Last weekend, Brian and I had a few friends over for a Friendsgiving feast. We planned a pared down menu and approached the gathering in a pretty laid back way.
It was a small crowd, so instead of a whole bird, Brian and I opted for a bone-in turkey breast. We’ve roasted up a pretty spectacular breast in years past, but with a warm fall Saturday ahead of us, we decided to smoke this one. Brian and I don’t have a fireplace, so it’s nice to have the grill going all day –– we all need a hearth. read more »
Thanksgiving in our apartment is normally a time when Elizabeth and I form a cooking superteam, turn out an incredible feast, regale our guests with our wit, and end the day by making a good dent in the stacks of dishes. But for much of last Thursday, I was a man alone in the kitchen. Not alone exactly. A man watching two children and putting together a Thanksgiving feast until our first guest, our dear friend Lily, arrived and helped with the child care while I cooked. As trying as managing Thanksgiving on my own was, I was actually the better off of the two of us. read more »
The great challenge in roasting a whole turkey–the challenge that leads people to fashion aluminum foil shields for cooking their turkeys, that leads to a spate of tedious posts and articles every November about the best way to brine a turkey, that leads people to burn down their houses using turkey fryers, that leads me to nearly scald or actually scald myself with hot turkey juices as I flip it mid-roast with dish towels every Thanksgiving–is the challenge of fully cooking the dark meat without drying out the breast. The simple solution to this problem is to cook them separately. Apart from that brief interlude between roasting and carving when everyone can admire what a beautiful bird you have, there’s no real advantage to cooking a turkey in one piece. You’re going to serve it in many pieces. And by separating the dark meat from the white, you can give each part the time it needs. read more »
We take Thanksgiving pretty seriously here at Brooklyn Supper. For the past 6 years Brian and I have stayed put and invited friends and family to cram into our one-bedroom apartment for a giant feast. I love every part of Thanksgiving, getting ready in the weeks before, frantic Wednesday before prep, waking up at 6am and dealing with the turkey, and then, the big moment. Guests arrive and, it’s Thanksgiving!
Whether you’re hosting a celebration of your own this year, or just bring a dish or two, we’ve got you covered. Over on Babble.com’s Family Kitchen, we’ve been in the Thanksgiving spirit for weeks. Here are some of the Thanksgiving-friendly recipes we posted this week:
Mark Bittman’s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon and Apples
4 Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes (more work now = more relaxing when it counts)
Lemony Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Classic Herbed Stuffed Mushrooms
And for some ideas from Brooklyn Supper Thanksgivings past, try these: read more »
At Brooklyn Supper, we make an effort to keep things local and organic, but we try not to go crazy about it. Sometimes you need a banana or a lemon. Or sugar or coffee. And around mid-March, you think you’re going to go crazy if you eat another root vegetable. But when we have a choice, we like to get things at the farmers’ market or one of the local butchers, which I know comes off to some people as something snobby and even silly.
The topic of food snobbery came up at Thanksgiving. One of our many fantastic guests was our friend Patrick who owns the Hamdingers cart (check it out if you’re ever in Charlottesville, Va.) which focuses on local, organic street food. Patrick was saying that a lot of times people come up to the cart and ask what’s with all the organic food and why doesn’t he just sell “normal food,” which got us to talking about what “normal food” is.
It’s a weird thing that a fast food burger, full of hormones and cows who were fed cows, served on a bun with all kinds of weird ingredients is normal, but the kind of food that almost everyone ate for centuries is some kind of fancy-pants thing. But that’s how it is, so this Thanksgiving, we put on our loosest-fitting fancy pants and dug in.
To begin, we had fresh apple butter (made by our youngest guest), goat cheese, pate that Patrick picked up at Marlow and Daughters, and brie. Then we moved on to home-made pickles–kohlrabi, grape, and carrot. We also had grape salsa with brie on crostini. Then we sat down for soup, an amazing turkey, and a rainbow of sides. And finally, we ended with fresh pumpkin pie and real ginger ice cream.
The bird was perfect. When I ordered it, the butcher thought they would top out at 16 lbs., so I put on my request form that I wanted the biggest one I could get. I ended up with a 21 lb. bird that we could barely get into the oven, but that was ok since we had a little help from our wonderful neighbors, and a large toaster oven. Our hearts were certainly warmed by the company (mostly old friends, and some new ones), which was good because the turkey cooked a lot faster than expected and was lukewarm by the time we sat down. But it was alright, gravy fixes everything, we had each other, and all the dishes our friends brought- squash soup, potato gratin, roasted root vegetables, stuffing, and green salad- were fantastic. It was really, really great to share such a delicious meal with so many dear friends, and the potluck atmosphere was just right for the evening.
