That year, I managed to completely scorch the top of the turkey (it was too big for the oven and hit the heating element). The next year, everyone started drinking while I was cooking, and by the time dinner was on the table, things were more than a little blurry, so I don't even know how the food tasted. Needless to say, both my cooking and my, ah, time management skills have improved in the years since.
This year, the theme of the night was "trendy vs. traditional." For each type of dish, there were at least two versions: one traditionally Thanksgiving-ish and one updated.
We cooked two turkeys in the Caja China, using this brine and a lot of advice from Mike's cousin Jeff (of Elliott's Pour House fame). Jeff has a Caja China of his own - he roasts pigs outside the bar on gamedays. Last week, he cooked turkeys, so we used his recipe and, after hearing about what he had trouble with, we decided to butterfly our turkeys so they'd cook evenly. And they did:
The meat was juicy and had great flavor. I also cooked a turkey in the oven, using this Martha Stewart recipe. No photos, unfortunately, but it was also pretty and brown and delicious, thanks to all of the butter and wine involved. I combined the drippings from that turkey with some vermouth, water, and a chicken buillion cube to make a sauce (no gravy in my house, much to Cooper's dismay).
We also cooked some oysters on the Caja China, but it seems that I forgot to photograph them - which is fine, since they were only OK. I did my best to copy my mom's very unspecific Oysters Waskom recipe (it involves spinach, garlic, shallots, and Monterey jack cheese)...but mine just weren't as good as hers are. I need more practice.
Fortunately, Alicia stepped up to the hors d'oeuvres plate with her fried Thanksgiving balls - meatball-sized spheres of shredded turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, all packed together, rolled in bread crumbs and fried. She paired them with two cranberry dipping sauces (one sweet, one a little spicy) and they were amazing. Little Will summed them up pretty quickly, when he ate one and asked for another "Thanksgiving doughnut":
My decorating scheme this year involved using as many vegetables I could. I stuck half-used stalks of Brussels sprouts in a tall vase with flowers, and used broccolini as a low centerpiece on the table. Here's the calm before the storm:
And here is Collin, as he made his way around the table, catching the scent of each dish (pictured: Karen C.'s traditional sweet potatoes and my yams with crispy skins and brown-butter vinaigrette):
Fortunately, my sauce and stuffing (also my mom's highly unspecific "recipe) turned out better than the oysters. Half the stuffing was plain, while the other half had oysters. It's just not Thanksgiving to me without oyster stuffing:
It's a little funny to me that no matter how hard you try to make Thanksgiving food look pretty, it always ends up in a big pile, like this (clockwise from the top: Jen's mashed potatoes, my updated green bean casserole, stuffing, turkey, Sarah's baked artichokes, yams, sauteed Brussels sprouts with bacon, sweet potatoes, and chipotle cranberry sauce right in the center):
For dessert, I had slaved away over spiced cider panna cottas, paired with ginger cookies, only to realize that I forgot, mid-recipe, that I was making double. So only half the panna cottas had the cider topping:
But that was OK. We went overboard on dessert, too, adding Alicia's apple crisp and Mary's sweet pumpkin dip:
I have so much food left over that it's not even funny (especially since it's not even actually Thanksgiving yet). It wasn't so bad yesterday, though, to have a few oysters to fry for lunch...especially since it gave Dixon the opportunity to try his very first oyster:
See it there in his mouth? Nice, huh? Unfortunately, he didn't like it all that much. But he didn't spit it out, so that's something.
It was leftovers for dinner last night and tonight I'll be using the last of the oysters in a stew. Then later this week, we start all over again!