Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving 101: Using Up Leftovers

What’s up with people saying “We have so many leftovers!” like it’s a bad thing? If you still have remains of Thanksgiving Day in your fridge, and you're sick of sandwiches, here are a few ideas on reducing, reusing, and recycling that food.

Most of your meal should still be edible five days out...but as always, gentle reader, we disclaim any liabilities for food-borne illness. (And yes, fine, maybe you could have used these tips a few days ago, but it took a while to recover from this meal's ensuing food coma, mmmkay?) If you're out of Turkey Day remnants, keep these tips in mind for future occasions when you've cooked too much.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Brooklyn Thanksgiving 2010: A Menu Recap

So, Thanksgiving came and went, and we did pretty damn good, if I say so myself.

Other than a minor mutual meltdown when The Beez and I mistakenly thought we had ordered a “maple-crusted” turkey (The Rob, who was nice enough to pick it up, remarked that we were one of only two orders placed at the Brooklyn Fairway for a Maple Crest turkey, and a game of Telephone ensued), we managed to execute our entire menu sans agita. Thanks to our OCD planning of the grocery shopping and menu, there were no last-minute freakouts (though we may not have been smiling quite as widely as the ladies pictured above right, gentle reader).

We decided to do a dry brine on the turkey due to refrigerator-space constraints, and while I would still use the wet-brine method for smaller cuts of meat, I think this will be our go-to method for Thanksgiving turkeys henceforth; it turned out incredibly flavorful and moist, and we didn’t have to deal with the logistics of chilling a 20-lb. turkey in a massive vessel of liquid.

Here’s the menu we ended up with (to serve 12):

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

(just channeling a little paula dean. I know you can't see me, but I promise, I'm holding a stick of butter)

So today's the big day, and of course, I mean big football day. But seriously, my lovely co-blogger has been doing a wonderful job of providing fantastic thanksgiving day tips for preparing the big meal (thanks Kitty!), and as I type this, I am sitting in my parents living room, the (relatively small) 13 lb bird, is sewn up, in its olive oil coated brown paper bag in the oven.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving 101: Turkey! (And Pan Gravy)

Before we begin, could we all take a moment to be thankful for the fact that I did not title this post "Talkin' Turkey" or something equally cheesy? You're welcome! Now, since we don't have much time before T-Day, let's get right to the point: how to ensure the bird is prepared properly and deliciously.

Now, there is no one exact right way to cook a turkey, although there are certainly right and wrong things to do with each method. I’m personally a proponent of going the classic roasting route, but if you want to do your bird deep-fried (I’ve sampled such a bird and found it surprisingly non-greasy)—or whatever other trendy method you’ve read about—go for it. I would just suggest doing a trial run if you’re trying a brand-new technique; a holiday meal where everyone is gathered is not the best time to experiment.

  • First, figure out how much turkey you need. For a smaller group, you might want to consider doing just a bone-in turkey breast, which still has an ooh-and-aah-inducing effect presented on a platter. For a larger group, consider buying an extra package of drumsticks in addition to the whole bird, so nobody has to fight over them. (Apologies if you could have put this advice to use sooner, gentle reader; planning my own feast and, oh yeah, working for a living have been sucking up precious blogging time!)
  • I am a fan of brining the turkey, though this is not necessary. A lobster pot or even a brand-new plastic garbage barrel are good vessels to contain the bird and the liquid, which tend to be heavy. You can brine the bird overnight; if refrigerator space is an issue and you live somewhere the temperature drops below 30° at night, you can keep the container on your porch. (This year, we're doing a dry brine since The Beez's fridge isn't big enough, and it's supposed to be like 50° in Brooklyn. Thanks a LOT, global warming!)
  • Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Thanksgiving 101: Timing Is Everything

    Timing is a challenge in any kind of cooking—and especially when it comes to a meal as ambitious and symbolically significant as Thanksgiving.

    Much as I love the fact that my cousin and I have taken over making our extended family's T-Day dinner, there are always some performance-anxiety jitters about getting everything on the table on time. In fact, in the week or so leading up to the big meal, I invariably have an annually recurring nightmare that we are supposed to serve dinner at 4:00 but it's 3:30 and the turkey has not gone into the oven yet. (Seriously, it's a really specific dream—even my subconscious is anal-retentive.)

    To keep you from getting Butterball-related butterflies in your stomach, here are some tips on Thanksgiving-dinner time management.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Thanksgiving 101: Meal Planning

    Planning the Thanksgiving menu is exciting and daunting at the same time. You don't want to serve so many dishes that preparing and heating them becomes unmanageable—but nothing would be worse than not having enough to eat on the most gluttonous day of the year. I use a chart to get a handle on the menu and keep all relevant recipes handy. Not only is this chart illustrated below for you, gentle reader, but it has been populated with links to many BGC recipes that might be welcome on your Thanksgiving table!

    Our Thanksgiving meal is usually a mix of tried-and-true family favorites, and new recipes culled from cookbooks, magazines, and the Interwebs. I recommend that you compile a list of dishes for each course (appetizers; soup, pasta, and/or salad course if you do that; turkey, sides, and accoutrements; and desserts) and then add/whittle down to what seems appropriate for your size group. Try to think about what can be made in advance and reheated, and what others will be bringing—and bear in mind the limits of burner and oven space.

    Below (after the jump) is a sample menu. You could add more fields to your chart -- e.g., how much to multiply a recipe by; how many days in advance a dish can be prepared; a "Vegetarian?" checkbox to gauge whether meat-averse guests will have enough options; and so on. If a recipe is not online, you might want to note the cookbook/magazine issue date it comes from, and the page number, in the Recipe field.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Thanksgiving 101: Grocery-Shopping Template & Tips

    For the past few years, my cousin The Beez and I have more or less hijacked the planning and preparing of our extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner. And while hosting Turkey Day (or Tofurkey Day, if your relatives are hippies) for a crowd is many people’s worst nightmare, we get totally geeked out about it, to the point of making multiple spreadsheets for planning purposes. (Oh, you snicker now, but if you skip our advice and end up running out to 7-Eleven at 4pm on Thanksgiving Day for canned cranberry sauce, who will be laughing?)

    This year, rather than schlepping on the Bolt bus on the most nightmarish travel day of the year, we are having T-Day right here in Brooklyn, chez The Beez. The prospect of not leaving the mother of boroughs is a massive relief to both of us. And I would like to pass that stress savings along to you, gentle reader; hence Thanksgiving 101, the BGC guide to Thanksgiving planning!

    Herewith, the first installment of we-haven't-decided-how-many-yet in our Thanksgiving 101 series: how to gather all the groceries you need without running around town like a turkey with its head cut off. (See what I did there?)