We had a long, borrowed table set up diagonally to fit in the room, and with a couple of tablecloths and candles it was just right. By the end of the evening, we even had a father and son passed out on the sofa with the football game on.
p.s. Why don’t we eat gravy more often? Expect to see a lot more dishes with gravy on Brooklyn Supper in the coming year.
(Toast with gravy the morning after–sublime)
Benjamin Franklin famously wanted the turkey rather than the bald eagle to be the symbol of this great country. Similarly, he wanted people to eat bald eagles instead of turkeys at Thanksgiving. If he’d had his way, we’d probably just cut the eagle up before cooking it, because I can’t imagine how you would truss an eagle, with the wings being so long and all.
As it stands, though, we eat turkey one time and one time only during the year and that is at Thanksgiving. Sometimes you see people in Christmas commercials and movies eating turkey, but in reality, it’s just too much of a pain the ass to wash the roasting pan. That’s why Elizabeth and I do all our roasting in cake pans, which had never actually been used for making a cake until this summer. But they get used and they have some dings and discolorations that make them look like they belong to a real cook and so I can look at them and feel proud.
The roasting pan on the other hand, looks pretty much like it did when we bought it in 2004. I think that as a country, we’re looking at mirror defrosters on our Escalades, the display cases we’ve built for our She-Hulk figures, the sweaters we put on our dogs, and the elevators in our two-story homes and asking ourselves if maybe we went a little overboard with the useless junk. And that is why Thanksgiving has a significance now more than ever. It makes us feel justified in owning roasting pans.
Turkey can be kind of stressful for me because I read a lot of conflicting advice this time of year. Brine it, don’t brine it. Basting is essential, basting is a waste of time. Flip it. Don’t flip if it’s big. And since I only make it once a year, I don’t remember any lessons I learned last year.
This year, I resolved not to worry too much about it and just think of it as a big chicken. I probably roast about twenty chickens in a year, and thinking of it this way really made it seem a lot more manageable.
serves a bunch of people
1 heritage breed turkey (ours was 20.5 pounds. I probably would have gotten smaller but that’s what they had and it actually wasn’t any harder to make than smaller ones we’ve done in the past and it didn’t dry out or anything so I don’t really know why people get so up tight about big turkeys. Except that if it had been any bigger it wouldn’t have fit in our roasting pan, which is sort of what the whole thing is about. Also, I’m not trying to be all hoity-toity about the bird, but this is the second year we got a heritage breed turkey and it really does taste better.)
A lot of butter, melted (I think I used a stick of butter or thereabouts)
Coarse kosher salt
The night before Thanksgiving, take all the giblets and the neck and whatever else is in there and put it in a Tupperware in the fridge so you can make gravy with it, which we do separately because there is enough going on Thanksgiving. Rub some salt all over the turkey’s body. Cover the turkey and stick it in the fridge.
In the morning, go get some coffee and some pastries or something. You’re not going to want to add to the dishes.
Take turkey out of the fridge and put the oven on at 375 degrees F or so. We had some other stuff already baking at 350, so we did it at that. While the oven is heating up, melt the butter.
Truss turkey with twine. I think there’s probably an official way you are supposed to truss a turkey, but the important thing is to tie the feet together and tie the wings to the body and remember where you put the twine when you are done because you will probably lose it.
Place turkey breast-side down in the roasting pan and brush some of the butter on to it. Then put some salt and pepper on it and pat it with your hand.
When oven is ready, slide the turkey in. Every half hour or so, baste it. After about 1.5 hours, take the turkey out so you can flip it. The thighs should be getting pretty brown at this point. If they’re not, leave it a little longer. Flip the turkey using dishtowels. Grab the turkey on both sides using dish towels and carefully flip it end over end. Keep your hands and arms and other parts of your body clear, because a bunch of scalding hot liquid will pour out of the opening while you do this. Pour the rest of the butter over the breast and put some salt and pepper on it. Put turkey back in the oven.
Keep basting the turkey every half hour or so. Melt more butter if you need to. I don’t think you’re ever going to say “I wish I hadn’t used so much butter,” so don’t be shy with it. That goes for pretty much everything else that has butter in it.
If it looks like it’s the breast is cooking too fast and you’re worried it’s going to dry out, put some aluminum foil over the breast. When you’re almost done, take the foil off and crank the heat so the whole thing gets really brown –– about ten minutes. The turkey is done when you stick thermometer where the thigh meets the breast and it reads 165 degrees F, but I usually let it go a little bit longer just to be on the safe side.
Rest the bird for 10 – 20 minutes, carve, and serve.