Last year I didn't even acknowledge Thanksgiving. We were supposed to go over Robin's parent's house, but I decided to skip and stay home. When I woke up on Thanksgiving day last year the first thing I thought of was about the flurry of activity that was normally going on in the kitchen when Mom and Dad were alive. We always woke up to the smell of Thanksgiving dinner that Mom had been preparing since the wee hours of the morning. Last year, on Thanksgiving morning, the kitchen was eerily silent and it made me so sad.
Robin was scheduled to work this Thanksgiving so we knew that we wouldn't be going to her parent's house. I wanted to at least have some sort of Thanksgiving since I really did miss it last year, so I decided to cook.
I've never cooked a Thanksgiving meal in my life! I've made some of the side dishes on occasion, but I've never cooked a turkey, or a piece of meat as large as that! I'm addicted to the websites Food.com and Allrecipes.com and I subscribe to Food Network Magazine and Rachel Ray Magazine so I went and searched for recipes that were tried and true to include in our meal.
When I cook I have a slight problem with never sticking to the exact recipe. I always add something, take something away, double it, half it... you name it. This causes a bit of cooking anxiety because I never know how anything is going to turn out, unless I've made it before. When I make something new I always tell Robin "Sorry if it's horrible. I've never made it before!" That's my mantra. So far, I don't think I've disappointed, or maybe Robin just hasn't told me!
When I finally decided on what I was making for dinner I made a folder on my computer with the recipes. I was still having dinner anxiety so I got very anal retentive with my cooking. The first thing I did was make a list of all the spices I already had in the spice cabinet and then uploaded it into my phone for future reference. I hate going to the grocery store and not being able to remember if I have a certain ingredient - I always end up with duplicate spices!
From that point I took all the ingredients for the recipes and made a spreadsheet. I consolidated everything and compared the items to what I already had in my cabinet. Yeah, yeah, I know! It sounds crazy, but I didn't want to forget anything or run out of something and have the store be closed! Robin and I went to Wal-Mart to get everything and after that fiasco I made a decision that if I ever cook Thanksgiving dinner again I will plan and shop one month prior to the holiday!!
Yesterday I was woken up around 8am by the phone. It was Robin. She said she wasn't feeling well and asked if I could come get her from work. She didn't want to drive because she felt dizzy. I threw on some shoes and went to get her. When we got home we both went back to bed. When I woke up it was REALLY late so I got up and started cooking immediately. I was hoping that she would feel better later because I didn't want all this food to go to waste. I had also invited my sister and her girlfriend over, but we weren't sure if they were coming or not.
The night before I made the Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Sauce that I saw on a Food TV Thanksgiving show - it looked soooo tasty and I've always been a fan of homemade cranberry sauce! Yesterday I conquered the dressing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes... I feel like I'm forgetting something.
For the turkey I decided that was going to make Good Eats Roast Turkey - Alton Brown's recipe. I don't think I have ever had a turkey that went through the brining process. My Mom certainly had never done it - she was of the "low and slow" turkey cooking school. I always read recipe comments from the people who have tried it and there were so many people that said that they used this for the first turkey they cooked and how easy it was. How could I go wrong? Also, I saw the Good Eats episode where Alton cooked the roast turkey and it looked pretty simple.
The night before I made the brine and dumped it in a square cooler that I lined with a heavy duty outdoor lawn and leaf bag. I didn't want all that salt water and the spices to penetrate the cooler. That would be gross. I dumped the turkey in there (I wish I had a video of me wrestling the bird!) and then dumped some ice in it. When Robin got up in the morning I had her turn it over - she cheerily told me that she "Flipped the bird"! LOL! That afternoon I shoved it in the oven, set the thermometer and left it alone until it was done.
I was wondering how in the heck someone cooks an entire meal and puts it on the table and everything is still warm. How does that happen? You can only cook one thing at a time and then by the time the next casserole is done that one cooked before it is cold. I figured since we weren't sitting at a table or anything we could just serve ourselves buffet style.
When I took the turkey out of the oven I put the other casseroles in there until Traci and Tanya came over - when they arrived the food was sufficiently warm enough to have dinner - problem solved! I thought it might have been too ghetto for all of us to make a plate and take turns using the microwave to warm it! Haha!
I was going to take a photo of my first turkey - it was quite pretty, but we were a bit challenged with taking it out of the pan. It wasn't really cooperating so when we finally got it out it was... well, not very pretty anymore. Robin did take a photo of her plate that she posted in Facebook.
I must say that I am pretty proud of my first Thanksgiving dinner - especially the turkey. I'm convinced that brining is the way to go. That turkey was the most moist, delicious turkey that I've had (if I do say so, myself!)
We had a late dinner, around 8pm. I ate one plate and was toast. Both Robin and I were in bed by 10pm with our bellies full! We couldn't even think of dessert!
My goal of enjoying turkey leftovers all weekend is well under way!