A very turkey Thanksgiving   Leave a comment

I thought I would be having a vegetarian Thanksgiving of mostly sides this year since I didn't come back to Chicago for the holiday, but a peer at my work graciously invited me to his family's home for Thanksgiving. He shared the tentative menu with me before, and asked me to bring sides. Although green beans are what in season, I didn't want to make them: the green bean casserole I had tried to make didn't work out well last year, and my favorite green bean dishes are actually stir fried and Asian (though maybe after looking at Judy's Thanksgiving, maybe I should think about a candied nut and sauteed green bean dish next year). I really wanted corn niblets, and asparagus (the same asparagus dish I showed on my blog earlier- roasted in the oven with hazelnuts, drizzled with truffle oil).

My friend is a localvore- eating organic and local. Although he hadn't put such restrictions on me (I prefer organic but am not necessarily going to choose local though I like to), when I went to the market, the asparagus were not organic and they were from Mexico. So I ended up with frozen local organic corn and frozen organic asparagus. This turned out to mess with my asparagus recipe because the spears had more water in them from being frozen, and they were smaller than the thicker firm asparagus I usually use, so they ended up soggy. The guests said that they had good flavor, but I thought they were mushy and instead of being crisp, were limp. The end were the only good part, because they were crispy from a slight burn from the roasting.

I have a recipe from recipezaar that I used for the corn niblets, called Copycat Green Giant Corn Niblets In Butter Sauce. I like the website because it has a community, similar to what Amazon.com uses for reviews, with people posting pictures and stories of what they thought when they used the recipe, and ranks recipes with stars. The recipe uses frozen corn anyway, and is very straightforward but tastes better and is cheaper then purchasing the Green Giant Corn Niblets in Butter, which was the standard in the Pongched household. I used sweet corn, and sweet butter, and I cut back on the amount of water/cornstarch called for because I liked the buttery taste.

I also volunteered to bring some small appetizers for the cocktail hour which we talked out would be a good ice breaker and also so we didn't walk right in and sit at the dinner table. This is where I started getting myself into trouble. It seemed straightforward enough- I was just going to assemble, not make from scratch. I had purchases from the farmer's market like smoked salmon cream cheese (it was cute- the daughter has a diary stand with milk and butter and cheeses and across from her, her dad has the fish stand, at the Portland Farmer's Market) and New Seasons purchase of smoked tomato with basil hummus for the vegetarian and the low-dairy guests. I was just going to put them on crackers and sprinkle on some green for visual presentation.

As it turns out, I got strangely anal about how I wanted the microgreens to look on the crackers, and because I had a presentation in mind, I couldn't just go to his house and assemble them: they had to be pre-prepared, so I also went to Ross' and purchased these cool cake trays that had lids and handles on them. But, it took me like 45 minutes to do the spreading and decorating of the melba toast crackers. I also was worried that it wasn't enough to serve 12 people, but the guest list ended up with only 10 anyway (with 3 of them children). I was paranoid the hummus was too dry- I thought it was dry, and wanted to add olive oil to them, but F said it tasted fine to him. I also wished I had thought to use grape tomatoes for the hummus, if I had known they were going to be sorta dry to me and also looked sorta plain with just the greens (too earthy- a punch of half a grape tomato would have been awesome). As it turns out, I noticed the salmon cream cheese were much, much more popular than the hummus, so I think my taste buds were right and I should have added something to counteract the dryness, even if we were drinking wine at the same time. But look how cute they turned out as I was sweating over them as my gougeres were baking, my corn was being kept warm ont he stove, and my asparagus was waiting to switch places with the gougeres. I do not envy prep cooks at restaurants who do this painstaking arrangement of tiny food daily at all.

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I also thought they looked adorable in the trays, waiting to be transported. I used red and aqua for the appetizers, and another try like this with a green top for the asparagus, while the corn niblets were in the only corningware I brought from Chicago.

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Because of my worrying about whether I had enough appetizers, I also made gougeres- but I found that generally I am not a good baker. I am a bit free-form when I cook because I throw ingredients together, and although I try to load it in my favor by using good ingredients, it won't help with the more precision needed in baking. Once again, my attempt at cheese bread was a failure. When I made pao de quejo, I thought there was not enough melty cheesiness to replicate the first time I had them at Fogo de Chao. In making the gougeres, I found the version I followed was not as light and fluffy as the William Sonoma dough I had gotten for Christmas before- these had too much butter, though the cheese flavor was good. Turns out that was my fault for putting in too much butter because the recipe called for a stick instead of an actual measurement in tablespoons or cups. I still have half the cheese left (I only grated half), but I don't know if I can take making it again real soon. I ate the last 5 mini-rolls with sriracha to balance out the richness. The plus though is since I don't have a mixer, I had to beat the eggs one by one by hand, and I felt like my arm muscles looked great that night!

Here's my Thanksgiving!

Melba round crackers topped with either smoked salmon cream cheese or smoked tomato and basil hummus
Organic Turkey (it was pre-sliced on the plate for presentation and very juicy and moist)
Gravy from turkey fat
Wild Rice with hazlenut stuffing (both vegetarian-style and with sausage, cooked separately)
Northwest Salad: Wild Greens, topped as you wish with nuts, pomegranate and gorgonzola cheese
Cubed squash dish
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet corn kernels in butter sauce
Roasted asparagus and hazelnuts drizzled with truffle oil


Several cranberry sauces- they had the typical cranberry "rounds" (you know what I'm talking about) but also this awesome horseradish cranberry that looked almost like ice cream but was soooo good spread on the warm turkey
Pumpkin Cake
Pear Cream Cheese Pie
Pecan Pie

Lots of various white wines and pinot noir were also enjoyed throughout the meal, followed by tea, coffee, and/or port wine with dessert.

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Posted November 29, 2008 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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