I went upstate Tuesday afternoon with pops; loaded down with shopping bags full of ingredients, and started prepping for the big meal. Pop had ordered a 17 lb organic turkey from the farm up the road from him in Red Hook, New York, and it was there in the refrigerator waiting to be dealt with when we arrived. Late Tuesday afternoon, I washed the bird, reserved the neck and giblets, and put it inside two heavy duty plastic bags to soak in a brine made of 28 cups of water, 1 1/2 cups of kosher salt, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a halved lemon, a handful of juniper berries, a couple tablespoons of coriander, a tablespoon or so of black peppercorns, and about 8 to 10 bay leaves. I made sure that it was submerged in the liquid, secured the bags, put it inside of a huge lobster pot, and then put the pot in the garage (it wouldn't fit in the refrigerator) where the temperature hung around the mid 30s. It stayed there until Thursday morning. I also cut up two loaves of freshly baked Pullman White Bread, removing the crusts, and two loaves of Challah for the stuffings I knew I would be making. I lay the cut-up bread, uncovered on parchment-lined baking sheets on the counter (the bread needs to get kinda stale and hard for the stuffings).
Wednesday I made a Spicy Cranberry-Apple Relish, a Cranberry Tart with a Polenta Crust, and a simple raw Cranberry Relish: One 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries, a cup of sugar, the zest of two oranges, and some grated ginger; pulsed in the food processor to desired consistency - delicious and easy. I also put together a luscious Sweet Potato Gratin, which has become a yearly tradition. I roasted, steamed, and pureed the vegetables for a Butternut Squash Spoon Bread, and blanched green beans for a recipe I'd seen in the Times earlier in the week: Green Beans with Ginger and Garlic.
Thursday morning I started making stock from the giblets and some veggies. I followed this recipe for the Roasted Turkey with Pomegranate Glaze. All that was left for me to do was assemble the Bread Dressing with Dried Apricots, Pistachios, and Mint (I used dried cranberries instead of pomegranate seeds), as well as the savory Challah Stuffing with Fresh Herbs, Celery, and Crimini mushrooms. My pop had already prepared his Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap and Toasted Pecan Crust (sorry, I don't know where he got the recipe, but it involves pureed pumpkin, cream cheese, egg yolks, and heavy cream, and it is sinfully delicious), so I was able to turn my attention to roasting the Turkey.
G, L, and S arrived at around 1:30 with boxes of delectable goodies from a Greek bakery in Astoria, and a selection of cheeses, olives, and cornichons! G and L brought their camping equipment with them, committed to sleeping outside despite the fact that it would drop into the low 30s at night (cray cray!). So G went outside near the river (it's not quite a river, really more of a large stream) and pitched the tent. We Started eating at around 3:30 and kept going until we left for a candle-lit gratitude gathering in Rhinebeck that was to start at 8 o'clock, then we returned to the house for seconds of dessert and several episodes of Tattoo Nightmares (Pop's TV suggestion).
I had a great time, I loved cooking and eating, I loved watching my friends and my dad enjoy all the food I made. I loved filling my father's house with love and laughter. I'm grateful that I got to spend the holiday with some of my favorite people. I'm grateful that I was far away from any holiday drama. This was truly one for the record books.
L & G down by the river