Thursday, November 26, 2009

11/26/09 Turkeys

Whew! We had such a great Thanksgiving!

Since we were expecting a total of 29 people, I switched to two 16-lb turkeys, to decrease cooking time and add options. I brined one of them and put aromatics in the cavity for roasting. The other one got sage butter under its skin, and some cornbread stuffing.

I got up at 6am to prepare the turkeys for oven entry at 7am, for a 5-1/2 hour roasting time to be pulled out at 12:30pm. The brined one is much lighter in color (on the right).

Two turkeys means two roasting pans and two ovens. (Or one huge 36" oven and two smaller roasting pans.)

After getting the turkeys in the oven, I went back to bed. Or tried. The kids woke me up every half hour, and Katrina kept me awake for quite a while with one of her half-hour-long bleating tantrums (where she wails rhythmically every 10-20 seconds).

But, only so much lounging. I got up, showered, and downstairs by 10am to check the turkeys. I was floored. They appeared very very done and their pop-up timers had popped. I tested internal temperature with a meat thermometer: 180 degrees. These suckers are cooked!.

The brined one (on the right) cooked even more -- the wingtips were even starting to burn. My friend Paul warned me that one time that happened to him when he hosted the Orphan's Thanksgiving -- the turkey appeared to be ready, but turned out to be bloody, gooey and very undercooked when he cut into it. I cut into both of them, and they seemed ready. What gives? Why were they cooked -- and so cooked -- so early? Time to verify oven temp with a thermometer!

Dave was so-so this morning, though not 100%. Fortunately my planning well ahead paid off. I didn't have a lot of cooking to do today, mostly just heating or finalizing dishes, so I concentrated on table and place setting setup. Some friends arrived early to help, and we were ready for everyone in plenty of time.

And we had a terrific time! It was so nice to see our longtime friends -- many of whom we'd just seen last weekend at the Pancake Breakfast, but that made it even better. Since the Orphan's Thanksgiving has a long-standing tradition of being pretty freeform and casual, any mistakes made -- such as turkeys ready hours early and possibly completely devoid of moisture -- are accepted with a chuckle and a shrug. Once again, I wasn't ready with gravy, and two friends stepped in to make it.

I'd set up as many seats as possible in the family room, which included a little side table. This worked well; we ended up putting the kids there. One kid sat at the grownup table; I guess at age 9, the kids' table is just sooooo lame.

But I was very glad the kids were there. Katrina and 9-year-old Isabel really hit it off, and spent hours playing. Isabel led Katrina around holding her hand all over the house, for a really really long time. Katrina's clothes and hair changed a lot too; Isabel told me later she tried to braid Katrina's hair but it is too slippery. Meantime, Gabriel and Isabel's tomboy younger sister, Carmen, played with Snap Circuits. Julian moved between groups and spent a lot of time playing with both visiting girls.

With 29 people expected, there's bound to be some attrition. 5 people didn't make it: three from illness, but two because they didn't leave L.A. until 12:30pm. Desite the freeform nature of this event, it's these two that should never factor in -- we rent chairs and choose turkey sizes based on confirmed attendees; a little more commitment is called for. Even from people the group has never met.

This was the best all-group shot I got, and it's minus two more who arrived late.

This was overall so much fun. The kids had a fabulous time playing together, and didn't cause any problems. We barely saw them in fact; a testament to how well our odd house and all its spaces works for diverse groups. It was great seeing and catching up with our grownup friends, all from our motorcycling days -- many of us have known each other going on 20 years now and formed firm bonds on riding adventures. The food was great, everyone was very helpful in setting up, cleaning up, and putting away and taking away leftovers. (I'd bought a huge thing of storage containers at Smart'n'Final, and filled them with leftovers and insisted everyone take some home.)

Dave was feeling on and off today; but fortunately was able to help in the morning, and then with cleanup after some rest. Whatever he has is strange, it's resulted in a lot of back achiness that comes and then suddenly goes, like a fever. If it's not a lot better tomorrow, it's time for a trip to Urgent Care.

I like having one foot in my old life, with longtime friends, playing Orphans like we did 10 years ago before we all paired off and bought houses. The people we didn't know who joined today were very nice and I enjoyed talking to them. But I also like the other foot in my newer life: holidays being centered around family, spending the whole holiday weekend together, spending more time doing stuff with the kids. I'm not sure how to balance these lives for next year, but today, I'm thankful to have such a good problem.


1 comment:

Louise said...

Sounds like a wonderful dinner! Glad everything turned out so well, and we hope Dave is feeling better.

We did a quiet dinner at a restaurant, which was really nice from the perspective of no prep, no cleanup, and no drama!