That was then
The Joy of Cooking: basically heat oven to 450, add stuffing if desired, baste frequently, cover the turkey with a butter soaked cloth. Then cooking times given per pound. That's pretty much it. A whole roast turkey.
This is now
The Perfect Thanksgiving” requires six phases of instructions to achieve the current fad of “Spatchcocking” or cooking the thing in parts.
Place turkey breast side down, on work surface. Using poultry shears and beginning at the tail end, cut along each side of the backbone, separating backbone from turkey, removing backbone and saving for stock or discard.
Can you just see Gramma doing that? Hah! Then you flatten the thing (“Hiiiii –Yah!”) and further dismember it and multiple refrigeration’s later, it’s ready for the oven.
Oh, did I mention the bird should be dry brined? (Active time 45 minutes, Total 3 hours, 15 minutes plus 2(!) days refrigeration
The problem is, that the white meat is done much before the dark portions. So between the “Gramma” technique and the rigamarole of the “Perfect" edition there have been numerous strategies for dealing with that. Raise the temp; lower the temp; upside down, flipping, tenting, all sorts of gymnastics. And you know what? Do what you wish, when you’re done, your turkey tastes like (guess what?) A TURKEY!
Hence the extent of schemes to brine, rub, applying a plethora of spices: Bon Appétits “Expertly Spiced and Glazed Turkey”; not “amateur” spiced mind you, but Expertly spiced, which takes 10 count ‘em 10! Spices, plus Soy and Red wine vinegar. Requiring much dancing. Chiles of varying species and heat appear to have a lot of fans. Anything to "enhance" the inherently bland flavor of the bird. Okay, I’ll get off that annual rant, and ask you to maybe think about a beef prime rib, a crown roast of veal or pork, maybe that deer you shot, something that has potential of flavor on its own. (okay okay, I hear you: “Feeder! you just haven’t had a free range, hand fed, lovingly raised on squeaky clean food by caring farmers” on, and on, well, yes I have, and it tastes like, um, TURKEY.
Even the food editors of magazines are aware of the situation, hence put out their publications with tags like: “we asked our food editors to improve the Thanksgiving classics, and …. Yadda yadda”; or “Turn back of the package recipes into something special with simple upgrades”; embellish, tweak, add exotic rubs, on and on..
One food editor laments: "Thanksgiving is your Groundhog Day. Same holiday every year. Gotta have turkey on the cover, and there better be mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and cranberry sauce, and some sort of side that feels new, but not, you know too new"
ON the other hand, sides and veggies are where people go nuts. In just three magazines alone, there are 32 different recipes. Brussels sprouts always rear their nubby little heads, consistetnly prepared with something to cover up the taste. Potato after potato and so on. One recipe for cornbread includes… wait for it….Corn Nuts! Yup, those crunchy little things from bags.
So, in the spirit of upgrades MFO has assembled some of the esoteric ingredients she’ll be needing
And of course we can’t move past the food without considering the wines to go with “the year’s biggest meal” – as proclaimed on bon appétit's cover (above). Long time readers with memories of previous issues of “The Thanksgiving Issue” might remember that I extol the DWTHYL (Drink Whatever the Hell You Like) theory. With the plethora and diverse lineups of spices, preparations, that nothing goes with everything ( Oh NO! Aunt Betsy brought her special marshmallow fluff salad!). SO, pick something you enjoy and enjoy. The wine experts even agree with me. Dave Mcintyre of the WAPO: “5 things you should know about the wine to go with your Thanksgiving meal”
1. IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER – you have more important things to worry about
2. Open one of everything – don’t limit yourself to a single wine, open a variety
3. You can have fun with this – pick a theme (ptooie says the feeder on this one)
4. Bubbles go with everything – a sip of bubbly will prime you for the next bite
5. You got this – don’t sweat it
Another pundit breaks it down into “categories”
~ For the Proudly Unconventional – skin contact white wine (very trendy now)
~ For the In-Laws you Want to Wow – BURGUNDY pinot noir
~ For the Full Family Feast – Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Rosé (no watery Pinot Grigio or monster Cabs)
~ For the Friend of a Friend – a petillant – naturel (champagnes more casual cousin)
~ For the leftovers – Azienda Agricola Denny Bini Lambrusco Dell’Emilio (you’re on your own here)
And in another feature article: (KWW note) “Why cider deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving table next to all those wines” and recommends “Redbyrd Orchard Cider’s Vernal Cloudsplitter – a blend from New York’s Finger lakes of more than two dozen varieties, including old-time American apples, such as Roxbury Russet and Baldwin” over the top if you ask me..
And time and energy makes me/us wait or not worry about dessert, Southern Living has devoted a whole issue to “The Best (feeder's favorite word) PIES and SIDES – new classics!” like Dulce de Leche-Cheesecake Pecan Pie”: Yikes! Stick in the mud MFO is doing a Granny Smith Apple, and a Libby’s Pumpkin Pie. Good enough for me.
And of course all ranting and raving aside, the REAL reason to celebrate Thanksgiving is to be with friends and family, whether present, far away, or only in cherished memories. For instance, I’ll never forget the year at my Grandmother (Harriet) Moody’s house in Grand Rapids (MI) when she dumped her whole plate of food into her lap…