Some of you may remember the epic meltdown I experienced in the grocery store last year, catalyzed by my lack of prepping and preparedness for the most joyous, calorie-filled day of the year. It was a mess. I was a wreck. Yet, the day turned out as beautifully as ever. Nonetheless, in wanting to avoid the same feelings that made me retreat into a 5-yr old blubbering pile of mush, I made time to do Turkey Day Trials again this year.
As I had been looking through the many holiday cooking magazines and catalogs (like I tend to do during this time of year… ok, always), I’ve noticed a shift in style and food. The glossy seductive pages show a comfortable shift from elegant sophistication to rustically casual. This also happens to be the way I’ve been cooking and entertaining for years. So as the gourds get funkier shaped, and the stuffing becomes more chunky, in preparing for Thanksgiving, I was basking in the abundant farm-fresh feast of a holiday that was upon us.
For my Turkey Day Trials this year, I made a vegetable pie, smashed Yukon Golds with cabbage and bacon, and a cardamom spiced turkey breast. The veg pie was a wonderful mixture of root veggies and crusty, custardy bread. The potatoes, laced with rosemary and maple, and dotted with pine nuts, were addictive. But as most toasting-turkey stories go, halfway through the cooking process, I fretted the worst. “It’s going to be too dry,” “It’s been cooking too long,” and “Crap, I think it’s over-done,” were constant stress-inducing mantras interlaced with choice four-letter words.
When my friend and I took the dinner to Rob and her boyfriend on duty, I prepared them for the worst – a Christmas Vacation soot of a turkey. I have the Carving duties to Rob. Looking at my foul catastrophe would sink my heart.
“Uh, you might want to look at this.”
“I know, I know, it’s bad,” My annoyance was evident.
“No, it’s –“ Rob trailed off.
My eyes popped as I looked down and as pink as a baboon’s butt, my turkey was raw. Are you kidding me?! All my over-cooked worry for a raw turkey? Well, at least it was fixable. The fatty, turkey skin had a silver lining.
With the hearty veggie pie and sweet and savory potatoes starting to loose their glamour, we did the unthinkable: we nuked the turkey. Personally, I only use the microwave for late-night, stuff-the-face quick cheesy nachos, and would never dare think to put a beautiful, protein-rich bird in a radioactive hotbox. But desperate times, a military ward room, and hungry boy stomachs called for desperate measures.
Five magical minutes later, the bird was perfectly cooked. My cardamom and rosemary rub had infused and flavored the meat with a warming holiday taste, perfect with the simple and very rustic sides. Considering all the main ingredients were locally produced, our casual pre-Turkey Day dinner was guiltless.
Needless to say, come last Thursday, I did not microwave our 16.8 pound turkey. But the cardamom rosemary rub definitely made its Thanksgiving Day debut, and I felt completely prepared for a humble, local, rustically casual Thanksgiving Day celebration. There were no grocery store meltdowns, and all the dishes came out perfectly. Other standard traditions remained – The Macy’s Day Parade, The Dog Show, lots of libations, second and third helpings, and leftover turkey sandwiches. Not to mention, lots of thanks for all of it. Even for the microwave.
(sorry for the lack of pictures – having technical difficulties with camera/computer connections)
Cardamom Rosemary Rub
(can make as much as you wish)
- equal parts sugar and salt
- 1/4 of the salt/sugar ratio of equal parts ground cardamom and dried rosemary
- cracked black pepper, to taste
Using a mortar and pestle, grind together the sugar, salt, dried rosemary, and cardamom until well combined and rosemary has been broken down considerably. Add as much cracked pepper to taste (I like quite a bit; I feel it brings out the spice in the cardamom).
This will be a very fragrant rub, that also goes well with lemon zest. Rub on poultry, sprinkle on fatty fish (like salmon), or use as a flavoring for bread pudding.