About 5 years ago, I wrote a book. It was published in very late October with exactly this time of year in mind.
It’s a really cool book, with just enough typos to balance my perfectionist tendencies while encouraging me to do a new edition. This year may have convinced me.
The book is called WE GATHER TOGETHER… holiday feasts with the family you have! And then there’s a note below the title.
Notes on contemporary food culture, menu plans, and delicious recipes to help everyone feel welcome!
You guessed it. I wasn’t planning for a pandemic when I wrote it. But here I am, planning two Thanksgiving feasts. One for the turkey eaters. Bill and me. And one for the fish folks. Our kids. Who, in theory, are coming, though the numbers in Georgia aren’t looking optimistic.
The chapter which shares its name with the title of this post begins this way:
Change is hard. Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a federal holiday each year since 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise on the last Thursday in November. Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Day, Easter, and the Fourth of July, among many others, have traditions with roots deep in our psyches. And we, well most of us, feel more comfortable with that which is familiar.
Which means, that while my sister and brother-in-law are likely to get their Thanksgiving feast from Boston Market, it will certainly include turkey and mashed potatoes and what passes for gravy. Not, perhaps, a perfect plan, but familiar enough to be comforting.
Students of neuro-linguistic programming remind us that some of us “sort for” same and some for different. Boiled down, this means that most of us, when given a choice will pick things that feel familiar, while there are a few of us adventurers who will choose things that are new, or novel. Often these folks marry each other and create no end of holiday stress trying to work it all out!
It seems to me that even those of us who sort for same may need to experiment with different this year. But here’s the big thing. While the details may be different, we can still sort for same… which is love.
And, at our house, the eventual brining of a turkey. Back to We Gather Together:
Brining: This is optional but I highly recommend it. I’ve tried both wet and dry brines and I like dry the best. It’s easier, often cheaper, a lot less messy, and ultimately, more effective. And it has no sugar! The purpose is to season the bird, while holding juices in the muscle for a moist, tender turkey, with gorgeous, crispy, perfectly seasoned skin. Wash your hands a lot during the process! You’ll need:
Coarse grey Celtic sea salt
Freshly ground pepper (black or mixed colors)
Dried thyme (or other herbs as desired)
A pan large enough to hold the turkey loosely. (ie Eco-foil from your local supermarket. Nobody’s perfect!)
Mix together in a small bowl: 4 Tbsp. coarse sea salt with 2 Tbsp. ground pepper and 1 1/2 Tbsp crushed, dried thyme, etc., if desired. (You can also do this with just salt, in which case you may need an extra Tbsp. for coverage.) Don’t use regular table or fine grind salt! It leaves a bitter taste and you have to reduce the amount significantly so it’s hard to cover the whole bird without making it too salty.
For an 18-20 pound, thawed turkey, remove any neck and innards. Reserve them for other uses, as needed. I freeze the neck, heart, and gizzard for soup stock. (At least I did before our family included two raw-fed Newfies!) The liver is great for dirty rice and may be frozen, separately, or fed to dogs. Pat bird dry, inside and out, with paper towels and place bird in pan. If using foil pan, place that on top of a sheet tray for stability.
Working in the pan, season the inside and outside of the bird well. Get down around the wings and legs and thighs. Leave uncovered or cover loosely with foil or freezer paper. Place in fridge, preferably the old one in the basement, and just leave it alone for up to 3 days. I like 18-24 hours.
I love this dry brining magic so much that I keep a jar, all mixed and ready in the pantry. Roast chicken. Big, thick pork chops. Yummy lamb chops, especially when figs are in season where you live. It’s all better with dry brining. And local, sustainably raised meat! (Ask me about times for these smaller pieces of meat.)
Check back Wednesday for my magic turkey timeline!
And if, by chance, you’re planning different things this year, for whatever reason, here’s a wild idea. Send jigsaw puzzles to the various places your family is staying safe and set up a Zoom meeting to work on them together!
ps… Some of my art is suddenly available in jigsaw puzzles! Click here to be magically transported to the new tradition land of puzzles.
pps… We’ll also be making prayer dots for the millions of families struggling with the pandemic in this season.