The last seven days have been a whirlwind of activity here at the Geek household. Last weekend was full of IT support activity for a charity auction fundraiser at Mrs. Geek's school. Then I took Monday through Wednesday off from work to make sure that I didn't die after putting on our first Thanksgiving ever here at the house. Monday was three hours of grocery shopping, Tuesday was two, plus some cooking prep work and cleaning. The cooking really started in earnest on Wednesday, with last minute house cleaning running toward midnight. The work ahead of time made for a relatively leisurely Thanksgiving Day.
We had a total of eight adults and two kids for Thanksgiving Day. I'd committed to doing a turkey, some veggies, and provide the beverages. Here's the bill of fare I came up with:
- molasses-brined smoked turkey,
- homemade cranberry sauce,
- stir-fried sweet potatoes, and
- cornbread dressing
It all came out pretty much without a hitch. I brined the turkey for about 18 hours using a molasses brine by Bruce Aidells and then smoked it for about 9.5 hours (starting at 7am).
I tented the breast with a triangle of aluminum foil after about 3.5 hours when I finally inserted the probe thermometer and discovered that it was already at 125 degrees. That tent really helped because the breast finished at about 168 degrees. The color was great, and the thigh meat just fell off the bone when I carved the turkey. (The turkey is in the picture at the top of the post.)
I also found a great recipe for cranberry sauce. It calls for "two cups of Pinot Noir or other dry red
wine." Pinot noir can be a pricey proposition, but I found this Castle Rock Williamette Valley Pinot
at a local wine shop for $10.99 that the staff swore is drinkable (and they are right). Otherwise, the recipe
calls for fresh ginger, candied ginger, sugar, cumin, and five spice powder -- I substituted a little of
Alton Brown's homemade chili powder for the cumin and five spice. The result is the jammy Zinfandel of cranberry sauces.
Of course, cooking down two cups of pinot noir into a sauce is not without perils. We have a natural gas/carbon monoxide detector in the house, and it is sensitive to more than just natural gas. We've set it off with aerosol propellant, and with cleaning solution that hit the gas heater. It turns out that a little evaporated alcohol in the air also does the trick. Being loud enough to almost literally wake the dead, it was a bit of shock to hear it at about 10:30pm on Wednesday night. Knowing that it had gone off also did not help me sleep that night -- I awoke at least once wondering if I smelled gas.
In all, the meal came out great. All our guests enjoyed themselves. It was a Thanksgiving for the books. Ok... I'm done now... I'm done for probably the whole weekend.
on 2008-11-28 at 7:00 p.m.
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