Well, it looks like Fiancee S. and I might be on our own for Thanksgiving (aka Turkey Day) this year. As someone who lives very far from my loved ones, I've had Turkey Days before where it was just me, a modest amount of food, and a lot of good chocolate. I hoped that holidays like this were largely behind me when I met Fiancee S. because she has a lot of family nearby. Yet for Thanksgiving, many of the "usual suspects" in her family will be elsewhere (my heart goes out to Fiancee S., this will be her first Thanksgiving away from her Dad, ever.) So it will just be us, and whoever else we can find to join us.
All this brings a few connected thoughts to mind. The first is my last, rather sorry attempt to cook Thanksgiving dinner. It Thanksgiving 1993, about four months after I moved out of graduate housing to a house off campus. I made a whole turkey breast in the upstairs kitchenette. The turkey came out ok, but be mashed potatoes were a mess, and the gravy was an atrocity. A few of my housemates joined me, but many were vegetarian and rapidly tending toward vegan. I don't think it was that bad for a bachelor's first attempt, and, it was largely edible. Still I could do much better.
As an aside: it was a rather unusual experience for me at that time to have a housemate march upstairs one day and announce "Would anyone like any milk? We've decided to all go vegan down here and we don't want milk any more."
The second thought is my most recent attempt at improvising cooked poultry. I decided to try roasting some chicken atop a bed of onions, celery, garlic, and a couple aromatics. The roasting part went pretty well. Making a sauce to accompany the chicken did not come through so well though. I deglazed the pan, added a thickener, and tried to make a simple sauce. The mistake appeared to be in the seasoning -- the roasted onion and garlic added a lot of sweetness, but that required some more salty or savory elements to introduce some balance and create a delicious sauce.
That brings me to my last connected thought. I am able to cook fairly well from recipe right now. That, however, is like painting by numbers. Granted, one can absorb some technique from following a recipe or reading a cookbook, but, it leaves one a bit at sea when all one has is a set of ingredients at hand and wants to combine them in a delicious way. Original cooking dwells on skills and technique, as well as developing the palette to appreciate how flavors interact. I feel like I need that right now. I'm not sure how I will meet that need.
Anyhow, given the chance to make a turkey for Thanksgiving, I'll check out the "Romancing The Bird" episode of "Good Eats" and proudly brine a bird. I think it will probably come out fine.
on 2003-11-05 at 12:23 p.m.
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