Archive for December 4th, 2013

T-day 2013 reflections

We actually did T-day this year on the Saturday following rather than on the day itself.

I’m not sure I’d do that again, actually, although it was nice to be able to go shopping for things on Friday when all the madness had already died down. We had also ordered pies from Petsi Pies, listed by Travel + Leisure and others as one of the best pies in America, and I think the line was somewhat more manageable on Saturday rather than Thursday. If nothing else, it allowed us to get a bacon and Gruyere pie as well as a sweet potato and pumpkin pie.

I roasted the turkey a la Alton Brown’s directions, and it really was superb. I’ve never been a fan of turkey before this, but I think that this might have made me a convert.

I brined it in a mixture of chicken stock reconstituted from Better than Bouillon, fresh grapefruit juice, onions, garlic, poultry seasoning, S&P and allspice powder. I stuck it in on Thursday and roasted it the day of on a beer can chicken stand. Since I only got an eleven pounder, it fit well on the stand and had enough clearance in the oven. A little bigger and I might have had more difficulty.

Thirty minutes at 500 and another hour and a half at 350 and it was gorgeously browned and well-done. I might actually, for a ten pounder, take it out sooner next time to keep it moister.

Something I actually found out recently is that beer can chicken, despite its proponents, doesn’t actually do anything for the chicken. Or in this case, the white wine I poured into the canister probably didn’t do anything for the turkey. On the other hand, I like how the bird cooks, with no soggy skin, and the wine made for some great gravy. So, debunking aside, I’m going to keep sticking my birds on their throne just the same.

Petsi’s pies really did live up to the hype. The bacon and Gruyere was delicious, rich and luxurious with the added vegetables keeping it from going over the edge. The sweet potato was wonderfully nutmeggy and not too sweet. The pumpkin was good, but I found it a wee bit too sweet. What really made me happy was the crust — buttery, flaky, and not too salty and not too bland. I have to admit to loving the crust on pie, but it’s so often an afterthought, a mediocre vehicle for what people see as the point. This was perfectly lovely on its own. I’ll definitely be going back for more pies, especially the mushroom and Gruyere one.

Note to self: baking hams in champagne is a waste of perfectly good champagne and ham.

We got Nueske’s ready cooked spiral cut ham and Harrington’s ready-to-cook ham. The Nueske’s was perfect out of the packaging — savory but not too salty, with a lingering hint of sweetness and smoke. I didn’t try the Harrington’s because I wasn’t sure if it was edible as was without cooking since it said it needed to be baked. Thinking that dumping a bottle of champagne over the both of them would only make them better, I did so. Sadly, it was not the case. Most of the ham’s flavor leached out into the champagne and even a mere hour in the oven (directions said for at least two!) changed the consistency of the ham, and not for the better.

Next time, we’re drinking the champagne and eating the ham cold.

I suppose I could have reduced the champagne and made a glaze — but I don’t like goopy stuff on my ham and the texture problem still would have been an issue.

Reminders to self for next year:

No more than four desserts for about twelve people, so maybe one dessert per three people. Even that seems a bit high if we’re talking about pie and cake. Who, after mashed potatoes, stuffing, ham, turkey, and way too much in the way of appetizers, is going to be able to eat a third of a pie?

Pumpkin pie, cheesecake, and maybe a chocolate cake for those who don’t like pumpkin pie or cheesecake. Definitely not the chocolate chip chocolate pie. No gilding the lily with cookies. And wonderful as the Florentines were, they were way too filling to have set out at the start of the party.

Asparagus always goes over well. Even more so wrapped in prosciutto. Roasted bell peppers and mushrooms? Much less so.

If feeling broke, spinach frittata with bacon/sausage is almost universally a hit and is mostly healthy to boot.

Also, always make more stuffing than you think you need. Ditto for mashed potatoes. Those are imperative for leftovers and everyone will be very sad if there aren’t leftovers.

Cranberry sauce might be a must. We had people asking after it and even though I’m personally a terrible foodie for usually disliking fruit with meat, the masses must be appeased. Good thing someone brought a can.

We had biscuits from the whack-a-can and they were lovely. No more slaving over yeast, fussing about space in the oven, and worrying about tenderness. I love from-scratch everything, and I have to say this is one area where I say outsource the heck out it. Pies too. Just let someone else make them so the oven stays clear.

*breathes out*

Whew. It was fun. I had a mostly-good time, which I’ve come to the conclusion is about as well as you can feel after hosting twelve people in your home — but I’m fairly relieved it’s over.

Now I’m going to go hide in my hole again and wait to recover from the burnout from cooking, cleaning, and washing up for twelve with a sprained ankle.