Monday, 28 November 2011

Thanksgiving in Americatown

There may be quite a few things about my home country of which I'm not proud, but I find that many of these are offset by the 4th Thursday in November, more commonly called Thanksgiving. I'll not go into the fairly ignominious origins of the holiday and its 400 year old history, but rest assured that these days its focus is firmly on the 4 F's: Food, Family, Friends, and (American) Football. No other distractions such as religion or its ilk to get in the way. 

And as is the tradition, we always come back to my home country for the ultimate in food indulgence. The other, newer custom is that I cook nearly everything given my background. It's unsurprisingly something that I love to do, not least of all because I don't pay for ingredients. 

Ahhh, turkey. Here in Britain we don't eat nearly as much of it as in the USA, but that's probably because it's not exactly the juiciest, most flavourful bird. I tried brining the beast last year and found the results to be distinctly meh. So this time around I took a more straightforward approach: rub about 8 tablespoons of butter under the breast skin, cover the entire breast in foil for the first 2 hours, and leave it in the oven for about 4.5 hours of total roasting time at 160°c. (Mr. Turkey tipped the scales at 8.1kg) Oh and I gave it one obligatory basting. Finally, and I'm sure this is filed under the "news to no one" category, but I rested my fowl friend for 45 minutes once out of the oven to let all them glorious juices ingratiate themselves from tip to tail.

And when it came time to carve the bird, it was still very hot all the way through. And much to my pleasant surprise, the first slice through the breast unleashed a lovely rivulet of clear juice, a theme that repeated itself throughout the carving. I suppose there IS something to this whole local, free range, fresh bird thing ;) Instead of the traditional slices along the breastbone, I prefer to remove the whole thing in one go and then make thicker slices along its width (thank you, Caroline Waldegrave) - always seems to look nicer this way. Carving complete. 

I lamented the fact that my frame wouldn't fit in the roasting pan, otherwise I would've bathed in the leftover juices. (file that under "Too much information" perhaps) Despite the fact that the bird was full of moisture, there was still enough juicy goodness to go around to ensure that it, combined with the butter of course, lay nearly an inch deep in the pan. A quick deglaze to remove all of the lovely scrapings still stuck to the bottom and I was ready for Operation Gravy. I feel that simple is best when it comes to this dish; so I started with a quick roux using the turkey/butter fat instead of fresh butter and then slowly added all of the drippings plus some extra (and yes, I admit store-bought) turkey stock. Seasoning, and we're done. 

Stuffing was semi-prepared a day earlier: onions and celery (with leaves) slowly sautéed in a healthy dose of butter, combined with bread crumbs, stock, parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and put straight into the oven once the turkey came out.

Perhaps the most labour intensive dish was the mash - nothing complicated about it, just some nice Yukon Gold spuds boiled correctly, but I have an issue with lumpy mash.  I abhor it. Even when cooking for my 1- and 3-year olds, I can't abide by non-smooth mash. Cue me pushing nearly 5kg of steaming starch through a fine sieve. Ugh...oh, hello sweaty face. Butter, milk, salt and pepper complete the dish, but if I throw my humility to the side for one sentence, I can say that they were fantastic and truly worth the effort.  However I might ask Fat Xmas Man for a drum sieve. 

Finally, some homemade cranberry sauce, as well as some store bought cran (gotta have both), maple glazed carrots and freshly baked cornbread completed the feast. I ate too much.

Forgot to take snaps of the blueberry bread pudding, the pumpkin cheesecake and the chocolate chip cookies (see, I told you I was in the USA!); was that due to the Thanksgiving cocktails? Perhaps we'll never know. But it was a lovely day with family and friends, and I believe that the leftovers the next day might have been even better.

I'd love for Thanksgiving to come over to the UK - it wouldn't be the same, but I am confident the Brits could do a great adaptation of it. Perhaps that would start to make up for us heaving insufferable celebs upon you (I'm looking at you, Madge & Gwyneth), and yes, I could go on... 

USA (map
Fourth Thursday of November, yearly

geek note: other than the image upload, which I was unable to do, and some minor reformatting, I was very excited to do this entire post on my new iPad. Thanks google.

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