When did Thanksgiving surpass Christmas as my favorite holiday? I guess it happened sometime after the success of Food Network and before I stopped decorating a Christmas tree (too much work to take down. Bah humbug.) I suppose it says something, something rather disturbing if I do say so myself, about my “food issues.” I mean, how sad is it that I prefer a stuffed belly over a stuffed stocking hung by the chimney with care?
Even though I only have 2-3 people eating at my Thanksgiving table (which was outside on our lovely sunny deck this year, see picture at left), I’ve become obsessed with the harvest feast. I cook enough food to ensure plenty of leftovers for at least a week. For myself. (We don’t send my leftovers away in butter bowls, baby!) When other people are whining about not wanting to look at their Thanksgiving leftovers after a few days, I am nearly in tears when I polish off the last of my signature Triple Mushroom and Wild Rice Whole Grain Dressing a week after the big day.
Being a Weight Watcher at heart (despite the fact that I’ve only been watching my weight go up and up for the past year), I still “healthy up” my dishes in creative ways. My garlic mashed potatoes are half baby red-skinned potatoes (skins on) and half steamed cauliflower mashed with fat-free sour cream and green onions instead of standard butter and warm milk. My shredded Brussels sprouts with leeks are sautéed in a little EVOO (and a whole lot white wine).
Ah….and my bird! Normally, my diet is mainly vegetarian (with some eco-friendly seafood dishes thrown in) and I have created a few hearty vegetarian harvest feasts in year’s past (free of both fowl and tofu, thank you very much, because tofu is even more foul than undercooked fowl if you ask anyone in my mainly carnivorous family). But, for the past few years, I’ve made a special exception for the Thanksgiving feast.
Of course, being hyper aware of the whole nasty factory farm element of mainstream food production, my turkeys come from Whole Foods. I buy the fresh, free-range, organic, vegetarian-fed, heirloom turkeys. At the price I pay, my Thanksgiving turkey’s kids could go to college. And it is worth every penny. I swear. That said, when you spend that much on an animal destined for your oven, it becomes seriously important business to cook the naked little creature correctly.
So, this year I watched and obsessively re-watched Alton Brown’s Romancing the Bird episode of Good Eats at least 10 times. (BTW – YouTube is every amateur chef’s BFF and Alton Brown is a freaking genius.)
As far as I am capable of following someone else’s recipe (which I am pretty much incapable of doing most of the time), I followed Mr. Brown’s suggestions exactly. Well, okay, I cooked up my own special brine (a peppercorn mustard brine) because I just do not believe some of the crap he used in his brine has any place in my turkey…cinnamon and allspice? Ewww! Really? But I DID buy the fancy remote thermometer that can be set to sound the alarm when the meat hits a certain temperature (thus preventing the evil opening and closing of the oven door). We brined that fancy bird overnight, started out at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes, set off some fire alarms (perfectly normal and acceptable according to Alton), slapped a foil breastplate on the beast, and finished roasting it to perfection at 350 F within 3 hours.
Excuse me for saying so, but my bird kicked ass!
The pets in my household NEVER get to experience a roasting beast in their very own domicile. Zoey, my rescued calico kitty who thoroughly accepts and even enjoys her own fat jiggle belly, just about lost her bloody mind over the bird!! If I’d have had some pet tranquilizers in the house, I would have used them on her. As an act of kindness. Tessa, the rescued spaniel mix, just skittered around our feet doing the “me so happy” doggie dance (which is pretty dangerous for the amateur chef who cooks with wine…and sometimes adds a little to the food.)
But Kitty, oh my goodness!
Zoey developed an alarming case of Feline Rain Man Syndrome (heretofore known as FRMS). I could practically hear her little kitty brain sputtering a constant dialog of Oh, look, there’s a turkey. Time for turkey. I like turkey. Of course, there’s a turkey. Right there. There’s a big fat turkey. Where’s MY turkey? Maybe they won’t notice if I jump on that turkey. Of course, it’s time for turkey.…etc. Her obsession went on for, like, 2 hours straight! And her eyes never left the turkey platter. Even though she would try to pretend she wasn’t looking at it, she couldn’t take her eyes off that juicy mound of meat on the kitchen counter…then the table.
It was messed up. But hysterical. I may roast another, much smaller, bird before next Thanksgiving just for the sheer entertainment value of watching my cat lose her freaking mind. Here is a picture of her hovering over the side table looking for some stray bits of turkey (NOT that we were stupid enough to set any turkey that close to her treacherous little paws):
Now we are in December. I want to be excited. I do. But seriously, how can poor Santa compete with all that?
My guy wants to go to Florida for the Christmas weekend. Hm. Or maybe Charleston. Hm. No. Can’t get excited. I’m finding it very hard to muster any Holiday or Christmas spirit. Which is especially tragic because I’m one of those twinkle fairy adults who still believes in magic and Santa Claus.
I’m working on it. Any suggestions? I’ve scheduled a volunteer shift at the Ronald McDonald House. Watched at least 5 happy, magical holiday movies. Found some new latke recipes. Bought a couple of holiday books. (When in doubt, buy books right?)
Still…..nothing, not feeling it. Someone should send Marley and the three ghosts over to my house to get me straight.
How about you? Anyone else having trouble feeling festive? Or does anyone out there have any low-stress, low-cost, low-fat, high-happiness, getting-into-the-magical-holiday-spirit suggestions?
PS – Don’t worry. Neither Zoey Kitty not Tessa Doggie were deprived of their ultimate turkey dreams…as evidenced by post-turkey coma shots below: