Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thanksgiving redux

My favourite holiday. We have one holiday on our calendar that is entirely devoted to worshiping food. And thank goodness, not just for nature's generous bounty but also for our wherewithal to recognize the miracle of a successful growing season.

Our meal was divine. We served turkey and the works to our immediate family plus one cousin, 11 of us in all. We ate and drank, remembered those who are no longer with us, and reminded ourselves why families matter.

The meal preparation, extending over three days, went far from smoothly, but resulted in incredible fare. At the advice of my new butchers, I followed their directions for preparing a turkey, which included brining it overnight and rubbing an herb butter between the skin and the breast meat before roasting. The addition of these extra steps increased my workload, but the effort rewarded a remarkable bird. And despite my mashed potato stuffing expanding in the oven, rupturing the neck cavity and spilling all over the bottom element, then having the turkey sit in a room temperature oven for over an hour until I realized I had turned the oven off when I cleaned up the potatoes, thus delaying our meal by about 90 minutes, the roasting process was remarkably stress-free. It was the best turkey I have ever tasted.

My mashed potato stuffing was also incredibly tasty, though next time I won't pack the cavity so tightly. I made Nigella Lawson's potato-stuffed goose last Christmas and thought that I would create a potato-stuffed turkey as well, hoping no one would miss traditional stuffing too much. The addition of the lemon zest and herbs create potatoes that are so good they could easily be enjoyed without the benefit of being roasted inside a bird.

Here was our menu:
  • Healthy Butcher organic free-range roast turkey
  • golden mashed potato stuffing
  • gravy
  • baked yam casserole with marshmallow topping
  • brussel sprouts with nutmeg and lemon
  • spinach and apple salad with an orange ginger dressing
  • orange cranberry relish
A fine meal. Truth be told, I think I've finally outgrown the marshmallow yams. They are cloyingly sweet, and I found myself following my dad's example of scraping off the white fluff and leaving it on the side of my plate. However, tradition is what it is, and my sister insists the marshmallow yams are an integral part of her holiday meal.

The directions for the turkey are available on the Healthy Butcher website, a fine purveyor of organic meats raised in southern Ontario.

Serves 10
4 lbs. yellow potatoes (Yukon Gold or similar variety)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 large rib celery, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 Tbsp each fresh parsley and sage, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
zest of two lemons
1 tsp ground black pepper
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Peel and quarter potatoes and put in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or knife. Drain.

While potatoes are cooking, in a skillet heat the butter and oil. Add the onion, celery and shallot and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the herbs, lemon zest and pepper.

Add the onion mixture and butter to the drained potatoes and mash with a potato masher. Stuff inside the turkey, or serve. NOTE: This stuffing will expand significantly inside the turkey, so do not pack it into the cavity. Leave room for expansion, then if there is remainder, heat in the oven in a separate casserole before serving.

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