Saturday, November 29, 2008

Great Turkey Day

Another Thanksgiving here and gone. I suspect that the national power grid is returning to normal. I was thinking that given that my own oven was on for nearly two days straight - - how does that compute for the whole of the US with millions of ovens? Does this particular day add to global warming - - 325 degrees of cooking for an entire day? That's some heat.

This year we decided to get our turkey from a nice little local butcher. They had several choices for birds - sort of like a gourmet turkey menu. They had weird names like Willie Birds and Branigans. There were a couple of other types all boasting some special feature such as having superior dark meat, those that were fed only the finest in corn kernels by hand or turkeys that spent their entire lifetime on a turkey farm that treated them far better than any other turkeys. Given all this information, it took some few minutes before we could decide on the "type" of turkey that we wanted. I was hoping for the dress-itself-cook-itself variety, but I was informed that this type of humor was not appreciated in a butcher shop that prides itself on wondrous fowl for eating. We selected the Branigan. Don't ask me why. I think we just liked the name. Sort of an Irish Turkey theme.

Again this year, we went for the brining cooking method. For all of you that brine you know the drill. Boil lots of water, add lots of salt and several other things found in nature. The first year we did this, the recipe actually called for a wild pine branch. We were living in Japan at the time. Not a whole lot of giant conifers around. We skipped the branch. This year, we went the prepared route and got our brine mixture at Williams-Sonoma. I had Georgie helping me when we added the turkey and brine in to the exceptionally large plastic zip-lock baggie. There we were wrestling o'turkey in to the giant bag while adding 6 million quarts of water when - - we both let go of the bag at the same time. I have heard of salt rubs at fancy spas. I have never heard of a salt shower replete with tiny little hunks of citrus and thyme springs. It was not pretty. Luckily, we were doing this in the basement. I have a sisal rug covering the cement floor. Now, it will forever smell like salt water and citrus. While I did not find this particularly amusing, Georgie sure got a good laugh. He was on the dry side of the brine bag. I have pickled feet.

In the end, we had great food, great company and a to-die-for-pumpkin pie. Not your average Libby's for us. Got the recipe from "The Pie Bible" (I kid you not) and while it did require a 17 step crust, much simmering of raw brown sugar and a crushing of 5 ginger snaps - - it was really really worth it. (Quick aside - why is it that when you need only 5 ginger snaps the only box of snaps that can be bought is the one that serves an entire senior citizens center???) The boys also got to have their first taste of cool-whip. They had never had this before and were curious. So, we did a little taste test - cool-whip versus real whipped cream. Real whipped cream won the taste test - - but then again, I cheated. I knew that the cool whip would be sweeter than plain whipped cream (my all time favorite) - - but I didn't want the kids thinking that the crap in the plastic tub was actually better. So, I slipped in a couple of teaspoons of sugar during the beating when they weren't looking. I think that the added fun of watching cream get whipped further tilted the scales. I don't regret the cheating.

After dinner was finished, the dishes washed and the last of the wine drank, the boys challenged George and I to a vicious game of Monopoly. Henry summarily brought us all to our economic knees in a little over 90 minutes. I have never seen a game of Monopoly come to it's fatal end. The typical end of the game, in my experience, is when people have played for too long and just succumb to boredom. Not this game.

George the Elder went down first. A bitter, bitter pill to swallow. His 10 year old had just out maneuvered him in a game that has to do with real estate and cash. Henry tried not to be too much of a braggart, but when your Dad has had to mortgage both Park Place and Boardwalk and then hand over the cards to you (along with his remaining $16 in monopoly money) - - well, a little hubris is deserved. Within short order Henry had hotels on nearly every corner and so follows the most basic Monopoly rule of all. "He who has hotels -- wins!!" Georgie and I went down lickety-split. The funniest thing was that right before Georgie gave it up - - Henry had just been sent to jail. So there he sat in the slammer while Georgie and I ended up giving him everything we owned. A true real estate baron.

And, for those of you who have ever spent a Thanksgiving with me and know that I have an uneasy relationship with knives - - I would like to report that for the first time in as long as I can remember, I made it through the entire day without cutting myself at all! And with so many things to be thankful for, that was just whipped cream on the pumpkin pie!

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