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Meredith and I decided to host Thanksgiving this year since we didn't want to travel with Caroline. I also wanted to do it since I never really got to host something all by myself.
I did the majority of the planning via a Google Docs which is also attached as Excel, csv, or zip.
I will go into specific details for each items.
The full list is below with links to respective sites as needed
I had to serve some of the cheese and crackers on Wednesday when everyone arrived hungry. I also then put of some of the other stuff earlier on Thursday because people were hungry then too
I made this on Saturday so it had ample time to (a) get less spicy and (b) let the flavors meld
Meredith made this right before serving. Since all of the ovens were being used, she couldn't toast the bread. Instead, she used some leftover gluten-free Panko which worked out well (and meant everyone could eat it)
Ann made this on Thursday (or was it Wednesday). She doubled the recipe so we had to buy extra shrimp. I am not sure what she did for flavor enhancer
The soup was basically a combination of curry roasted cauliflower[@rev] and roasted broccoli soup[@rev]. I tossed three heads of cauliflower with tons of curry powder, salt and oil (went heavy). I forget which day that was but it was ahead of needing it. Then, on Thursday, I added it to water, added more Better Than Bouillon Garlic and Roasted Veggie. Plus more curry powder. From there, my dad did the blending with a huge block of cheddar (Need to come back and see how much. I think ~1 lbs). It was not very flavorful so he added more base. That was exactly what it needed except it was pretty salty!
We had leftovers for dinner later in the week and it was better with croutons!
I did the salad as per usual though I felt like the dressing came out a bit too lemony. The big change was that, after adding (pre-packaged) pomegranate, I tried one and they were bad! Thankfully I only barely mixed them because I had to pick out as many as possible. I was not happy about that! But the salad was very popular.
I made way too much rice and stored the rest which worked out well since we ran out of rice later when we brought in food.
Emily wanted to make corn bread from Kodiak Kakes (which we were finally able to find and order from Target). I need to double check with her but I think she added corn to both and jalapeños and cheddar to one of them. This was actually really good!
We needed gluten free corn bread for the sausage stuffing and since I had found the Bob's Redmill one, I made it for both (it also didn't have buttermilk!). I used almond milk so my mom could have them. I found them to be pretty flavorless but it didn't matter for the stuffing and, with butter, people liked the regular.
I debated how I wanted to cook the turkey. My first thought was to deep-fry since it is fast and I do not have to give up an entire oven. However, besides being dangerous, it takes constant attention, is weather affected, and is less precise with timing. The oven however takes a really long time and I didn't want to do that.
So, I decided to spatchcock the turkey! And, to make it even easier, I dry-brined it instead of a wet-brine. I bought a ~22lbs turkey from Kellers ("Fresh" but actually lightly frozen). I picked it up on Sunday and prepped it Tuesday morning so it could finish thawing.
I used new, very-sharp poultry shears to cut out the back bone and then I flattened it. As you can see from the photo, it was a bit cockeyed but not too bad (I also cut a bit of the breast bone to make flattening it easier. The "brine" was from Serious eats (LOCAL[@rev]) or 1/2 cup kosher salt (I used Diamond Brand) and two tbsp baking powder (crispier skin). I actually did 1.5x that but didn't need to.
I debated following the directions on how to store it. Kellers had given me a large food-grade plastic bag so I decided to put the whole thing back in there and then cover that with a trash bag. This way I had extra protection but also had food-grade plastic touching the turkey.
Before cooking it, I spread herbed butter (melted) all over. No additional salt.
To cook it, I started at 450° + convection as per many recipes but it started to smoke. I turned it down to 400° and turned off convection. I was running around so crazy that I don't recall the exact time but I think it was about two hours before the leave-in-thermometer read 160°. After checking it a few different places, I decided to give it even more time.
When I finally took it out, I checked the temps all over and was happy with it. Except when my mom and I went to carve it I found half the dark meat seemed a bit undercooked. I decided to just save that half and I would cook it later (ended up freezing it). There was still more than enough.
I didn't do the best job carving (my mom and I each took half) but we got the job done. It was pretty well received though I thought it was inconsistently salty and not amazing. Certainly not bad per se, but not the best turkey I've had. Also, my mom decided to put some of the carrot and celery junk on top when serving (I would not do that again). Next time I will watch more videos on carving
I followed my regular recipe[@rev] except roughly doubled with two changes:
For the regular carne, I used 4 lbs of pork. I made it and baked it all ahead, let it cool, and then reheated it on the stove for serving.
For the seitan, I did the same basic thing as before[@rev] except I cooked the seitan in a broth (mostly water, white wine, and soy sauce) to fully cook it before it absorbed the adovada sauce. I stored it in the adovada sauce but didn't cook it again until it was time to serve. I think it was okay but certainly not as good as the pork version. It just had less flavor (could have done better with the seitan) and was an odd texture. And it still absorbed some of the sauce!
My dad followed his recipe[@rev] except forgot the nutritional yeast. He made a really flavorful broth which we kept for a bit. We reheated the whole thing in the liquid at Dinner to make it faster and easier. I think this worked well enough. It was more moist than usual and still really good.
My dad made a vegetable lasagna plus a small red-pepper parmesan bake that was gluten free. I will update with more details later
I used some old Emril Seasoning and then (presumably) even older cajun seasoning we had. They came out really good but once reheated they were less flavorful. I ended up doing a #10 can plus two smaller cans (I wanted to do four more but two of my smaller cans were diced, not whole)
For the sausage stuffing, Ann made it from her recipe[@rev] except she used gluten free bread and corn bread. I think it tasted the same though.
