Sunday, November 25, 2012

Color us Thankful

This past week was Thanksgiving and we hosted the first annual Friendsgiving.  It was Ro's first ever year as a hostess.  As the plans started being made for the event and the work of shopping, prepping and cleaning began she doubted the logic of why hosting was fun.  Gone were her days of sleeping in on the holiday until 10 a.m., going to the store (day of) to buy some crackers and cheese and then driving to someone else's house.


We had a total of ten friends and family gathered around our table this year.  Ages spanning from seventy to teenager.  Oh and there were two dogs (a Husky and Australian Shepard doodle, who actually did bark in an Australian accent).  Both of the four legged guests mostly enjoyed hanging out in the kitchen waiting for any morsel to fall.

FloJo is a recovering perfectionist and enjoys preparing a menu full of traditional classics as well as new dishes never tried before.  The challenge for next year has already been established-- modify the Italian Mother-in-Law dressing served this year to Hawaiian Mother-in-Law dressing for next year's menu.


This is a favorite holiday of the year, one that brings not only delicious food, but the people most dear to the table to celebrate all that is good together.  Particularly this year, it hit home that it's not what's on the table that matters the most, but the people who are around it.



Our friends Carolyn and Kelly recently lost their dear Mother Mary.  They each took turns sharing a very touching story that will be particularly memorable for years to come.  

Carolyn's father was an American History teacher.  One summer they all took a trip  as a family to Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Museum.  At one of the exhibits they had learned that the pilgrims during their 2nd winter survived on only 5 kernels of corn a day as rationing had to be done to ensure there was enough food to make it through the very harsh winter.   Mary had been so moved by that experience that she reminded the kids every Thanksgiving by reciting The Legend of The Five Kernels  at their Thanksgiving table.  It was a such a sweet tribute to Mary and her tradition now lives on, not only with her children, but a new expanded family.



We were very blessed to have a bountiful feast this year including a record, two turkeys this year.   We had two turkeys mainly because the smoked turkey was an experiment and we weren't sure it was going to turn out.  The back-up turkey was a Guinness-brined turkey.  It was a pretty even split by the guests as to which their favorite was.  We will get a Survey Monkey electronic poll in place for next year so we have more accurate results.


Pinning the wings
The process to smoke the turkey was fairly simple.  Prep the turkey as you normally would (removing all the extra parts stored in the cavity and reserving for gravy or stock).  Lighting the charcoal (which proved to be the most difficult feat of the whole adventure).  We covered the bird with olive oil, salt and pepper and a BBQ seasoning.  Put some butter and herbs under the skin of the breast and stuffed the cavity with rosemary and lemons.  Turkey pins come in handy to pin the floppy wings to the body of the turkey.


Once the coals were hot, they were placed on the bottom tray of the smoker with some cherry wood, next a pan of water and finally the turkey rested on the top rack.  Total cooking time (in the Seattle rain to boot) was approximately 8 hours.  It's pretty low maintenance, but you do have to check on it about every hour to make sure the coals remain hot and occasionally add more charcoal or wood to the fire.

Both Ro and her nephew Po (so cute how they rhyme) were amazed how moist the smoked turkey was when it was finally done.  It smelled like a campfire and had that rich smoky flavor, which is very distinctive.  









Homemade turkey stock
 The nice thing about making a turkey the day before was being able to use the bones and carcass to boil with onions, celery, carrots, fennel, thyme and rosemary to make a very rich stock for the Thanksgiving gravy (this year made by our friend Betsy).



The brine
Turkey #2 also required some work the day before Thanksgiving.  This turkey got to brine in a bath that consisted of salt, onions, bacon, mustard and coriander seeds, peppercorns and the star ingredient Guinness Beer.  It soaked in that concoction overnight (we're still not sure how we found room in the refrigerator for it).






On Thanksgiving day we had to keep the worker bees fed and energized.  We ate a migas type breakfast served with black beans and cornbread Flojo made for the dressing.  Then for lunch a healthy smoked turkey sandwich on multi-grain bread.  

Then it was on to the main meal of the day!  Let's just say none of us were successful in following the Weight Watcher's guide to Thanksgiving, which is to make islands of each dish.  Carolyn said it best, describing our plates as one continent vs. islands.  It's Thanksgiving though-- and so fun to try so many different things in one meal.  We were all happily stuffed after dinner and grateful to spend this evening together!
Pat, Betsy and Carolyn-- post feast chillaxin



Our 2012 Friendsgiving menu:

Appetizers: Charcuterie Cones, Crudité with Green Goddess Dip and Pear Camembert Dip

1st Course: Butternut squash soup garnished with sour cream, pepitas and thyme and Brussels Sprout Salad with Pepitas and Dates (Betsy's favorite dish of the night) with Parker House rolls (Ro did a great job making these)

Main Course: Smoked turkey, Roasted Guinness Brined Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, Italian Mother-in-Law Dressing (in honor of our recent trip to Italy), Cornbread Sausage Dressing, Corn Pudding (Pat), Roasted Carrots, Modern Green Bean Casserole and Cranberry-Orange Relish

Desserts: Apple Walnut Cake w/ Butter Sauce (Pat), Pumpkin Cream Pie, Pumpkin Pie (provided by Costco-- thanks for the tip Alix) and homemade Pumpkin Cinnamon ice-cream
The food continent

Live life with flavor and fun!


Po, Carolyn, Kelly, Ro, Dana, FloJo, Betsy, Pat, Kathy and David (FloJo's parents)

Recipes made by Pat Bruce:

PAT'S CORN CASSEROLE  (Flojo's favorite dish of the night)

1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can creamed corn
8 oz. sour cream
1 egg
1 Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 stick of butter (melt and use one to grease casserole dish)

Mix all together and bake uncovered 350 degrees. Be sure to use a deep enough dish as this rises quite a lot because of the muffin mix. 

APPLE/WALNUT CAKE

1 cup butter 
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups peeled and diced apples
2 cups chopped walnuts.  Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Whip 5 minutes. Mix dry ingredients and add to batter. Add vanilla, apples and nuts. (I usually mix in the apples and nuts by hand, as the batter is really stiff.) Put in greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1-1/2 hours. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes.

BUTTER SAUCE

1 cup milk 
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon water

Combine all in sauce pan. Stir constantly over medium heat until thickened. Refrigerate and warm before serving.