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Turkey Day Trials 2013, Part 2

23 Nov


Years ago, my mom had an especially funny Kindergarten class.  There was this one boy in particular who looked like he was 5 going on 55, and had the imaginary years of personality to match.  It was at this Thanksgiving time when I was home from college and would volunteer in her classroom, thus starting my love for teaching and education.  I remember sitting in one of the teeny, tiny chairs watching my mom line up her kids to go home for the day.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” as she started to speak, all those little eyeballs grew big and round and stared at her as if she was made of gold and about to pass out candy and puppies, “tomorrow is a special day.  Please turn to the person behind you and say, ‘Tomorrow is the Feast!’”

I watched as 17 little kids whipped their bodies around, almost smacking the next person in line with swinging backpack momentum.  “Tomorrow is the FEAST!”

They were so excited!  So excited in fact, that if everyone turned to the person behind him or her, they were talking to the back of a head, and they didn’t even notice!  The best part being our little boy, happy and jumpy as ever, being last in line, and turning to tell the air behind him that tomorrow is the feast.  He couldn’t have been happier to tell nobody!

I laughed out loud that day, and we still laugh about it every Thanksgiving.

Yesterday was the Kindergarten Thanksgiving Feast at my school.  It is a huge event, and something our school has been doing for years.  While quite a production, it provides food for all of the kids, and their families, in our 5 Kindergarten classes.  While already being stressed about fitting in everything I need to do before the Thanksgiving break, I also offered to roast a turkey.  Sigh!  So rather than freak out (which, Rob will tell you, I kind of did anyway), I decided to chalk it up to Turkey Day Trials.

Usually, for my Turkey Day Trials, I make a roasted turkey breast, mostly to test any glaze, rub, or compound butter I would like to try that year.  Anyone remember the infamous microwave turkey breast of last year?  Anywho, coming home after working all day and getting this turkey in the oven was honestly, something that I needed to not stress about.  I had floors to clean, no time to baste.  I needed laundry done, no time to brine.  This needed to be a no-mess, no-fuss, no-nonsense bird.

So that’s exactly what happened.  No funny mishaps here.  No microwave, no trips to the emergency room.  I stuffed a Meyer lemon in the cavity with rosemary and citrus mint.  I sprinkled the juice from another Meyer lemon on the outside, and roasted the lemon quarters in the pan.  I rubbed the bird with a stick of softened butter, gave it a very healthy dose of s&p, a small shower of ground cardamom, poured some water in the pan, spanked its hiney, and away it went.  Starting the oven at 425, I immediately turned it down to 350.  To remove the basting issue, the bird was covered for the first hour with foil.  After an hour, I removed the foil, turned up the oven again to 425 for about 15 minutes, and then lowered it to 325 for the last hour and a half of cooking.  Wham bam, thank you ma’am, at 155 degrees in the thigh, the bird was out of the oven, covered again with foil, and rested for a whole HOUR (this is because I honestly forgot about it.  My dad had just picked up my mom from the airport, and by this time we were all eating one of our favorite dinners– butternut squash risotto with seared scallops and sage brown butter – all of our chit-chatting left the bird resting comfortably, and forgotten about).


When I finally cut into the bird and prepared it in small bites for small people, it was simply the best turkey I’ve ever made.  It was completely juicy all the way through, with brown skin and a lovely herby, lemony flavor.  We all tasted a bit and Thanksgiving came roaring through the door.

While cleaning up, I asked Rob why he thought this turkey ended up better than the rest.

“Because you didn’t think about it.”  Mr. Pilot Hands might be on to something.

My mom came to Kindergarten with me yesterday to help with the feast.  While I lined up the kids in our room, ready to go fill our bellies and give thanks, with all the parents watching I said,

“Ladies and Gentlemen, turn to the person behind you and say, ‘Today is The Feast!’”

The same excited, kiddo reaction ensued, and my mom just happened to be last in line.  With a huge smile and an audible giggle, she turned to nobody behind her, and excitedly said, “Today is The Feast!”



Turkey Day Trials – Day 1

16 Nov

Thanksgiving is the mecca of food holidays.  It screams cocktails, food comas, and leftover turkey and cranberry sandwiches.  Being that this is my first Thanksgiving cooking the meal (as opposed to my mom cooking), and it is only 9 days away, I need to get started.

