Cranberry sauce is wonderful because it's so easy to make yet so delicious, and because the cranberries burst when they cook with a little pop! that makes the kitchen sounds so cheery, even though it's sort of like the berries are dying before your very ears. But at least they get to die in a simmering bath of sugar, orange zest, and cinnamon. It's how I'd like to go. Exploding in a hot fruit stew.
With this first official dish of Thanksgiving cooling on the stove, I'd like to take a moment to preach the good news of Serious Eats. Over the past six months or so, we have noticed that the very best recipes we’ve tried have come from Serious Eats. It makes sense. They use SCIENCE to test all their recipes, and explain at the top of each recipe why their method works so well. Last week I made General Tso’s that was super crispy and the only kind I’ve ever eaten that I didn’t need to put Sriracha on. So when Bill found their guide to all of the holiday dishes we could possibly want, I stopped worrying about hunting down the best recipe for glazed carrots and stuffing, for this was to be A Very Serious Eats Thanksgiving!
We are all very excited.
My mother-in-law is sick.
It's all I can think about as I clean the house. As the stress bears down upon me like a great block of cement. As I read over the schedule that has me dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, laundering, cleaning the bathrooms, AND wrestling a duvet into submission, all over the next ten hours. Because I am a masochist.
"Thaaat's cute, Carrie," I tell myself aloud as I scan the list. "When we both know you're going to abandon this list by dinnertime when you find yourself sobbing on the floor with three out of your four limbs twisted up in the duvet and the house somehow dirtier than when you started.”
But back to the sickness. There's so much dust in the air, clogging my sinuses. So many cleaner fumes entering my lungs to compromise their functioning. So much stress dampening my immune system.
It’s going to happen. I shall fall to the virus. It will have me in its clutches by Wednesday.
My fate is assured.
For today, however, I will carry on. I will take a short nap right there on the floor, just a quick snooze, all tangled up in the damnable duvet, and then I will get up and sweep the floor beneath my feet. Sweep it clean of the dust which doth offend so.
I am not afraid.
I was born to do this.
"Can we name the turkey Beauregard?" I asked Bill this morning. For today is Turkey Fetching Day, which means he goes to the farmers market on his lunch break and picks up the turkey from the butcher. So it’s really less of a whole big day and more a midday errand. But it’s exciting to me nonetheless.
The rest of the conversation went thusly:
He still hasn’t come up with a better name. Too busy making memes out of our disagreements, I guess.
“How about Turkule Poirot?” I said as we tweezed pin feathers from the turkey’s flesh.
“Turkules,” he suggested as we patted the turkey dry and laid it gently on its breast.
“Chris Turkeyton.” He paused his kitchen shears and looked at me blankly. “From Scrubs!”
“Joseph Gobbles,” he said as he finally ripped the spine from the turkey’s carcass and held it in the air. “This time he goes in the oven!”
We settled on Allen Ginsbird. We were going to name it Ruth Bader Ginsbird, but this was right before he cracked the turkey’s ribs. It felt a little too on the nose.
It’s HIGH TIME for PIE TIME!
Here is the thing. The very thing. I wanted to make the pies yesterday. Truly, I did. But our TAPIOCA STARCH—which I had to order SPECIALLY for the APPLE pie because Serious Eats SAYS so and I am a DISCIPLE of that WEBsite now—didn’t get here till today.
DID YOU EVAH?
And the in-laws arrive this very aftahnewn, and me with mah little ol’ hands all full of punkin pie fillin’, and tapioca starch all in mah hair makin’ me look like an old, old lady! And me only a girl of eight-and-twenny!
Oh, god. I apologize. I don’t know what’s happening right now. Is this panic? It feels like panic. But you know, I don’t know why I should be panicking, in all honesty. There’s not really all that much that I have to do today. I’m just unraveling.
Back to the pies. We are making three: pumpkin in a gluten-free crust, pecan in a regular crust, and apple in a crust made only of tapioca starch and the spirit of friendship.
Now, pecan pie is, I feel, incorrectly named. If we were being honest, it would be called Sugar Pie: Now with Nuts! But even though I can feel my arteries congealing as the pie bakes, I can’t resist Sugar Pie. The weird, curdly custard…the way the pecans magically rise to the top…the sugar. As you are aware, this was the original pie in the window that so tempted the very first hobo to snatch a pie cooling on a windowsill. No one can resist that sugary goodness—no one.
Then there’s the apple pie. Uniform apple slices bathe in ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until they release all their stresses and toxins and juices and then you take all that and make it into pie. These babies macerate for three hours, and then you mix in the tapioca starch and pop the whole mess into the flakiest crust there ever was or ever will be.
Pumpkin…is just pumpkin. I just use the recipe off the Libby’s can. A classic.
Family is here. So it begins.
8:32 - I didn’t sleep last night. I mean…I slept some. A little. I don’t want to exaggerate. I slept a minimal amount. But not much. I was too excited. And also the dogs were snoring. But mostly…the excitement.
10:46 - It’s breakfast time and I am ITCHING to GET STARTED. But there’s only so much you can do in the morning if you aren’t stuffing and roasting a turkey the traditional way. Roasting a spatchcocked bird only takes a few hours, even when you unexpectedly find yourself with a twenty-two-pound bird for five people. This gobbler is a king among poultry. We are swimming in turkey.
…Or—wait, no. That’s not what I—never mind.
11:53: Did you know that the red wiggly skin flap thing that hangs over the turkey’s beak like a deflated nose is called a snood? Stay tuned for more Fun Thanksgiving Facts.
12:42 - Pro tip: When you are toasting bread for stuffing, try cutting it into cubes BEFORE you put it in the oven. It really cuts down on crumbs. Which…are…everywhere, now.
