Saturday, November 28, 2009

Update: Thanksgiving Still My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Again! This was the first year we have hosted Thanksgiving and it felt a lot like a rite of passage. The food is so traditional and deeply sentimental, everyone has their own idea about how things should look and taste. Everyone's grandmother did it the right way and everyone's family tries their hardest to carry on the traditions of turkeys' past.

As we scrambled about cooking and cleaning, we realized that the reason you get all of those seemingly ridiculous wedding presents is for this type of day and this type of day alone. The giant platter, the random place settings, and the good silverware were all lovingly hand crafted for this day. No pressure or anything.

We were lucky enough to host the Husband's family. My mother in law arrived with her should-be-famous apple and pumpkin chiffon pies and my sister in law arrived with all of the sides, an army of french bread, and of course, my most favorite niece.

I had to prepare the turkey, stuffing and salad. For the first time, I was incredibly nervous about the turkey and stuffing. I make roasted birds all the time but I just couldn't conceptualize this. And stuffing, what exactly is that? (It's kind of like a bread pudding but not really). I finally settled on a few recipes and with some psychological counsel from my mom stopped hyperventilating enough to buy the ingredients.

I realized that the conversation with my mom was what this was about: the multigenerational passing of knowledge, hard fought knowledge, about these traditions. And before the cooking even began, I felt thankful for this excuse to cozy up to my mom (via my office phone) and let her download all her years of knowledge (nuzzle nuzzle).

Despite my nervousness, I up early and realized that I really did need to put the turkey in right away. Really? Right now? At 10am for a 4pm dinner? That seemed utterly absurd but that's what the directions said and if it's anything that us science types are good at it's following directions.

I got what seemed like a monster turkey, 14 pounds, and wrestled with it for a long time. I had to give it a bath, slather pesto under the skin, massage it with oil and garlic, stuff it with aromatics, and pluck a few errant feathers out of its tail. Needless to say, I got pretty intimate with the thing. I was just about to stick it in the over when I realized that the wings were sticking out in all directions.

"Yeah Meg, Happy Thanksgiving!"
"Mom, what do I do about the wings? They're sticking out and will burn. What do I do about the poor little wings"
"Alright, here's what you do..."

Needless to say, she talked me off the ledge and aside from my quizzical "You want me to make sleeves for it?" we got it done.

After the turkey wrestling match (which I won BTW), I began the only dish I knew how to make. The mashed potatoes. A bit of boiling, mashing, mustard, butter, milk, salt and pepper, they were done and resting comfortably on the sideboard.

I had to run out and take Molly for a walk but when I got back the bird was in able hands, the house was vacuumed, and everything but the stuffing and salad were set.

I don't really want to talk about the stuffing, it was fussy, underseasoned, and not worth saving. I've decided it needed mushrooms and that's all I want to say about that.

We had a somewhat magical moment with the gravy with my mom on the phone, my husband's mom at the stove, and me yelling "I know how to make a roux" as if I was trying to get the teacher to call on me. The gravy, by the way, turned out exceptionally good.

Finally, things devolved, as they always do, to a word game. This year Bananagram was introduced and was throughly enjoyed by all, except me, who happily shoved sweet potatoes and corn bread in my mouth.

It was a fine holiday, only marred by my needing to work and a stomach that limits capacity. It is still my most very favorite holiday specifically because of the tradition, the family time, and the general ability just to hang out with one another. I would also like to praise our new furniture, which performed exceptionally well. The bookcase served as a perfect sideboard and the new kitchen things did exactly what it was supposed to do.
Hooray all around and on to Christmas, I just bought 40 feet of garland, two wreathes, about a million lights, and 50 cable ties! For the first time I feel festive!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Quick Recipe for you!

It's that mad mad holiday/crazy work season again and I haven't had a lot of time to compose my thoughts for the blog. I finally took some nice pictures of the new kitchen but haven't had a chance to edit them, they're coming I promise!

I did have a chance to throw an impromptu birthday dinner for my friend Michael (Happy Birthday!). This is my favorite type of entertaining, quick, easy and full of good cheer. We decided to do the dinner around 5 pm and everyone showed up at 8. Hilleary made a yummy salad with goat cheese, persimmons, pomegranate seeds and a shallot vinaigrette and I threw together a quick spinach, salsa, and cheddar fritatta. It doesn't get any easier than that menu and we made it all while everyone was sitting at the counter and I was cooking. Our wall removal/counter renovation achieved it's intended outcome, I could cook and enjoy my party at the same time.

To reinforce the easy dinner, I made the easiest dessert imaginable: Roasted Figs with Marscapone and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction. One of my guests is diabetic so I wanted to make something rich and special without a ton of sugar and flour. You could pretty much do this with any fruit. I love treating peaches this way but I imagine pears are delicious too! You can also substitute creme freche or vanilla ice cream. I had mine without the cheese and it was just as delicious!

For 4 people

10-12 Fresh figs, halved
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup Marscapone
1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the figs and lay them out on the cookie sheet. Brush them with the olive oil and roast them until they start to shrivel ~30 minutes or so. As they're cooking prepare the balsamic glaze (see below). When they're done, let them cool.

When cool, spoon out a small (or large depending on taste) amount (1/8 teaspoon) of the marscapone on the top of each and then spoon over the balsamic reduction. I served them in those japanese soup spoons but they could easily be put in a bowl. I placed a candle on Michael's and we all sang him the birthday song.

Balsamic Glaze
1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar

In a small sauce pan (I use my cast iron 8" saucier), slowly heat the balsamic. Stir until it reduces by about 1/2. It should be thinner than maple syrup.

I'm thinking of making this again for Thanksgiving but adding some bacon to the top.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Like a laboradoodle

It's been one of those crazy few weeks at work only made worse by two things. The presense of outside collaborators and a wonky computer. It's hard to underestimate the pain of arriving at one's desk really early to prepare for a 9am meeting only to find out that your computer account is locked and that the IT people don't pick up the phone until 9am.

We have a set of collaborators who's only aim in life seems to be to create a jargon and after a particularily hellacious jargon creation session (that went on for 5 hours and seriously all we did was talk in jargon) my lovely boss came up with a new bit of jargon, as seen on this post it.

A collaboradoodle- its like a collaboration and a poodle.

It doesn't mean anything except to represent those lost hours of your professional life when you walk out of a meeting with nothing but the creation of a mythical "action plan" and something about as useful, a mythical poodle.

That extension written on the collaboradoodle, that's IT number just to remind myself how much working in a PC world ruins my life, one collaboradoodle at a time.