Last night I started prepping myself – I watched my DVR’d Food Network Thanksgiving shows, I started to plan out a menu, and I started making the checklist (not a checklist, but the checklist) of things to do before the upcoming event.  As mentioned in my last post about our shopping trip to Trader Joes, I’ve already got the cranberry sauce (yes, my family loves the canned, jellied stuff), olives both green and black, and mandarin oranges.  Last weekend I also picked up bone-in turkey breast (both sides) to practice my flavors.  So tonight is Trial #1 – turkey breast with a risotto dressing.

But before I start cooking, I must celebrate and lament upon the new international news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement.  Celebrate, sure.  But lament?  There’s a story to explain.

From the time I can remember, my mom told me I was going to marry Prince William.  He and I are the same age, and every time I would see his picture on some magazine cover, or cutely posing with his mother, images of tiaras, royal robes, and other young, naive princess fantasies would float through my head.  I truly believed that I was supposed to – and would – many Prince William.

It wasn’t until I had my first real crush that it donned on me.  My mom and I were standing at the checkout in the grocery store looking at yet another debonaire picture of the royal family when, I realized (out loud) that I will never many Prince William.  My mom looked up from getting her wallet out of her purse and agreed with me in a way and tone that was also asking if I had just come round-trip from the funny farm.

Laughing a little at how stupid I must have sounded, I said, “But you always said I was going to marry him!”

“Oh,” she said with a wave of her hand, “I just wanted to wear a hat at your wedding.”

My mom didn’t get to wear a hat to my wedding – it would have looked ridiculous with her fabulous sparkly silver and black dress.  And the only Prince that crossed my mind that day was the Irish one waiting for me at the altar.  But today’s worldwide engagement news made me reminisce on my mom’s cuteness and my silly fantasies, and also made me realize some similarities.  Prince William: tall, handsome, and slightly balding.  Rob: also tall, handsome, and slightly balding.  Prince William: loves to sail.  Rob: loves to sail.  Prince William: a Lieutenant and search and rescue helicopter pilot for his country.  Rob: a Lieutenant and search and rescue helicopter pilot for his country.  Hmm.  Maybe my fantasies came true after all.

(But now I feel like I need to buy my mom a hat…)

Simple Roasted Turkey Breast

  • 1 3-4 lb bone-in turkey breast (both sides)
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced in 1/2
  • 1 head garlic, sliced in half
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 whole sprig sage
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cracked pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 white wine
  • 1/2 c chicken or turkey stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Have an oven roaster ready with rack in place.  Pour the wine and the broth in the bottom of the roaster.  Pat dry the turkey breast.  Turn it over onto the skin side, and lay the garlic, 1/2 of the lemon, and the herbs on the breastbone, holding the ingredients in place when you turn over the meat onto a roasting rack.  Take the other 1/2 of the lemon and shove it under the fatty side end of the breast bone, using the extra fat/skin to cover the lemon.  Drizzle meat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the densest part of the breast reads 165 degrees.  Let rest for at least 15 minutes, carve and serve!


Cranberry, Leek and Apple Risotto with Sage and Brown Butter (serves 4)

  • 1 c Aborrio rice
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 large leek, thoroughly rinsed and sliced into rounds
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1/3 c dried cranberries
  • 1 large whole sprig sage, leaves only, finely chopped
  • s&p
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp grated parmesan regiano cheese

With a pan on med-high heat, melt 1 tbsp of butter and saute leeks (with a pinch of salt) until just starting to soften.  Add the rice, and let toast, stirring often (you will be able to smell the starch once the rice starts toasting).  Add white wine to deglaze pan, and reduce until pan is dry.  Add lemon juice to deglaze pan again (the wine and the lemon juice will add a foundational tartness and tang that balances well with the creaminess of the risotto, and the sweetness of the leeks, and cranberries).  Then add 2-3 ladles-full of chicken stock.  Stir the leeks and rice consistently (and Chef Andrew Sutton taught me to only stir in one direction) until liquid is almost gone.  Continue this process until the chicken stock is used, and the rice has become creamy, but still has a toothsome bite (you will be able to tell if you are stirring enough because the liquid, when being absorbed, will also start to turn a bit cloudy due to the starches in the rice).  Note: if you overcook risotto, it will turn gummy and not very pleasant to eat.  Add the apples and cranberries, stir and turn heat to low.

Meanwhile, in a separate sauce pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter, with the sage, melting and browning – you want to get the butter to the stage where there you can see brown bits gathering, and it smells like sage popcorn.  Pour the brown butter over the risotto, stir, immediately.  Top with parm. reg. cheese, if using.


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