Doing laps in the LA Fishbowl

Gettin’ My Turkey On

For me, there are two culinary High Holy Days: Thanksgiving and Lunar New Year’s Eve. These are the pedal-to-the-metal, grueling, marathon cooking holidays that truly test your skill and endurance in the kitchen. I love the challenge. This year we’ll be hosting Doug’s entire family, plus a couple of friends, and I’ve already begun preparing, with the help of some cool high tech gizmos, starting with the cook’s best friend: Monsieur iPad.

Who knew this touch tablet would be so good in the kitchen? Imagine— no clunky cookbooks taking up space on your counter, with grease-spattered and flour-dusted pages held down by bowls to keep your place. The iPad is an elegant solution, as long as you have the right apps. The ones I’m using for Thanksgiving include Pepper Plate and Baking with Dorie.

Pepper Plate is a recipe holder and menu planner; you can import recipes from a lot of cooking websites like Epicurious and Gourmet, and then you don’t have to be online to use them. It can compile shopping lists for you, set a timer, scale a recipe up or down, and, most importantly, plan menus and put them on a calendar schedule. Bingo! I know what I’m prepping ever day up to Thanksgiving. With my limited memory capacity, this is very helpful. Added bonus: once you start a recipe in Pepper Plate is has a function that stops your iPad from going to sleep. Handy, though now with real cookbooks I find myself jabbing them to wake them up.

Baking with Dorie is an incredible app by Dorie Greenspan, whose cookbooks I’ve already raved about. Here she presents only 20 recipes (three of which I had already planned to use for Thanksgiving: the pie crust, the twofor Thanksgiving pie & the apple cake), but the format is truly inspired. Each recipe can be viewed as a simple step-by-step written recipe, a video recipe (starting with preheating the oven) or, for the practiced chef, a simple visual flow chart. It’s crazy. Her videos are informative, even if you know what you’re doing. It’s like attending a mini master class. The most basic videos have great nuggets of information, like how to tell when your dough is mixed enough, or why baking soda is used with buttermilk. Highly recommended.

(Martha Stewart has a similar app for baking cookies; I’m not using it this go round but it deserves a mention. Hey, Martha & Dorie, if you’re ready to throw some promotional bucks my way, feel free.)

With my hands full of flour and butter, how am I not greasing up my iPad? Ah, this has been solved thanks to an early birthday present from some thoughtful in-laws. Belkin makes a Chef Stand for the iPad that includes a big stylus that looks like a pestle. You jab that at your iPad and it keeps the gunk off your screen.

Okay, enough about the doo-dads. On to the food!

Started the season with turkey potsticker dumplings for my son’s Thanksgiving feast (his choice). A big hit with the kids. My sister Michelle was right: if you have the right non-stick pan, fried dumplings are dream. I got a Scanpan from Sur La Table. Worked perfectly; the dumplings slid right out. Don’t forget the lid!

This year I found a great blog in the New York Times about what foods to prepare when in advance of Thanksgiving Day. I’m going to try making my gravy ahead of time and add the turkey drippings while reheating instead of doing it all last minute, a time when I’m usually rushing around with the turkey trying not to slip on grease.

The blog’s author, Melissa Clark, also has a good video if you’re having trouble getting your cranberry sauce to gel. Cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make! Why aren’t you doing it? Made two cranberry sauces already, one that’s chunky and one that looks like it shlooped out of a can, both in maybe half an hour, tops.

Today I got up early to arrive at the Farmer’s Market at 7:45. Had an order there for a local Heritage Turkey but was hoping to snag a slightly bigger one. I was in luck. My turkey is beautiful, all 19.75 lbs of it. Heritage turkeys are turkeys that look like ye olde turkeys from days of yore, before they got all Pamela Anderson-ed. More leg meat, smaller breasts. It may shock some of you, but I am not a breast man. Dark meat all the way. One Thanksgiving at my in-laws it was decided to forego the whole turkey and just heat up a breast “because that’s all that anyone wants anyway, without all the fuss.” This breast also had NO SKIN. My bitter, salty tears could have brined a whole turkey, had there been one. Which there was not. Did I mention I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner now?

At the market I also got all my veggies, tons of fruit, cider, flavored pistachios and flowers.

Took the neck and gizzards out of the turkey and made stock for the gravy (got to use my China cap!).

This is a China cap.
This is also a China Cap. 

Made my pie crusts and refrigerated them. Baked and dried my cornbread for the apple-bacon stuffing.

Tomorrow, we take a detour: lasagna!

How is your Thanksgiving prep doing?

November 21st, 2011 - Still Life Las Vegas


4 responses to “Gettin’ My Turkey On”

  1. I am making the turkey, dressing, and cranberries this year (oh, and the gravy too). The turkey is "the cadillac of turkeys" says the guy at the butcher shop. Organic, etc. blah blah blah. Around 14 lbs. – I pick it up on Wed. because I don't have room in my refrigerator. The cranberries are easy – I make them day of with Grand Marnier. I don't like them too wet, so I drain them, blend the sauce mixture, and use it to make cranberry orange martinis. They are delish. For the teetotalers, I mix it with club soda for a cranberry orange soda. The stuffing this year is a new recipe – fig & hazelnut stuffing. I have already been put on notice that no one else will eat it (two others are bringing their own stuffing – my MIL is bringing…wait for it…Stove Top. Sigh. I don't make anything ahead except pies, and that isn't my assignment this year. I might make a Banana-Lemon-Olive Oil cake (a recipe I recently saw in a magazine).

    I am awed by your preparation. We only have nine people, and three are kids who won't eat much, so it's pretty easy here. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Doug, and Benjamin. I will think fondly on our "family" Thanksgivings of old. This year I will be thankful for many things, among them that I had a chance to see you guys this year. xo

  2. Julia says:

    We're having a small, quiet Thanksgiving this year, so I'm sticking to the basics – no cipollini onion chutney, no complicated appetizers – and do most of the cooking on Thanksgiving Day. We pick up our turkey this morning, and I'll start the dry brine tonight. I should have started it last night, but alas, it just didn't work out to pick the turkey up yesterday (like you, from the Farmer's Market). I'll probably do the cranberry-horseradish relish, the sweet cranberry sauce and the pie crusts ahead.

    For me, the marathon High Holy Day of food preparation is our Christmas Party (which you'll always be invited to, and will probably never attend ;o). I'll start strategizing for that next weekend …

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I just got off of my 500 cal/day diet today, and reading this blog with all the comments has made me salivate! We will be off to HI tomorrow morning for an aloha Thanksgiving. Sending you and your beautiful family a very Happy Thanksgiving. Totally related to the comment about the white turkey breast. I ordered two small (10 lb) turkeys this year to have more dark meat.
    Love you, Love you, Love you.

  4. Cath says:

    I hope you wore your China Cap wilst employing your China cap. If you did, please post a photo.

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