Monday, November 12, 2007

Next Week is Thanksgiving, and Still no Bird Recipe

Thanksgiving is next week and I “still” haven’t decided on my final bird recipe and menu. Actually, I’m a bit “bored.” The television and cable stations have been bombarding us with celebrity chefs preparing turkeys utilizing various methods of cooking—roasting, deep frying, smoking, or poaching. Poaching? They’re also making a variety of stuffings ranging from the simple bread, celery and onions, to exotic bird fillers that contain $2,000 per ounce truffles. Well, I haven’t actually “seen” this but I’m sure it’s out there! Or, they are constructing so many different side dishes, mixing up unique drinks, and creating the typical and, in some instances, atypical desserts. The list is endless. Also, the Internet and newspapers have been overflowing with articles and recipes doing the same thing. The November issues of the food magazines that I received last month seem old and out of date now. But I’m still bored.

I am someone who loves food—I love to read about it, watch it on TV (that’s all I watch on TV) go shopping for it, really love to cook it, enjoy eating it, and (sometimes) love to dine out to eat it (that’s another story – see other postings).

Since I have a full time job, my extensive cooking is limited to the weekends where I could spend hours researching, shopping, prepping in the kitchen and then cooking the actual meal. Sometimes I spend the entire weekend just cooking. Many dishes I prepare involve a number of various ingredients and extensive prep work. Looking back on some of those meals and the work involved in preparing them, makes the thought of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner seem like making a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. Nonetheless, I still chuckle about the numerous articles depicting that the preparation of the Thanksgiving dinner is a major undertaking. But I’m still bored.

I grew up enjoying the famous “Butterball” frozen turkey every year. I never even knew what a fresh turkey was. How times have changed since then. Today, we have fresh or free-range or egg-free or grain-free or wild, or tame, or a bird whose bloodline dates back to the Mayflower days. Well, that’s what “they” say. Not my mother’s turkey.

Every year, my mom would buy a frozen turkey the weekend before Thanksgiving and keep it in the freezer until Monday morning when she would take it out and move it to the bottom of the fridge so it would thaw in time to be stuffed on Wednesday afternoon. Yes. Wednesday. (Don’t EVEN think about doing that today!). We did not have an oven large enough, or one that worked, so the turkey was not roasted at home. It was roasted at a local bakery every year. My mother would stuff the turkey Wednesday afternoon. She always made a traditional stuffing with bread, celery, onions and the turkey giblets. After the bird was stuffed, she would place it in the black-speckled traditional turkey roasting pan that had it's own cover. Later that evening, my dad would transport the turkey to the bakery that “roasted” Thanksgiving turkeys for customers. At first, the cost was $1.50, then the price gradually rose to $2.00 throughout the years. On Thanksgiving morning, my dad would pick up the perfectly-roasted bird. The end result was that we “always” had a “clean,” oven, although it never worked. My mom prepared the side dishes (the stove top worked), which consisted of turnips, mashed potatoes, peas/carrots, and cranberry sauce, one of my “favorite” items.

Cranberry sauce was always Ocean Spray, which continues to be “popular” today. I still believe that the "only" way to serve cranberry sauce right out of the can in one whole piece, sliced with a knife. But, there was a “trick” to this method. After opening one side of the can and discarding the metal top, the can would have to be turned upside down and, using a channel-knife opener, two openings would be made on the bottom. This was done so the suction could help release the glob of cranberry sauce. Then, the can would have to be gently shaken up and down until the jellied cranberry glob slowly eased out of it. It would land on the plate with thump and slide around and continue to jiggle for a few seconds before finally settling in one spot. To serve it, we would simply “slice” it with a knife. I never understood why we used a serrated steak knife, but we did. No one ever ate it.

Both parents have long passed on almost 30 years ago. Since then, my Thanksgivings have been a discombobulated series of “events.” During a period of time, I was married for a while but never prepared Thanksgiving dinners. My ex-husband only ate animals with hooves. I, on the other hand, only ate fish and fowl (still do). So, for the five years that we were together, I never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner. Then, for many years to follow, I would cook meals, but never made a full-fledged turkey dinner with all the trimmings. That was then. About ten years ago, I started a new tradition of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner (almost) every year now. Since then, I “cheated” a few times where I bought “prepped” meals, but the bulk of the past decade was making a full Thanksgiving-type of meal.

I must admit that first it was frozen Butterball turkeys, usually a free one from the supermarket. Then two years ago, I discovered the Whole Foods Market and the fresh, free-range bird. What a delightful and flavorful turkey. Last year, the newly-discovery world of having a fresh bird came from Esposito’s, the butcher who has been around for over 100 years, on 9th Avenue in New York City. Butterball will never be the same.

Enough said about the bird. Let’s not forget about my other favorite item, the cranberry sauce. Since I commenced making my own “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner a decade ago, I still buy the Ocean Spray cranberry sauce every year and continue to use the same technique to release it from the can, and present it on the plate with a knife (not a serrated steak knife). But, no one ever eats it.

About five years ago, I was extremely creative and made cranberry sauce from scratch using real cranberries and spices. Since no one ate that either, I reverted back to buying the Ocean Spray cranberry sauce since then. However, last year I got bold (again) and decided to try the “365” brand of cranberry sauce from Whole Foods. Although I opened the can the same way, it just “wasn’t the same.” Or...maybe it was. No one ate that either.

What gives for this year? Should I buy the traditional Ocean Spray, make cranberry sauce from scratch, or go for the 365 Whole Foods brand, which is piled up in a big display section at the Whole Foods Market in Edgewater?

I Don't know what do do. I still don't have a recipe that excites me for a bird. I really am bored this year. Maybe I should call the bakery?

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