausage stuffing, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, collard greens. Gravy. Cranberry Sauce (and it's got to be the smooth kind, from the can). For some reason, this year I feel compelled to blog it all.

How I cook it: the turkey is adapted from an old Jane Brody cookbook that has since disintegrated. Basically, I take a 12-15 lb. bird. Take out the neck and the gizzards (yes, of course I've forgotten once or twice), put in a pot with a chopped onion, a stalk of celery, some seasoning, cover with a jumbo can of chicken broth. This will become gravy. Let the bird sit at room temperature for an hour or so. Sprinkle it with Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning. Make a paste of olive oil, broth, garlic and paprika. Smear it on the bird. For good measure, I also make a paste of 1/2 stick softened butter mashed with some thyme and sage, and smear that on, too. Tent the bird with foil, put it in a 325 degree oven for about 3 and a half hours. Pour some more butter over after the first hour, and every half hour after that. Remove the foil for the last hour or so.

I usually stuff: make a pan of cornbread the night before (3/4 cup cornmeal, 1-1/4 cup flour, 5 t baking powder, 1 t salt, 2 T sugar [4 T if I'm making it to eat]. 1 cup milk, 1 egg, 2 T melted butter. Mix lightly). Let the cornbread sit overnight to dry out. In the morning, fry up a pound of sausage (preferably bulk, but squeezed out hot Italian links will do). Add a good sized onion chopped, two stalks celery chopped. Bell's Seasoning when I can find it, if not chopped fresh or dried thyme and sage. More Tony Chachere. Add to cubed cornbread, let it sit until the Today Show is over and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade starts. Shove a handful or so in the turkey and put the rest in a casserole. An hour or so before dinner, dot with butter, moisten with broth, and stick it in the oven.

During the last hour of the bird, make some greens: a few bunches of collards, washed. Ideally, get them from Smile Deli on 181st Street and Fort Washington Avenue, which pre-washes all its vegetables with great care. Chop a couple of strips of bacon and brown them in a pot. Chop and add the greens (to chop greens roll them into cigar-like strips and slice horizontally). Sprinkle with...more Tony Chachere. Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Cover with about a cup of water, and cook the hell out of least an hour, more doesn't hurt.

When the bird comes out, make macaroni and cheese. Make a light roux out of 2 T butter, 2 T flour. Heat and add about 2 cups of milk. Add about 1/2 pound of cheddar-esque cheese (the best cheese is NYC welfare cheese--the block kind they give you if you're on public assistance--but if you make too much money to qualify any cheese is OK). Sprinkle the faux bechamel with...Tony Chachere (really, I have no affiliation). Turn into a buttered casserole, bake at 375 degrees for 40 mins. or so.

The most variable item on my menu is the sweet potato casserole. This year I used a recipe from Cook's Illustrated involving pre-baked sweets mixed with cream and egg yolks and topped with a streusel. Pretty good, but I'm not sure if it rates a permanent spot on the menu. Time and whether I can find the magazine next year will tell.

Dessert: somebody else's problem.

Onward to the Law and Order marathon.

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