I got up at 7:30 AM Thanksgiving morning. I put on a pot of coffee and slid the now barely warm Dutch oven containing my weekend chili into the fridge. I figure there would be no lunch to spoil dinner, but we probably won't eat until afternoon sometime, so breakfast is in order. I fried up four strips of bacon and then two eggs in the bacon grease. Added two pieces of toast, and "ta-da," the perfect breakfast to be thankful for.
After eating, I threw a load of clothes in the washer and did a little bit of household maintenance (emptied the dishwasher, swept the kitchen floors, etc.) Then I took both halves of the cake, spread cream cheese frosting in the middle and glued them together. Then I spread some on the plate to help hold it upright on the road trip to its final destination. Then I got a sieve and some powdered sugar and dusted the top and sides (see photo). This part would later prove to be dumb. Then I wrapped it in Saran wrap to stay moist and put it in the car.
Melissa called to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. They are making half the dinner for today and taking it to Dustin and Linnea's house, who are making the other half. Sounds fun! And, probably nicer than me, who let Jake and Carla do it all, then I just show up, eat, visit, rest, and go home with leftovers, lol!
My, my where does the time go? It's almost 11:30 and I'm still in my bathrobe. So, I shave, shower, put on my clothes and head out. BTW its cold with snow flurries and some of the overnight snow is sticking to the grass in places!
I was greeted at the door by Jake, Carla and Carla's Mom, Acenter, who arrived on Tuesday after a 20-hour bus trip from Alabama. After the usual catching up, I unwrapped the cake. Almost all of the powdered sugar had clung to the Saran wrap, so my whole presentation effect was ruined! Jyl pointed out to me later that, after lessons learned, she tries to always frost and decorate her cakes "after" getting to the destination, so the lid or tin foil (or Saran wrap) doesn't trash it. Good advice.
Remember me feeling bad that Jake and Carla have to do all the work? Well, not really feeling "bad," just mentioning it, before? I spoke too soon as I learned it was a collaborative effort. Here is the menu and the chef responsible for it:
- Smoked turkey (Jake)
- Dressing (Acenter)
- Candied yams (Acenter)
- Chitlins (Acenter)
- Gravy (Acenter)
- Brussels sprouts (Carla)
- Mashed potatoes (Chef - Jake, prep chef - John)
They had made most of the dishes either the day before or at least before I got there, (smart idea, BTW. A lot less fuss and a lot less final cleanup). The only things I saw cooked were the Brussels sprouts and the potatoes.
So, the turkey was done around 2:00 PM. Jake pulled it off the smoker and while it rested the sprouts and spuds were cooked and the rest reheated. And, while Carla set the table and Jake began to carve the turkey, my mouth began to water.
Jake carved the turkey in a way that I've never seen used before, except on TV shows, and then starting this year. He cut off the whole breast and then cut it crosswise into about 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. That way each piece has some skin on it. We had some discussion about this and my feeling is that, back in the day, when turkeys were cooked low and slow, the breast tended to dry out. But, thin slices could be put on your plate, topped with gravy and still tasted great. These days, with brining for 12 hours and roasting (or smoking) at high temps for a shorter period of time, the meat is still very juicy, so these new thick slices are great.
Anyway, we served ourselves buffet-style, Acenter gave the blessing and we dug in! As I said, the turkey was moist and juicy and smoky; the potatoes just the right consistency (I attribute that to the way they were peeled, frankly); the dressing (cornbread) was great and pared well with the giblet gravy; the Brussels sprouts taste a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the candied yams and then there was the chitlins...
Definition: Chitterlings (pronounced and sometimes spelled chitlins in vernacular) are the intestines of a pig that have been prepared as food. They are a type of offal. They are carefully cleaned before they are cooked by boiling or stewing, and are often battered and fried after the stewing process. Chitterlings are also used for sausage casings.
Both Uncle Carl and Melissa had warned me about eating chitlins. However, since I learned that, after discussion, neither of them actually have eaten chitlins, I resolved to keep an open mind. They are a special favorite of Carla's, so Acenter (who does not eat pork or beef) made them for her. Jake said the cleaning of them yesterday went on forever (Carla's mom told me she cleans them all at least three time) and gave the house a peculiar odor. Carla likes hers boiled and served with hot sauce, so that how we ate them.
Result: I can see where it would be an acquired taste. Not bad, and the hot sauce seemed to cut the strange taste a tad. To be honest, though, I'd like to try the fried ones. I think it was the texture I had the most trouble with as boiled, they are a little rubbery.
After eating way too much and resting a bit, chatting at the table, cleanup started with each of us having assigned roles: Carla and Acenter cleaned up the kitchen, putting away leftovers, washing big items and loading the dishwasher with the small ones, Jake made a Thanksgiving call to his friend Jay and I laid down on the couch, being considerate and staying out of everyone's way, right?
After Jake got off the phone, he carved up the rest of the 20-pound fresh turkey and put the carcass, along with some frozen chicken bones in his stock pot. He dumped in a ton of water and some seasoning and brought it up to temp to make turkey stock.
After things settled down, we watched a rented movie "Diary of a mad black woman" an excellent comedy-romance movie that I laughed my head off at and I didn't even get half of the black-only jokes.
Finally, it was time to hit the road. I declined the generous offers of leftovers (I've still got all that roasted chicken, the new pot of chili, the last hamburger, etc., etc. etc.) except for some turkey slices (love those after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches) and a small piece of cranberry pie Jake made the day before and wanted me to try.
When I went out on their front porch, it was covered with a light dusting of snow (and so was my car)! So, (a little early I still think) I shifted mental gears into winter-driving mode and, slipping and sliding, drove home. When I got there, I tried a bite of pie before calling to let them know I was safe. Then, I tried another and another until the pie was gone! It tasted sweet and tart at the same time, like a cherry pie, only better!
I called Jeremy's family to wish them Happy Thanksgiving and then made a turkey sandwich. With sandwich and some olives on a plate, I went to bed to read and then fall asleep.
The last thought I had before dozing off was: Why didn't I ask for a bigger piece of pie...