I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. It’s Al Dente HQ has hosted the holiday and the first since The Kid came along. It’s probably the most challenging holiday of the bunch and not because any of the work is hard. No, Thanksgiving presents the greatest difficulty because there are no chances to take. Just roast the damn turkey, because everyone knows what a turkey should taste like (or what they want it to taste like), and mash some potatoes. It’s not like Christmas when I take some liberties. Last year, I made a porchetta. No one ever had one before, so they wouldn’t have noticed if I left something out. On Thanksgiving, not so much.
The family is pretty vanilla when it comes to turkey prep. My wife’s aunt and The Mother-In-Law have been cooking Thanksgiving turkeys the same way since the Taft administration. It was only within the past 10 years that they discovered Giada DeLaurentiis’ recipe that included stuffing aromatics in the bird. So when The Sister suggested a beer brine for this year’s turkey, I scoffed. In addition to the mess that would result, the moment I said “beer brine,” I would have lost the room. I mentioned duck fat for the mashed potatoes and got a look from The Mother-In-Law as if I had just informed her I was going to strip naked and mash the potatoes with my ass.
Never mind that she probably hasn’t consumed a duck since the 1980s. I was going to mess with the familiar and that wasn’t going to fly. I might as well serve a ham for dinner.
So, we’re keeping the staples are simple. I’m going to do an herbes de provence and salt-crusted turkey and mashed potatoes. This is how I made the turkey the last time, jamming citrus fruit, herbs, Oreo cookies, garlic, cigarette butts and onions into the cavity, applying a thick herb and salt mixture to the exterior and letting it dry age for a couple of days. This seasons the meat and prevents a ton of moisture loss while cooking.
The Mother-In-Law (apparently) made a sausage and sourdough stuffing. The rest of the meal looks like Old Bay roasted sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts with a balsamic vinegar reduction and cranberries, and caramelized corn with parsley. The MIL is making or has made pies. The Wife is putting together her annual peanut butter pie, but gluten free this time (in case The Kid decides she wants to have some). I may make ice cream, depending on how things go this week.
During the week, I’m going to post some articles about Thanksgiving food. Some will be because they are funny. Others will be useful. Some may even be both.
Consider it an extra diversion from the day.