Friday, December 01, 2006

Just Tell Me When I Can Sit Down

"Do you have a hatchet?"

Those were Jamie's first words to me as he entered my house on Thanksgiving morning. Not, I thought, a great sign for tandem cooking.

It turns out he needed the hatchet to cut up the hickory chips to make them manageable for the smoker. (And, no, I do not have a hatchet.) But somehow he made do even though the little suckers kept catching fire.

I started out a little earlier, at 9 am, when I made the three pumpkin pies. Yes, they turned out great -- even the crust! Well, that's a slight exaggeration, as the same problems were present (not enough moisture, not enough dough), but it was highly edible. And the secret ingredient I apparently forgot in my dry run on Tuesday (evaporated milk) was very much present that morning and the pies turned out wonderfully.

We did have a couple of missteps along the way. I think one should expect them. The worst one was that the turkey was still partially frozen inside. He put it in hot water in the sink, discovered he had left the seasonings for the turkey in the condo and ran off to get them. In the meantime, I started peeling spuds.

That all being said, it all turned out WONDERFULLY! The turkey was a great flavor, nice and moist - way to go, Hatchet Man! The cranberries were fresh and cooked until they popped, and sweetened with Splenda. The stuffing was nice and crisp (thanks to the added butter on top). And the beans were a bit of a revelation, cooked with orange peel for a slight orangey flavor, al dente.

The menu was thus:

Smoked turkey
stuffing made from stuffing mix (but with sauteed-added celery and onion)
cranberry relish (from fresh cranberries)
mashed potatoes
biscuits (storebought ready-to-cook)
green beans - fresh with orange peel added
Pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream

The mashed potatoes were the only real "problem" once we warmed up the turkey. I didn't have time to mash them, so Jamie took over and did a masterful job, adding cream and butter along the way. I think in the future, as much as I love potatoes, I'm going to leave these out: they're too much of a burden, and so tough to keep warm.

I told everybody we would eat at 3 pm which meant 5 pm, and, by golly, we ate at 4:30!! Terrific timing! Thanks to our in-tandem cooking, great communication, and the fact that you don't get upset when some things go wrong, it was a wonderful effort very much appreciated by those who joined us for the feast.

My feet hurt at the end from standing so many hours. My mother warned me such things would happen. I don't think, however, she expected I would ever, ever have that problem from cooking a Thanksgiving meal!

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