Thanksgiving dinner, that is. It might have been my favorite said dinner thus far; though I did miss the sweet potato casserole. Maybe the perfect T-day dinner, in my world, is the menu we planned with the addition of that casserole.
I was particularly pleased with this year’s turkey. Not only was it roasted in a brand-new way, but it was the first time I’ve roasted an all-natural (not organic) turkey. The primary difference this makes, practically speaking, is that the turkey has not been pre-injected with any sort of flavoring or seasoning. I like this; it’s like a clean-slate of poultry. Brining an all-natural bird makes sense, whereas brining a pre-seasoned bird doesn’t (brining requires an exchange of salt and water, via osmosis, between a high-sodium liquid and a lesser-so solid, i.e., the meat — if the meat is already full of “flavor,” or sodium, the brining does nothing). The all-natural turkey also tastes more like turkey, much the same as all-natural chicken tastes more chicken-y than the regular supermarket variety.
So, between the good bird and the good process, I loved this turkey. As I was applying the herb paste under, over, and around, I was a bit concerned that it would be too much. It was covered in herbs, and I didn’t want an overseasoned main course. But it wasn’t. The seasoning was darned near perfect. The very best part was that, for what you got, it wasn’t that labor-intensive. I brined for about 6 hours on Wednesday, then let the turkey air-dry (uncovered, in the refrigerator) until I took it out to prepare for roasting. You could make the herb paste the day before, too (which I should have done, but didn’t). It takes about 10 minutes to apply the paste, and then into the oven. Our turkey was 11 pounds, and it took less than 2 hours to cook.
The other recipe that is finding a permanent home in the holiday files was the one for green beans. Again, if you make the herb/butter mixture early, the side dish comes together in about 10 minutes. It multiplied easily to serve a small crowd, and seemed a lot fancier than it really was.
I’m kicking myself for not getting a photo of the turkey, in all its herbed, golden-browned, uncarved glory. But I did snap a quick pic of the table (notice that centerpiece??? — oh, and my 5-year old set the table) just before I sat down to consume massive amounts of food. We had a nice time, or so I thought; our friend Matt did join us, as did another friend, TJ. It was an eclectic mix of friends and family who’ve never met, and it seemed to be the way Thanksgiving should be. Or so I hope it continues to be, in our house, all-natural turkey or not. And just in case you were wondering: I was not in my pj’s while snapping that photo, nor was I nursing an infant. But we did miss our planned eating time by half an hour (still, better than the year I kept our friends and a table-full of side dishes waiting for over TWO hours… how embarassing).
A quick pumpkin ice cream update: I made a version, last week, that was a great disappointment. Details to come, but I’ll save the whole story for a post that can include a happy ending; I hope to try recipe #2 tomorrow.