Here's my diary for this year's Thanksgiving feast. There was fourteen plus baby at our table this year. We roasted two turkeys - one conventionally and one in the wood oven. The turkeys were both Heritage breeds, one from a local source (Narragansett) and one from Heritage Foods USA (Bourbon Red).
If you are curious about how last year's Thanksgiving went, click here.
November 23 - The Middle & The End Turkey #1, the woodoven roasted Narraganset,t was fully cooked by 3pm, which was not exactly as I had planned. I let it sit out and then I carved it up and kept it warm until we were ready to eat it - everyone got a taste before it was covered up. The flesh was moist with a slightly smokey and gaminess which was really pleasant.
Meanwhile Turkey #2, the Bourbon Red, was cooking more slowly than I liked, so in the last hour I removed the cheesecloth and increased the temperature to 375°F. We waited about 30 minutes to carve it. Dinner was served buffet style (as per our tradition).
Review of dinner: The brussels sprouts with crispy (and salty) pancetta and walnuts were a huge hit. The glazed root vegetables worked fine - but next time I need to reduce the liquid. The dressing was great - definitely the bread crumbs over bread cubes. Third helpings were not an uncommon occurence. We needed more cranberry sauce!
Turkey Review: Everyone agreed that the Narragansett had better flavor - both from the wood oven and from the actual turkey. It had a much smaller breast than the Bourbon Red. Because of how they were cooked, the Bourbon Red turned out moister. It also had a more delicate flavor.
Dessert: The bread pudding that I topped with brandy caramel sauce was amazing - the favorite of the desserts. The apple tarts were perfect. Apples slightly al dente and the crust crispy - you hardly noticed the custard. I will have to post that recipe and make them again. I liked the non-marzipan one the best. Pumpkin pie was good but not as good as last time - I'm left wondering why. The "mystery soup" had lots of guesses but no one could place the turnip so perhaps it won on that merit alone. It had a nice peppery factor to it, too. Robert Lambert's Cranberry Raspberry relish was raved about. The Quince preserves were a hit too.
November 23 - 1:30pm I'm risking all and I have *both* the 10 and the 18 pound heritage turkeys now in their respective ovens. The wood oven is measuring about 450-500 and I have one log in it. I expect it should maintain that for 30 mins and hopefully cool down to a nice 325F. Both turkeys got the 4-layers of cheesecloth/ butter basted with butter & wine Martha Stewart method (two bottles). Potatoes are peeled. Pancetta is prepped and the table is set. Secondary flowers are still not done. I've just taken the cheeses out.
There's no way I'm getting to roasting squash or yams. I'm looking for a nap about now.
November 23 - 11:30am Centerpiece phase one complete. I used chestnuts and cranberries with some store-bought flowers to make the center of the centerpiece. I'll go forage for the rest of the elements as soon as I get dressed! The wood oven is lighted. The turkeys are out coming to room temperature. Dishes pulled. Table extended and cloth is on. Oven and warming drawer are on and ready.
Cooking to do - make butter/wine mixture. Peel potatoes. Set up pots for potatoes and fry pancetta and walnuts.
November 23 - Thanksgiving Morning! Jobs Still Ahead: Set table. Make centerpiece. Make a fire in the wood oven. Figure out when to take the turkeys out of the fridge. Peel Potatoes. Make cheese markers and assemble the cheese plate. Chill beverages. Pull extra silver and serving dishes. Thanksgiving dinner will be served on my assembled set of 1862 Minton Florentine China.
November 22 - 7pm - Ahead of the Game? Trent and I decorated the gingerbread house for Christmas which grandma bought (the house is pre-constructed we just decorated it). The pumpkin pies are baked. The first two pie shells contracted into nothing in the oven so they could not be "filled". I converted them into two "Four apple custard tarts" with caramelized Pippin, Black Twig, Rome Beauty, and Green Gravenstein apples one of the tarts has a marzipan layer. They look gorgeous.
We've decided that the peas are too small to make an extra vegetable so we've deleted them from the menu. I also removed the yams but I may re-add them tomorrow and bake them in the wood oven with the Heirloom Squash. No dishes are out yet, the table is not ready nor is the centerpiece but the cooking is ahead of schedule which should make for an easier morning tomorrow.
November 22 - 2pm Cooking Update: Brussels Sprouts blanched. Soup made. Stuffing done. Gravy base done. Root vegetables prepped. Beets cooked & peeled (I'll serve them cold). Pumpkin pie filling made (have to remake the shells - they shrunk too much in the oven). Persimmon Red Flame Raisin Bread pudding made (with buttermilk). The soup is really good. I used 3 turnips, 1 leek and 1 bunch of celery. I roasted the vegetables for about 40 mins and then pureed them in the food processor using the vegetable stock I made on sunday. A little salt, nutmeg and zing!
November 21 - Big Turkey Lands.
I'm Way Behind? Not quite as much got done today as planned. Jack cleaned the silver. The Big Turkey arrived from Heritage Foods USA (Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch). The turkey was not raised by Frank Reese, Jr, but rather by Master Breeeder Danny Williamson in Tampa, KS. Part of the turkey froze during shipment and I've still not been able to extract all the giblets. It weighs in at 18.89 pounds and is in fact a Bourbon Red - which I've learned is named after Bourbon Co., KY where it originated (and the color of the feathers). Bourbon Red was an important commercial variety during the 1930s and 40s.
As for the Little Turkey, I unwrapped and ungibleted including the head and feet. I have both drying out in the refrigerator (so the skin will be crispier).
