Another year, another Thanksgiving. This year some retailers decided to open to get early shoppers in. They hope to cash in on the pre-Black Friday crush that is often the case. Out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, a cold blast from the north has sent temps down to freezing in some places. It is cold enough that produce growers have to work covering plants to prevent frost from ruining the citrus crop. Many though decided to brave the very cold temperatures to camp outside of stores that open early in Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). People were camped outside the local Target store for two days so that when it opened at 4 a.m. this morning, they would be one of the first inside.
Of course the local media was excited. They rolled out with their vans and cameras to show people at home the spectacle of grown men and women choosing to sleep outside a store to be the first inside when it opens. Stores are not displeased hoping the attention will bolster sales. Some even handed out store maps so that shoppers will know exactly where to go when the doors open. Sometimes it does get out of hand. A jerk tries to sneak ahead causing tensions and even a minor altercation. Or worse, someone brandishes a weapon threatening anyone who gets in their way.
Turkey is the center of a Thanksgiving feast. Long ago these flightless birds roamed around in flocks and had to be hunted. Now you just go to the grocery store and decide fresh or frozen. Or organic and free range. Heritage turkeys are being bred and available either online or through speciality retail stores. Those birds cost more and can be less fatty than their cousins in the store. When I was a kid, most people roasted their birds using butter, herbs and other seasonings. Getting a moist bird was an art but today brining has become the preferred method. This presoaking allows the turkey to retain moisture as it cooks allowing for a moist and tender bird.
Another fad is frying the whole turkey. This is popular in the south but requires lots of preparation and care. It requires a large container full of hot oil (usually peanut or vegetable). You cannot do this indoors, on a balcony or fire escape. Too many people have tried it resulting in fire departments coming out to put out fires. You must do this outdoors and away from any structure. And never ever think of putting a frozen bird into the hot oil! The results are explosive and life threatening. And you have to set up a system of lowering the bird in and out of the oil to avoid oil splattering out of the pot. Is it worth it? Many say yes but I have heard people complain kosher birds do not come out as well. Since you cannot brine a kosher bird (it already is salted) it may not be as tender as a bird brined before frying.
Mashed potatoes are a favorite. The trick is getting them light and fluffy. America’s Test Kitchen believes Yukon Gold potatoes are the best to use for this. After trying both Russets and Yukons, they are right on. For light and fluffy, put down the hand masher and either use a hand ricer or food mill. I use a food mill and the results are terrific. Warm not hot milk (you choose the type but half and half is decent but for out of this world use heavy cream) and melted unsalted butter are then added. For those practicing Kosher, warm turkey or chicken broth (or stock if you have it). Then lightly fold it all in and taste for seasoning (usually salt and pepper). I sometimes add a scallion and prepared horseradish for extra zing.
While enjoying the turkey feast with all the trimmings, I remarked how back in the days of Titanic this would at least a seven course meal. Perhaps even more depending on the restaurant and its clientele. You would have the appetizer, salad, several meats, breads and sauces, a palate cleanser, followed by fruits, cheeses and sweet desert items (with coffee or tea). You can only imagine the food nannies going crazy if this was done today. They would go ballistic with the fat, calories, and decadence of it all. I wonder sometimes if the food nannies were deprived as children since they often dislike so many popular foods! 🙂
One tradition after dinner, and usually with dessert, is watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Every year I watch this show and always enjoy it. We learn the meaning of Thanksgiving and also forgiveness as well. Charlie Brown has to come up with a quick Thanksgiving meal. Thanks to Linus, Snoopy, and that strange bird, they come up with one with toast, popcorn, and pretzels. Patty gets angry but later apologizes when she realizes she imposed on Charlie to come up with a meal. It all works out in the end since Charlie’s grandmother invites them all to her home for Thanksgiving dinner.
Now that Thanksgiving has passed, the Christmas season is right around the corner. Already the music is in the air and decorations are going up. Children are getting excited in many parts of Europe. The feast of St. Nicholas is coming up (6 December) and he brings good kids presents heralding in the official start of Christmas season. Time to get the pans out and make Christmas favorites for the holidays. And prepare for some happy times ahead.