Seems to me, especially after my experience this year, preparing a Thanksgiving Day dinner can be a somewhat thankless task.
Partly out of curiosity and partly out of necessity – I needed a topic for today’s column – I kept track of the time and effort, but not the money, that went into the execution of Thanksgiving dinner at Horsefeathers Farm.
It began last summer when I planted the butternut squash, Yukon gold potatoes and Brussels sprouts, all of which were incorporated into the Thanksgiving dinner menu Thursday.
The next milestone event was Nov. 17 when I joined the 1,200 to 1,500 customers who each year order their turkeys from Western Meats in Tumwater.
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On Nov. 22, I made a shopping list and drove to the Olympia Farmers Market, where my partner and I joined other hardy shoppers who braved the biting wind and rain to buy locally grown produce for their holiday dinners.
Our haul included onions, olive bread and Granny Smith apples for the stuffing and fresh, Grays Harbor-grown cranberries for the cranberry relish. Then if was off to Ralph’s Thriftway to pick up a few more ingredients, including a new jar of poultry seasoning to replace the one that’s been in my spice rack since the turn of the century.
I picked up our 16-pound turkey sold under the name Northwest Natural by Plymouth Poultry Co. two days before Thanksgiving, a move designed to beat the Wednesday night turkey pickup rush. The final turkey dinner purchases occurred Wednesday afternoon, including a basting syringe, flour for the gravy and seedless green grapes and slivered almonds used in the Brussels sprouts dish.
Here’s our run-up to dinner time on Thanksgiving:
• 10 a.m.: Started preparing the dressing, which we baked separately later in the afternoon. Sure is time-consuming breaking up two loaves of bread.
• 10:28 a.m.: Headed to the garage to sharpen a dull chopping knife in the bench vise.
• 10:45 a.m. Made the cranberry relish, which consisted of raw cranberries, oranges, apples, dates and honey. Recipe called for use of a food processor, but a blender had to do.
• 11:15 a.m. Pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator and started prepping it for the oven. Rinsed it, dried it with paper towels, seasoned the cavity, stuffed it with wedges of apples, oranges and onions, plus garlic and rosemary from the garden, then oiled the skin. Didn’t have any wooden or metal skewers to close the carcass, so I whittled some cedar kindling sticks down to size. They worked just fine.
• 11:48 a.m.: Mixed together the stock for the gravy, including chicken broth and homemade apple cider. Drizzled cheesecloth with olive oil, then draped the cloth over the turkey.
• Noon: Slid the turkey into the oven and took a short cooking break to clean up the kitchen for the next round of side dishes.
• 1:35 p.m.: Received a call from my father, informing me that he and his partner could not make it to dinner because of illness. A dinner party of eight suddenly shrinks to six, then five when another invited guest failed to show.
• 1:45 a.m.: Boiled the squash and potatoes, then mixed them together with sour cream, half and half and a dash of butter. This dish was designed to give thanks for a bountiful garden in 2009.
• 2:20 p.m.: Headed to the garden in the pouring rain to pick Brussels sprouts. Thick-stalked and droopy, the five plants were strong producers, but also a favorite fall hangout for slugs. Each sprout needed to be carefully inspected and cleaned before cooking.
• 3:40 p.m.: My sister arrived with dinner rolls, pumpkin pie and a pretty good appetite. Good thing, since the diners included a late- arriving son and his girlfriend, who already had eaten dinner with her family.
• 4 p.m.: Pulled the turkey from the oven and covered it with an aluminum tent.
Thirty minutes later, I carved off enough white meat for the sparse gathering, then put the bird back in the oven because it wasn’t quite done.
• 5:05 p.m.: Sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner that was tasty and nutritious, but not as festive and meaningful as I had hoped when the day began.
• 6 p.m.: Prepared a care package for my dad and his partner, ate a piece of pumpkin pie, then tackled the last chore of the night – carving up the rest of the turkey.
• 7:30 p.m.: Crashed into my easy chair after the last of the kitchen cleanup chores were completed.
Friday night featured a Thanksgiving dinner redux without the work and worry.
Saturday included turkey tacos, and today’s feature will be turkey soup built from the turkey carcass and embellished with barley, vegetables and spices.
There’s been lots of fine dining at Horsefeathers Farm this weekend. But all things considered, I think I’ll look for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner to participate in next year.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444