Shopping update: This afternoon the Fatted Calf order was picked up and so we have scored Boudin Blanc with chestnuts for the stuffing and pancetta for the brussels sprouts as well as duck pate and mortadella to snack upon. I also purchased cheese from the Cheese Shop in Healdsburg - mostly American but a bit of France snuck in including Essex St. Comte. Tonight we did a run to Whole Foods to get last minute extras like cheesecloth and Straus whipping cream.
Cooking update: I dried out the dressing bread (Artisan Bakery's Pumpkin Seed & Panorama Bakery Epi) in the oven. I roasted walnuts. I roasted the persimmons in sugarcane syrup and riesling.
Trent de-sprouted two (troll) clubs of Brussels Sprouts single-handedly.
Artisan Cheese Plate:
Essex St. Comte, Serpa, Crucolo, Andante Dairy's Minuet, Haystack Peak, Sally Jackson Goat, Redwood Hill Bucheret and Chabichou
Artisan Bakery's Pumpkin Seed Bread
Turnip & Celery Soup
Heritage Bourbon Red Turkey
Woodoven Roasted Narragansett
1997 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel
1988 Charles Joguet Cuvée du Clos de la Dioterie Vieilles Vignes (in magnum)
1995 King Estate Pinot Noir (in magnum)
2002 Pride Cabernet Franc
How to Cook a Heritage Turkey: (from Heritage Foods USA) The bird must bake 25 minutes per pound. The secret is a low temperature and long roasting time. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove giblets and save for broth/gravy. Rub turkey with butter and salt, pepper (and choice of seasoning). Add 1-1/2c of water to the roasting pan. Cover the roaster (with aluminum foil or lid) and cook.
One hour to 45 minutes before serving remove the cover and raise the temperature to 350°F. Cook the turkey until it is golden brown and a meat thermometer reads 170°F internally. Legs cook faster than the breast and some chefs remove them before the whole turkey is ready.Essential Reading:
Martha Stewart is my Thanksgiving Chef on call. I use the Turkey recipe in the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook on page 314. It uses 3 sticks of butter and 1 bottle of white wine. Basically cooking the turkey at 450°F for 30 mins then 350°F until it's done. You use the cheesecloth on it until the last hour of cooking and baste every 30 mins or so. It takes about 4 hours to cook a 20lb turkey (unstuffed)
#1 Turkey tip - How to fix a dry turkey - If the turkey is too dry spoon a bit of warmed chicken or turkey stock over the dry meat and let it soak in a minute or two before serving.
#2 Turkey tip - Don't tent the turkey when you get it out of the oven or the steam will make the skin soggy.
#3 Turkey tip - Make sure you wait to carve the turkey - about 30 mins after you get it out of the oven. The juices will flow out towards the skin which is what you want - this makes the turkey meat moister.
#4 Turkey tip - Cold turkey? Warm stock or warm gravy = Warm turkey.
November 15 - Turkey on order.
We ordered this year's turkey from Heritage Foods USAin August. It should be an 18-20 pound Bourbon Red.
A great Cheese Course. As the crowd at Thanksgiving are not outright cheese lovers I usually get cheese locally or order a more unusual selection from igourmet.com. This year I'm planning on a local American cheese course with selections from Andante Dairy and Goat's Leap but likely I'll sneak a little Essex St. Comte onto the plate if it's available. Charcuterie is also planned. I've placed a good-sized Fatted Calf order but we'll wait to see what I get.
November 18 - Farmer's Market #1
plus Extra Turkey ordered This morning we heard that we may have two additional guests at our table. That starts to stretch the turkey a bit thin so we quickly contacted our local turkey source and begged for another small turkey. We now have to wait and see if we get it. The new plan is to cook two turkeys - one in the woodoven and one in the conventional oven. That should be fun. This is what the last turkey I cooked in the woodoven looked like:
It tasted fine (a bit dry) but obviously this is not the goal. I'm expecting the world of the Marin Farmer's market tomorrow. Jack scored fresh European chestnuts at the Santa Rosa farmers market as well finn potatoes from Tommy Boy. November 19 - The Haul
What we got at the Marin Farmer's Market filled two red wagons. Here's what we hauled:
Carrots (baby burgundy & orange)
Turnips (aka Swedes) two kinds
Golden Beets (baby)
Peas - 3 bags
Brussel Sprouts - 2 clubs
Onions - yellow
Mushrooms - Baby Bellas and Maitake
Squash - Kubocha and Galeuse d'Eysines
Raisins - Red Flame and Golden
Persimmons - fyuu
Apples - Black Twig, Pippin & Rome Beauty
Brioche - Panorama
Dates - Fresh Barhi and Cire
Robert Lambert - Cranberry Sauce and Bronx Grapes in Rose and fruitcakes
We have a second turkey ordered - yea Slow Food! The local turkey will get picked tomorrow afternoon.
The Apple Pie is now more likely to be 3 or 4 apple pie. The Bread Pudding is now persimmon. I took the tops of all the root vegetables this evening made vegetable stock - about 26 cups. I've reserved 10c for the soup, froze 8c and the remaining 8c will go into the gravy/stuffing. The soup I'm still on the fence about - maybe turnip mushroom soup? My mother reminded me that the stuffing this year I want to do lighter and drier.
November 20 - #2 Turkey Pickup Our second turkey is a 10.21lb Narragansett and is slated for the woodoven. Trent and Jack picked it up in Petaluma this afternoon, so it's now in hand.
Grocery store shopping round one netted pastry rounds from French Picnic, Quince Jam from the Ararat Valley in Armenia and Artisan Bakery's awesome pumpkin seed bread.
I'm toying with a recipe for Sweet Potato & Turnip soup from Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook - but I plan to wildly adapt it and by using Yams and caramelizing the turnips first.