Friday, November 27, 2009

A Cicerone Thanksgiving

A beautiful roast turkey with unbelievably rich gravy, and a plethora of side dishes, the product of several days worth of preparation. Many fine beers, and a happy family made for a fine day indeed. A reading from "Warmed By Love", a book of poetry by Leonard Nimoy (Nimoy's a poet??) was the icing on the cake.

TURKEY 18pounds, fresh, acquired at Capital Poultry in Eastern Market. Brined in a simple salt solution for 12 hours. (A lot of) sagey butter smeared under the skin, and in it went, basted frequently with more butter, until the thigh registered 165 degrees. The skin was a rich gold, the dark meat succulent and tasty, and the breast was moist and tasted vaguely of sage. Perfect.

GRAVY A 4 part process. Turkey stock made with turkey wings three days prior. Addition of giblets, and further reduction of stock two days prior when turkey arrived. On the day, heart and neck meat chopped finely and fried until crisp, roux made and cooked until brown, and gravy made with prepared stock. Lastly, defatted pan drippings added to gravy. Oh my.

CRANBERRIES Cooked with dried cherries and an apple. The pectin in the apple allowed the sauce to jell, so I was able to set it into a mold, turn it out, and make it look pretty.

POTATOES Yukon Gold. 8 pounds, peeled and boiled. A looooong hour ricing the whole 8 pounds through a smallish hand food mill. Hot half & half, butter, and salt & white pepper stirred through, and voila! Perfectly creamy delicious potatoes. NOTE: We have family traditionalists who insist on no added ingredients to potatoes, so we were unable to doctor them with roasted garlic, or horseradish, etc. So Mrs Cicerone, on a ridiculous whim, decided to fry half a pound of sliced shallots, a few slices at a time, for an optional garnish. Whew. A ridiculous amount of work ending at midnight two nights before, and a house that really stunk of cooked oil for the next 12 hours. The shallots were not even that good.

STUFFING (It was dressing.) Two kinds. Oyster and shitake mushroom.(Yeh!) Fennel bulb, toasted almonds, black mission figs and sweet Italian sausage. (Delicious!) The bread cubes were made from Italian bread loaves three days prior. The traditionalists won't eat ANY stuffing, so we were scott-free to make whatever we wanted.

VEGETABLES Brussel sprouts with Nueske bacon roasted until brown, crisp and caramelly. (Say no more!) Butternut squash, parsnips, cauliflower & carrots roasted until brown, then minced ginger, pecans and maple syrup added during last half hour of cooking. Mmmmm. (Oh, the traditionalists brought the "safe" vegetable with them- a can of creamed corn.)

SALAD Greens, pomegranate seeds, toasted hazelnuts and feta dressed with a fresh mint and champagne vinegar vinaigrette.

LAGNIAPPE The turkey's liver, roasted along with the turkey, cut into about 6 pieces, and passed around for those worthy enough to enjoy the small, but rich morsel.

A cheese torte. A simple one made with layers of mixed marscapone and chevre, chopped smoked salmon, fresh dill and chopped pistachios.
Squash soup, made by my sister-in-law from squash they grew. Thick, rich, and tasty, and some added ginger gave the soup a good spicy contrast. A little swirl of Creme Fraiche, and voila!

Pumpkin pie, and apple & cranberry pie, both made by my sister-in-law. The traditionalists demand this dessert, and not being a pumpkin pie lover myself I happily leave this to her, and she does make a good one. With whipped cream, made the real way (no canned cream in this house, ever!) Mr Cicerone and I satisfied our dessert wish list by making two different ice creams- a rich custardy vanilla bean, and Mr Cicerone's favourite, malt-with-a-hint-of-chocolate.

Mr Cicerone brewed a batch of Mild a few weeks back, and declared he would condition, and serve it, from our firkin, through our beer engine, on Thanksgiving Day. So he did. Imperial pints of Mild were drunk, and enjoyed immensely, throughout the day. Mild is good with food. Any food.
Mr Cicerone's Ginger Wheat went perfectly with the squash soup.
We brought out a bunch of bottled beers to share with the turkey course. Jolly Pumpkin's La Parcela pumpkin ale, Clipper City's "Prosit" Imperial Octoberfest, The Bruery's Autumn Maple, and Ettaler Kloster Dunkel were shared amongst the beer drinkers. All were great with the turkey and trimmings. The Bruery's Autumn Maple was stellar- a wonderful blend of spice, malt & alcohol warmth, all in balance. "Prosit" was a nice surprise- a strong marzen with a good hoppy finish that kept the malt sweetness in check. La Parcela is just good, always, and Ettaler Dunkel is such an exquisite example of the style (and Dunkel goes with everything, also).
We opened a Southern Tier "Pumking" when we served the desserts. We knew it was not a great match with the already-sweet course, but wanted a few people to try this popular strong and sweet pumpkin ale. As expected, it was received well. The Mild was a great match with the pies. (Mr. Cicerone notes that Uncle Dave sandbagged a bit of the Autumn Maple to go with his pie, and declared it excellent.)

After three days of cooking (and extra hours working at the store), a house full of people, loads of food and beer, Leonard Nimoy, a cacophony of Tiki Time and our whistling, dancing pink flamingo at the same time, and the clean-up, Mr Cicerone and I sat down, at last, at 11PM, exhausted, but happy. I downed two bottles of Great Lakes Christmas Ale, rather quickly. Aaaaaah.

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