2:10 - STUFFING IS MADE. STUFFING—IS—MADE. FIRST DISH OF THE DAY IS A GO. IT’S HAPPENING, FRIENDS. IT’S ALL HAPPENING.
2:11 - I need to CALM DOWN.
2:30 - Collecting leaves to decorate the table. Junebug is advising me, as she is an expert on All Thing Leaves. “You’re doing it wrong!” she says. “Forget this basket thing. You’re supposed to CHOMP the leaves, Carrie. Chomp them. Like this. See?”
2:31 - Have chomped my first leaf. Not bad.
3:34 - The turkey juuust fits in the oven, legs all akimbo, nestled snugly among the aromatics. The table is set. The vegetables are being peeled and chopped. I’m dressed like a pilgrim. Let’s do this thing.
4:10 - OH WOW. OH, HOLY WOW. WE HAD A BAKING SHEET WITH WATER ON IT TO CATCH THE DRIPPINGS FROM THE DRUMSTICKS BECAUSE THIS BIRD CAN’T BE CONTAINED EVEN BY THE GIANT BROILER SHEET. BUT WHEN WE BASTED IT, WE FLIPPED THE BIRD AROUND AND DIDN’T SWITCH THE PAN OVER AND NOW THE ENTIRE HOUSE IS FILLED WITH SMOKE. HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO US ALL.
4:13 - Oh, and also one of the stuffings is burnt to a crisp. It is gluten-free stuffing, so some might say burning it improves the flavor, but it’s still not what we were going for.
4:22 - The rolls are not rising. I don’t know why. I put the dough in a warm place. Well, a very warm place. Well, I put it on top of the stove. Which is set at 450 degrees. And it was only when I whirled around to see that the dough was sort of…steaming? that I realized the stove top might be a BIT TOO WARM.
4:35 - You know when you’re watching a cooking competition, and the contestants make one stupid mistake after another and you’re like, PUT THE THING IN THE THING, YOU MORON! Today I am that moron.
4:49 - Yeah, these rolls are dead. I used to be the queen of rolls when I was younger. Now that title has passed to my sister, an actual baker, and I am the queen of steamed dough blobs. Not the worst thing I’ve ever been called, but still.
5:08 - BUG. A BUG IS HERE. IN THE KITCHEN. IT’S HUGE AND IT’S FLYING AROUND AND IT IS GOING TO LAND IN THE GRAVY, I KNOW IT.
5:09 - The bug is gone. Nobody knows where. Either it flew out when we turned off all the lights and opened the door and crouched down like the A-bomb was really coming this time, or it’s lying in wait until we let our guard down. A sense of foreboding settles over the room as we return cautiously to our work.
5:22 - The stock that I made from the spine, neck, and giblets of the turkey has gelled so much that, when I went to pour it into the pan, it bounced like a Bumble and looked like it was going to keep on bouncing right out of the pan and onto the floor. Luckily, it didn’t. Calamity avoided.
5:43 - I’m taking a moment. So far, the day has been pretty smooth, with all the help I’ve been given. But we’re about to hit crunch time, when the sad, flat rolls need to go in the oven, the carrots need to be glazed, the yams need to warm, and the gravy needs to thicken. Brussels sprouts and turnips need to be watched, the turkey needs to be carved, and wine needs to be poured. Everything needs to happen at once, and these types of high-pressure situations are ones in which I notoriously crack. I haven’t veered toward panic yet, and God willing I shall remain panic-less. I will swallow this fear and wash it down with a hearty glass of milk, because women under thirty need to make sure to get enough calcium daily to stave off osteoporosis when they get older (have I mentioned I tend to ramble when I get nervous?). I will carry on, my wayward son. I am a warrior. Let us proceed.
5:44 - OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD—
6:25 - THE GRAVY ISN’T THICKENING. OHHH NO. OHHH ME. OHHH MY. IT’S PANIC TIME. EVERYTHING ELSE IS READY BUT THE GRAVY AND WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT OF THANKSGIVING IF THERE IS. NO. GRAVY?!
6:26 - Okay. I put…well, a lot of corn starch in. Possibly too much corn starch. But it instantly thickened, and I am in DISTRESS MODE, so right now thick is all I care about.
6:27 - (You don’t have to make the joke. I saw it. Just let this one go. For Thanksgiving.)
6:31 - Everything is ready. It all came together. The spatchcocked, diamond-tiara-turkey is unbelievably tasty, the stuffing is out of control, the cranberry sauce is deliciously spiced, and even though the gravy is congealing and the rolls truly did fall flat, our Very Serious Eats Thanksgiving! is, I think, overall a great success.
I am exhausted. And stuffed. I’ll be ready for pie in approximately ten months.
Like every year, we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. This has been a difficult year in a lot of ways, but because of that, I feel more resilient and open. So I’m thankful of course for all of the normal things like family and friends and good fortune, but I’m also grateful for growth, for our ability to look back this time of year and see how we’ve changed for the better. And that, to quote Cousin Eddie, is “the gift that keeps on givin’ the whooole year.”
That it is, Edward. That it is, indeed.
WE FOUND THE BUG. IN A CUPBOARD, ON TOP OF A CUP. I THOUGHT IT WAS DEAD, BUT THEN IT MOVED A LEG, LIKE MRS. ROBINSON IN THAT MOVIE THE GRADUATE. BILL HAS TRAPPED IT WITH ANOTHER CUP, SO THAT IT’S LIKE A CUP TOTEM POLE, AND HE’S TAKING IT OUTSIDE WHERE IT WILL LIKELY FREEZE TO DEATH IN THE COLDEST THANKSGIVING WEEKEND IN A HUNDRED YEARS.
It’s the pilgrim way.