Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another Caja China Thanksgiving


I had actually vowed that our next Caja China adventure would be either a whole lamb or a goat, but our plans for Thanksgiving jelled too late for me to arrange for either:

me: I know it's late, but can you tell me if I can get one of the following from you: a) a whole lamb; b) a whole goat; or c) a whole turkey
organic farmer (from whom I buy lamb and goat chops): Well we don't sell lambs, and the goats we have you'd have to come and get live, we can't butcher it for you. I do have some tom heritage turkeys left.
me: (visions of bringing cute pet goat to WV with us in the back of the subaru station wagon together with our portuguese water dog and having to slaughter said cute goat) Er, I'll take whatever turkeys you have left. (no idea what the difference between a tom turkey and a non-tom.)

So I show up at the farmers market last Saturday, and discover that the smallest tom turkey is a 20.9 pounder. The cookbooks say that you should count on 1lb per person, 1.5lb per person if you want leftovers. Our guest list for Thanksgiving looks like 5 adults and two toddlers. But beggars can't be choosers.

And being a faithful Christopher Kimball foodie, I set about brining the turkey the night before. I have a brining bag (an essential tool if you want to brine without depending on the weather outside being cold enough to stick a turkey in brine in a cooler), but the Morton's salt, contrary to its slogan doesn't pour. As I try to maneuver to reach a chopstick to stick in the salt canister, the brining bag loses its balance on the kitchen counter, and about 12 gallons of water go all over the floor, in particular dousing my poor dog who has been sticking close to me in the kitchen hoping that I will drop something tasty.

Break in the action as I go find a rag and bucket to wipe up 12 gallons of salt water off the floor. I decide that I will not bother telling my husband about this since he was out battling other desperate husbands for the last loaf of bread for stuffing at the local supermarket (he had called earlier: "Listen, Panera's closed. The supermarket is about shopped out, but there are three kinds of bread here ... hang on [Hey, that's my bread.] just tell me which one you want.") and he's worried about the tom turkey getting cooked in time anyway.

But when husband comes home he goes to the basement to pick up something and he returns with furrowed brow, muttering something about another leak in the house (we have been plagued by leaks both in WV and in DC--flat roofs on both houses), so I have to confess. Including the fact that that's the reason the dog is sorta damp and he's looking very chastened.

So come Thanksgiving Day, we roll out the Caja China despite forecasts of rain, and heat the coals, tuck the turkey in, and pray that splitting the difference between the directions on the web and the pamphlet which was included in the original box (which I had, of course, left in DC) will somehow work. (Web instructions suggest a turkey takes 3+ hours, the pamphlet suggests that a turkey <20lb>20lb takes 2.5 hours). I shouldn't have worried. There were a couple of very dark spots (where the turkey, being as tall as it was, got closer to the heat source than might have been advisable) but it was the tenderest, moistest, tastiest turkey I've ever cooked. And it was done in 2.75 hours, all 20.9 lb of him.

Other dishes:
Cheese and Onion Pie
Tarte Tatin
Pecan Tassies
Arugula and feta cheese salad
Roasted butternut squash with Moroccan spices
Bacon, sage, and apple stuffing
Mushroom stuffing (vegetarian)

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

OK -- so I think you win on the calamities front, but I have to say having an added appendage bigger (and heavier) than a turkey and still trying to cook a full meal, had its ups and downs too.

Question for you. I too rocked on the turkey this year. Not that its not tasty every year, but it was super moist and flavorful this year. I also brined (which I do every year), but this year, I went with the heritage turkey (arriving from the farm with many feathers in tact, at least ensuring its freshness). Our dinner table could not decide if the moistness was due to the brining or the type of turkey. Any thoughts?