Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Review

Sophie, Daniel and me

Now that I am well rested and most of our company has gone I feel like I can adequately describe our  Thanksgiving hosting experience {#21 on the life list}.

Riley, Emily, Josh and Zoe

First of all, I will state that no amount of planning and preparation will prevent unexpected things from occurring. It is kind of like getting married – things are bound to go wrong. Most likely these things will be what you will remember for years to come. Our T-Day had several mishaps and I lived  up to my philosophy to laugh and move on.

Regina, Josh, Daniel, Emily and Wesley

Over the last month or so, I have been coordinating with the women in Daniel's family on who would bring what. As expected, we ended up with some extra dishes, but no worries. Initially I had planned on a 2 o'clock eat time {allowing plenty of time for the turkey to cook and all of the dishes to be prepared} but Wednesday night, I found out that we were going to need to bump up the eat time by a couple of hours. I said I would do my best, and we did. 

Thursday started with a nice breakfast of Pioneer Woman's Blueberry Baked French Toast {one of my faves}, sausage pinwheels {a holiday tradition for my family} and lots of coffee. After breakfast, Daniel's mom, sister and I got to work in the kitchen. 

Sausage and Biscuit Pinwheels

A quick confession: 
I NEVER test any recipes before I cook them. Ever. Period. No exceptions. I also don't cook many things more than once. I held to this philosophy even for Thanksgiving Day. In addition, I made a very last minute decision to change turkey recipes – instead of making Real Simple's Roast Turkey, I pulled an audible and went with the recipe from Cook's Country for a Bard Turkey. The only thing I can say about this last-minute decision was that I saw cheesecloth on a last-minute Wal*Mart run and decided {on the spot} that the Bard Turkey sounded too good to pass up.

Bacon-Wrapped Turkey

So after breakfast, we got started on the turkey. This is where my first mishap occurred... there were no giblets inside of the turkey. The neck was there, but no plastic package of giblets. I looked several times, had Daniel and his mom both check and then decided that I couldn't waste my day searching for giblets and I moved on. We covered the turkey with thick-sliced, hickory-smoked bacon, topped it with a wet cheesecloth and tin foil, poured 4 cups of water into the pan and stuck that sucker into the oven.

Cheesecloth on turkey – looks like a mummy

After that we started on the recipe for rolls {that needed 3 hours to rise} and a pie crust for the Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

Regina and I prepping the turkey

Note for the future {and to anyone else who ever plans a large dinner party}:
When you set timers for things, you need to KNOW what they are for. In the future, I will write down the times that things should come out. Instead I set the three different alarms on my phone for various recipes and found myself scratching my head a few times, trying to figure out what was supposed to come out of the oven {or go in}. More on this later.

Mr. Ralph, Grandmother and Aunt Trine

So we continued with our cooking. Daniel's aunt, grandmother and her husband showed up at 11AM {thankfully I had time to take a quick shower before they arrived}. Soon we had five women in the kitchen and everyone wanted to know how they could help. I am sometimes a control freak, so I had to slow down and think about what people could do to help {on the fly}.

The cooking aftermath – Regina kept up with washing dishes throughout, 
so it didn't look too terrible!

I soon had Regina chopping things {with a quick instruction on how to use a Chef's knife instead of a Paring knife for the job}. Emily and Grandmother worked on the potatoes, while I worked on the stuffing and Trine filled in with whoever needed help. 

Cooked Bard Turkey

After two hours of cooking, I pulled the turkey out to check the temperature. It was supposed to cook for 2.5-3 hours with it's coverings, then cook for an additional 1 or so without the coverings. When I checked it, the silly thing was already done. 

Me, Daniel, Wesley, Emily and Josh

At least this meant we had the ENTIRE oven for cooking the final dishes. It also put us on the fast track to being finished and eating early {as requested}.

Me, Daniel, Emily and Josh

Things went into the oven, things came out. My alarm clock kept going off and I {mostly} pulled dishes out at the right time.

Me, Daniel, Regina, Emily and Josh

Once the potatoes were cut up and on the stove boiling, Emily asked what she could do next. I had her strain the juices from the turkey so that I could make the gravy. By the time I thought about the gravy again, I asked where the drippings and strained fat were... ooops, they had been tossed out. 

The Grub

Not to worry, I googled how to make gravy without drippings and just winged it. We used the turkey juices and flour but I was having trouble getting the gravy to thicken. After adding 1 cup of flour {as opposed to 1/4 a cup}, the gravy was still runny. I asked Regina to help me out and she added even more flour. Unsure of what to do, we mentioned to Grandmother that the gravy wouldn't thicken and she suggested that we add corn starch. Lo and behold, that did the trick.

Regina and Trine

We finally finished all of the cooking and I asked Daniel to carve the turkey. He said he had no idea how to do it, so I told him to watch a YouTube video. He decided to just wing it. He did a fabulous job and our bacon-covered turkey was incredibly juicy. On a side note, he discovered the giblets while cutting the turkey. It would seem that they were located in the other end of the turkey! At least they were cooked. 

We finally gathered to say grace and sit down at the table. The food was all wonderful and I was thankful for a chance to sit down. Just before we dug in, my alarm clock went off one last time. Daniel's aunt asked me what it was for (see note above about setting alarms). In my mind everything had come out of the oven and I told her that it was nothing and we should go ahead and eat.

 Grandmother, Mr. Ralph, Daniel and Josh

About 30 minutes into the meal, Regina went into the kitchen to get something. I thought she was refilling her tea. Soon she was hollering for me or Daniel to come assist her with something. I got up to go see what the deal was and she very sweetly showed me my blackened pie crust. That alarm that I had told Trine didn't mean anything, well it was for the pie crust I had completely forgotten about. So much for making my Double Chocolate Pecan Pie!!! At this point I just had to laugh. It was so ridiculous. It was the only major catastrophe and considering we had other desserts, it wasn't worth getting upset about. I think I will always retell the story of how I burned my pie crust to a crisp the very first time I ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner!

 Some of the leftovers

As an aside, my parents, brother and grandma came up to visit the day after Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that we were able to see them. It was fun to relive my Thanksgiving stories and they shared theirs with us. This year, my brother, brother-in-law and I all cooked our first turkeys. We all used completely different recipes and they all turned out great! Evidently Robert had the same issue with the giblets and my brother {the least experienced cook} was smart enough to find them before cooking his turkey!

 Sophie napping after everyone left

I am so thankful for all of our family members. I am sad that we missed out on seeing Angela, Robert, Izzy and Amy this year. We are looking forward to Christmas and more time with family and friends.

 Grandma, Dad, Mom, Mark, Me and Daniel

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