My dad made a vegetarian stuffing using fake sausage (brand?) and real bread. I will come back and add more notes if he has them but I know he wanted some sweetness and ended up using some dates (including really old ones)
We had Ann make her Green Bean Casserole[@rev] but with Trader Joes mushroom base (since it was vegetarian). It turns out that most of the regular mushroom soups are also vegetarian but we weren't sure. We also had her double it. I didn't have any but Meredith said it wasn't as good so maybe it was the doubling it or maybe it was the base.
I made a double or triple batch (not really sure) of Stuffed Mushroom Casserole[@rev]. I basically just did my own thing inspired by the recipe and our changes[@rev] (sans chicken). I wanted it to be gluten free so I use gluten free bread crumbs (again, plain with added salt and italian seasonings) and made my own shallots. I tossed slivered shallots with some rice flour and fried them. They didn't have the flavor (or real breading) of the store bought but they were fine for this. I really just eye-balled it on the cheese but went heavy. And used my dad's shaved parmesan.
I decided to try the classic NPR Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish[@rev]. I used the white (and creamy?) horseradish. I wasn't a huge fan but some others liked it. I think I would pass in the future but I am glad I tried it.
I went back and forth on what I was going to do with the gravy but eventually gave up! My mom said she was fine with the little bit of gluten in the canned stuff so I put her in charge. She used two cans and then doctored it and added more stuff. She used some of the drippings from the turkey and (I think?) the vegetables. She made additional with some brown-rice flour. She wasn't too happy with the color which I think is because she didn't let the new roux brown enough but I really do not know.
In the future, if I again decide not to make gravy, I will buy the Costco ones that seemed nicer and richer than the cans.
I used the Taste of TX recipe[@rev] but, as per their instructions, split it into three. Actually, I ended up with three plus two little ones. For the pie crust, I used store-bought rolls from Smiths (Simple Truth -- the store organic brand). Unlike the frozen ones from Trader Joes that Meredith has used in the past, these were super simple to lay out (no need to roll) and were pretty good. Blind baking them was hard only because I didn't have a lot of weights.
I eyeballed it with the amount of pecans as can be seen in the photos. I was very happy with the end result though they didn't come out very pretty.
I kind of decided at the last minute to make cake balls. Since it was so easy last year[@rev], I used mayo chocolate cake[@rev]. I baked it as a square in a disposable half-tray chafing dish and then let it cool.
The next day, I made the icing and then made the balls. I (somehow) managed to find room in the chest freezer to let it harden before chocolate coating them. I had found real white chocolate chips so I used that with some coconut oil to thin it. In the end, I do think thinning it was the right answer but I wish it had less of a coconut flavor. Meredith thinks it could be because the oil is old but I am not sure.
Anyway, after dipping them, my Dad and I melted dark chocolate (again, with some coconut) and drizzled it. Overall, I do like them but I think they do not look like the amount of work they really are. I had forgotten how much work they were until I had already started it.
I was really excited to try Bravetart's recipe. We followed it pretty closely except that we were out of clove. We decided to use Chinese 5-Spice powder instead which has some clove but also a lot of other flavors. Making the cake went pretty well. In the end, I liked the flavor but it wasn't "the best" carrot cake ever. Could be due to the altitude or the clove missing. My dad thinks it needed coconut but I am really not sure.
I also made the Bravetart Icing. I made the custard (really, basically pudding) and then let it fully cool. When I combined it all though, I thought it just wasn't even close to sweet enough. I ended up adding powdered sugar but it still seemed not sweet enough. It worked fine all together though.
My dad did the icing since he is faster and we were in a hurry. We did a crumb-coat, let it freeze a bit, and then another coat. We did not do anything else fancy since we were so time-limited.
My dad made cinnamon buns. I will have to update this with more details later but I think he used Challah[@rev] for the bread and then this particular Mardi Gras King Cake[@rev] filling for the filler. Topped with a simple powdered sugar glaze.
We had to seat 21 plus Caroline. We purchased two 8-foot tables and borrowed two 6 (4?) foot tables. First, during the actual prep, I set up both small tables in the garage as a prep space. It also served as a cooler room (though certainly not a fridge). I was able to use that for serving bowls and just have a lot out of the way.
For the actual meal, I cleared one of those tables and put it out next to the kitchen bar. That table was the "meat" table and the bar had everything else. I used the induction burner but I do not think I really needed it. The cast iron kept it more than hot enough. I am glad I didn't use chafing dishes. Things stayed as hot as they needed to be.
We set up the tables as the patio table in the dining room connected to an 8-foot table jutting out. Then, with a space for egress, we had the round dining table with the 8-foot sticking out. See sketch.
For reheating, I did most things on the grill while the turkey was in the oven. After some trial and error, I used just the center burner and on low with a sheet pan underneath the things I was heating. I think that gave me a good temperature. Once the oven was free, I moved everything into the oven.
I have a lot of notes for how to do this better next time. The biggest is that I should have less variety and just more of the same things. Keep it easier and simpler. Plus, that will be easier to pack up
Another problem was that most of the guests were from out-of-town so they all came over really early. I hadn't planned any kind of lunches which meant that I had to put out appetizers earlier than I had wanted. I should have planned some simple snack meal food earlier.
Of serving, etc. No great photos of everything