Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thanksgiving... Thank you for everything!

Thanksgiving is unknown in Indonesia. Quite frankly, I didn't even learn how to make my own thanksgiving meal set until after I lived here for 4-5 years. The meal is complex, not because of its flavor profile but the sheer amount of trimmings involved in making a proper thanksgiving meal.

It is, in short, a labor of love.

My first proper Thanksgiving meals were courtesy of my friends Jen and Auntie Sharon and their families. These people kindly provided me a home away from home and opened their hearts and homes to someone like me, a stranger from 3,000 miles away. 

Needless to say, every Thanksgiving since was a huge deal for me. And the meal itself is a huge deal, because to me, although I altered the recipes to make it "my own" (as befitting my "tinkering" side), those recipes are personal. They are a celebration of love, friendship, joy, happiness, and most importantly thankfulness.

So, here they are: my Thanksgiving recipes.

Figure 1. Clockwise: chicken and stuffing, pumpkin pie, gravy, cranberry sauce, slime salad, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes in the center. I did not make sweet potato casserole this year.

Roasted Turkey and stuffing:


For the turkey:
Turkey (whole or turkey breast)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 Tbs ground ginger
1 Tbs garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
Salt to taste

For the stuffing:
1 loaf of sourdough bread, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
6 oz. baking raisins
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 apples, cored, peeled, and diced

1. Thaw the turkey and stab the turkey multiple times with fork, especially the breast side.
2. In a large bowl (big enough to contain the turkey) mix chicken broth, ginger and garlic powder. Add salt and adjust the taste to just slightly saltier.
3. Put the turkey, breast side down,  into the brining solution above, top with water to just almost covering the turkey.
4. Let marinate for 24 hours (the longer the better) in the fridge.
5. Prepare the stuffing by mixing cubed sourdough bread, diced onion, raisins, diced apples and Italian breadcrumbs.
6. On the day of the cooking, drain the turkey out of brining solution, pat dry and stuff the turkey with the stuffing and cook as per direction on the turkey package or see this chart.
7. Cook covered for the most of cooking time, uncover at the last couple of hours to char the skin.

Turkey gravy

1 recipe of turkey brining solution (see above)
1-2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 cup water

1. Boil the turkey brining solution
2. Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water and add to the boiling brining solution.
3. Serve with unsalted mashed potatoes.

Cranberry sauce

12 oz. fresh cranberry
1 1/2 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 tbs dried orange peel

1. Boil cranberry in water in a saucepan on high heat.
2. Add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Cover and reduce heat to medium low until cranberries stop "popping".
3. Add orange peel and salt. Adjust taste.

Green bean casserole

24 oz. frozen cut green bean
2 - 3 cups of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of crumbled French fried onion
French fried onion for topping

1. Thaw frozen green beans
2. Mix with cream of mushroom soup and crumbled French fried onion in a casserole dish.
3. Bake at 350 F until piping hot, top with fried onions, bake for another 5 minutes or so to slightly brown the fried onion topping.

Sweet potato casserole

16 oz. canned cut yams, drained
1 - 2 cup frozen blueberries
1 recipe of vanishing oatmeal cookies (omit the following: eggs, baking soda, raisin, vanilla, cinnamon, granulated sugar; reduce the brown sugar to only 1/2 cup) 
1 cup of mini marshmallows

1. Put yams on casserole dish (8x8). 
2. Sprinkle with frozen blueberries.
3. Make the oatmeal dough topping per direction and crumble the topping on top of the yam/blueberry.
4. Bake at 350 until the topping is golden brown.
5. Sprinkle with marshmallows and bake for another 5-10 minutes until marshmallows are toasted.

1. For the turkey, if you like turkey skin, Jen's mom taught me to rub it with butter every half hour or so to crisp it. When I tried it, it was DIVINE.
2. Adjust the volume of the brining solution depending on the size of the turkey. The key to flavoring the brining is to flavor it BEFORE adding the turkey. I like to use the simplest unsalted chicken broth for this. Of course making your own broth is always better, but if nothing else, any low sodium broth will work just fine. Read the ingredients of the broth carefully, though.
3. I used chicken when cooking small scale (i.e. just for me). The recipe is probably halved if not quartered.
4. I used red skin potatoes (skin on) for the mashed potatoes. I boiled the potatoes (4 potatoes), mashed them, added about 1/4 cup of soy milk and 2 tbs of unsalted butter.
5. For the gravy, Jen's mom also taught me a different way: boil the heart, gizzard, and the neck of the turkey with the broth. After they're cooked, chop the liver and gizzard and shred the meat from the turkey neck. Add them back to the broth and then add cornstarch.
6. I do not have the recipe for pumpkin pie because I just use the recipe that's on the back of Libby's pure pumpkin. The only slight modification I did to that recipe is that I mixed the evaporated milk, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and clove and adjusted the taste BEFORE adding the eggs. I find that this method makes for less sweet pumpkin custard allowing me to taste the "milkiness" of the custard.

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