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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Although I rarely get to cook for many guests, we still observe the interesting tradition of feasting on Thanksgiving.

This year, however, we did have more than just the wife and I, which was a real treat!  I like cooking for people.

Tonight's meal was four vegetable dishes and a roast chicken (Turkeys are just way too big for our small gatherings of meat-eating vegetarians*)
*meat-eating vegetarians is a term I did not coin, which describes a growing number of discriminate eaters of our generation, who eat meat, but do not let it dictate an entire meal or menu the way it used to in previous generations.  So, for example, the wife and I might eat meat two or three times a week, but rarely in large quantities, and never as the centre of the meal.  I recently heard Chef Michael Smith describe himself as a 'vegetarian who eats meat' and the concept is the same - basically, it is to vegetable dishes we turn in order to 'structure' the entire meal, rather than the meat dish.
So, I began the evening before, and created a brine marinade for the chicken.  Basically, this is a modified trick I learned from my father-in-law, who can cook a pretty mean roasted fowl.  His idea is to soak the entire bird in a large amount of water, with a significant amount of salt and a spoonful or two of brown sugar.

I've simply added some herbs and spices into the mix.  Some thyme, some parsley, brown sugar, salt, and black pepper.

As for the chicken itself, we spared no expense.  One of the advantages of being a slight meat eater, is that it affords the opportunity to splurge on it as a luxury item.  So, our chicken was organic, grain-fed, free-range... basically a super-duper happy chick who lived a happy life eating happy things... until she got her head chopped off that is.

In fact... she still had her neck attached.  Which positively disgusted the wife (which positively delighted me)!  Heh heh heh.

So, that got removed, and I saved it for later; I wanted to make some chicken stock afterwards.

And into the brine she went!

Covered that up with cling film, and put it in the fridge for what ended up being about 20 hours.

Then, I whipped up a quick batch of thyme bread dough.

Also to be covered and put in the fridge overnight, although I took this out first, in the early afternoon.

I formed it up into some small buns, which ended up being large buns.  ;)

So... because I was cooking a large amount of food, under a very specific timeline, I opted for one of my favourite tricks in cases like this, and made one central flavour-delivery-package for everything.

Some garlic thyme butter.  Jokingly referred to as 'garlic time' butter.  This shit was gold.  Well, green really... but absolutely delicious.

I minced an entire bulb of fresh garlic and 'sautéed' it in about a half a cup of unsalted butter.  When doing this, make sure you use a very low heat (like, low).  :)

After about ten minutes all the garlic is nice and soft and most of the butter is now in fact garlic butter.  Throw in about a half a bushel of diced fresh thyme, some freshly cracked sea salt and then let it cool.

I let mine cool in a nice ceramic square dish, which helped give it a 'butter-like' appearance.  :)

And then I heated up the oven and started cooking supper.  Because I wasn't planning on making 'stuffing' - that ubiquitous carb beloved by many a giver-of-thanks - and I didn't want the bird to just cook empty, I stuffed a couple of apples, and a generous amount of herbs (more thyme and parsley) in there.

Then she got placed in my Le Creuset cast iron roaster (which just barely fit her) and got a pinch of salt and pepper on top.

I blasted the chicken with some serious heat (450°) for about 5 minutes to brown the skin a bit, and get some delicious flavour happenin' inside, before putting the lid on and turning the oven down to 325°.

The lid thing is actually quite important.  If you don't have an awesome roaster like this one, make sure you fashion a makeshift 'lid' out of tin foil or something...

Then it was on to cooking the meal!  :)

We had mashed potatoes, fried green beans, skillet corn, and steamed Brussels sprouts.

So, I had to get those potatoes started first.

Peeled, chopped, and boiled, they were.

A little pinch of salt in the water, but that's all.

Then, I got everything ready (placed in pans, ready-to-go) but didn't cook anything else until supper time got a little closer.

About 30 minutes before deadline, I started cooking the corn.  Skillet corn is delicious, if you've never had it.  Cast iron skillet, with some butter and some salt and pepper.  In tonight's case, it was just corn and a generous spoonful of the garlic thyme butter.


Indeed, the garlic thyme butter was the only flavouring for all of the veggies tonight.  Hence its description as the 'flavour-delivery-package' (FDP), and why it was so easy for me to leave most of the meal until only 30 mins before eating.  It's simple to just get everything ready, and then add your FDP as one compact, but simple, step.

Same thing with the green beans, and the Brussels sprouts.

Everything got prepared nicely.

The buns were baked golden, and with fresh garlic thyme butter, were delicious.

The chicken was removed well after the 180 degree safe zone, but still ended up being absolutely scrumptious.  Moist, tender, and piping hot.

I made a delightful gravy out of what was left in the roasting pan.  Even though the herbs and apple chunks got taken out, they still imparted a wonderfully subtle flavour to the gravy.  Indeed - the gravy ended up being sort of apple-cinnamon-y which was surprisingly excellent.

At this point - because I wanted to be a good host - I stopped taking photos.  :(

You'll have to just take my word for it that everything turned out perfectly.  :)

Copious amounts of wine, and a truly delicious feast later, my wife did manage to snap a shot of her dessert.

In this case a sweet bumbleberry pie we picked up from The Pie Shack, simply because their pies are unbelievable.  And I defer to where deference is needed!

All in all, a great Thanksgiving!
A hearty thank-you to all involved!