Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Turducken Day Memories

Wow, has it really been a month since my last post?! So much has taken place since then, from our first Thanksgiving ever as a married couple and homeowners, to ... well, a bunch of stuff.

Sadly, Boy and I haven't been out to dinner very often during this time, but we've been making a lot of truly spectacular food at home. And eating a lot of truly spectacular food at my dad's restaurant. Obviously.

To backtrack, though (sorry, no photos ... I was too busy swilling Al Valley Cab on Turducken Day), Thanksgiving was a roaring success, with 21 guests and enough leftovers to feed another 21. The turducken we got from Cajun Grocer went quickly, and certainly lived up to the hype the Wall Street Journal gave it, tender, well-spiced, and deliciously moist all the way through. It was a dream to carve (no electric knives in THIS kitchen!), according to Boy, and the jambalaya was a hit, all red and delicious like I remembered it to be. The shrimp in it were tiny and the amount of crawfish negligible, but hey -- at least my guests didn't know any better, the half of them being afraid of "crayfish" as it were. What was truly remarkable to those who partook, though, is the fact that the entire turducken was fantastically juicy all the way through, due to the stuffing technique and the density that comprised the 15-lb, 5-meat beast. Definitely worth the headache and the $85.

An 18-lb traditional roasted turkey in a Cajun (which is not to say spicy, as so many wrongfully assume ...) dry rub fed those who were less adventurous, but they proved to be in the vast minority, given that the turducken was the hit of the day.

Violently purple local cauliflower the size of a small animal was -- I believe "butchered" is the appropriate word here -- and made into a deliciously garlicky sauteed dish with white pearl onions, dyed a shocking shade of purple due to the violet varietal of that particular vegetable. A frightening or exotic sight, depending on who you're asking!

Other sauteed things included my dad's version of Singapore-style Chow Mei Fun, a thin, rice noodle about the approximate thickness of angel hair pasta, lightly seasoned and with a touch of curry. This ethnic dish is a specialty of my father's, using considerably less yellow curry than the traditional Singapore Chow Mei Fun, and colorfully enhanced by the presence of delightfully crunchy broccoli, fresh-roasted Chinese red roast pork, sliced into thin strips, thinly sliced chicken, fried and scrambled egg, snow white mushrooms, and Napa cabbage. Flavorful in a light way, with a touch of salt, this is one of my favorite things to eat when Chinese black mushrooms are also thrown in.

We also went ethnic in another direction with two traditional lasagnas, homemade sauce created courtesy of Boy's mother. A bit more acidic and tangy than the store-bought varieties, the marinara favored by this family of Long Island Italians tends to be a little thinner and a bit harsher than the sweet sauces in the jars ... but again, those sauces are nowhere near as sweet as the Southern renditions of "tomato gravy" I've experienced in Louisiana! Thick layers of ricotta cheese made the filling, and a generous layer of mozzarella, browned and bubbly, topped it off.

Boy's mom's signature salad with mesclun greens, Gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans, craisins, tomatoes, and cucumbers tossed in a non-fat sugary-sweet raspberry vinaigrette filled two giant bowls, and accompanied the other snacks very well.

I know we're going backwards here, but my contribution to the dinner was, in fact, the snacks, from soft mozzarella ringed by roasted red peppers doused in olive oil and Italian seasoning; whole wheat butter crackers and tomato and basil multi-grain crackers to go with rolled Prosciutto di Parma, sliced hot Pepper Jack cheese, reduced fat sharp Cheddar cheese, and port wine and cheddar cheeses covered in almond slices; to various other finger foods. For once, I did the antipasti only and sat back and watched my kitchen erupt in scents and sounds.

Anyway, we did have more traditional fare as well. Green bean casserole made an appearance, French's fried onions and all (a guilty pleasure I learned to love in adulthood, actually); as did a more shameful mashed potatoes-and-gravy, which came from a box and jar, respectively (there were 21 people! From-scratch was not going to happen after how much money we'd spent, lol). Mashed sweet potatoes were also served, along with a cornbread stuffing mix, which included pan-sauteed celery and diced mushrooms for additional texture and flavor. A bit salty, but that's what you get when you cheat and go the Stove Top route!

As if that weren't enough to carb-load on, homemade quick biscuits were also made, along with lemon-poppyseed bread and pumpkin bread in tiny slices (adorable!), and a rice and orange cheesecake was offered up for dessert. My greatest baked good weakness is, however, a cake from Benkert's Bakery, an award-winning local bakery with amazingly affordable prices (even though they've just recently raised their rates a couple of bucks). The shadow cake was served in honor of Boy's mom's birthday, which fell on Thanksgiving this year, a delicious confection of yellow cake and chocolate cake layers filled with sweet, light buttercream icing and topped off with melted chocolate. Ice cream cake also found its way into the festivities, a welcome pick-me-up after the lethargy that accompanies a meal of this proportion.

I feel as though I'm forgetting another dish, and I'm sorry I don't have pictures to refer back to (and of course, for the delay for those poor people who have stuck by me as I struggle to balance facets of my quickly changing life!), but I have to say, this was one of the best Thanksgivings ever. Not only did I stuff myself stupid, but I was able to bring a New Orleanian/Louisianian tradition to Long Island, New York, and share a little bit of my life for the past five years with the family that hasn't been able to partake that portion of my life for that long.

Happy holidays, everyone, and pictures of home-cooked meals to come!

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