Some foodies consider Thanksgiving what New Year’s Eve is to experienced drinkers–amateur night. Butterball has run a Turkey Hotline since 1981 and receives about 200,000 calls each holiday season. We don’t host Thanksgiving every year, but this is the year that we’re on. It will be a small gathering (seven adults, one child), so easily manageable, particularly in comparison to the multi-course extravaganzas of Tavolavila and “The Last Supper” dinners on New Year’s Eve that we occasionally host.
But the questions are starting to roll in on what we’re doing.
We have splurged again this year to order a heritage turkey from Avedano’s Holly Park Market in Bernal Heights, a local butcher that is our go-to spot for special occasions. The turkey comes from Mary’s, but I’m not sure whether it will be a Narragansett or a Bourbon Red.
We choose heritage turkeys for a number of reasons:
- As members of Slow Food, we want to support the “Ark of Taste” project to ensure the survival of native foods. It may seem like a contradiction in terms–eat something to preserve it. But the more consumers that order this, the more the farms will raise them.
- We don’t need suped up turkey breasts to be happy; most basic grocery store chain type birds are (1) injected with hormones to grow unusually large breasts because of Americans’ strange obsession with the least flavorful part of the bird, (2) factory farmed in poor conditions.
- Heritage turkeys are grown naturally, are allowed to forage and eat more closely to their natural diet. This makes for a more flavorful bird.
If you are fortunate enough to live near a butcher from whom you can order a heritage bird, do it! If you don’t have this advantage, you can still mail order your bird. But hurry.
The years when we do make dinner, I take notes on what was popular, and what had a lot of leftovers. The temptation is to make tons of side dishes, mostly from starch (potatoes, rice, stuffing, etc.). This year I have promised to stick to two starchy side dishes and two vegetable side dishes.
Here is our menu:
Hors d’oeuvres: pumpkin chutney and goat cheese in filo cups
Roasted turkey (yes, we brine 24 hours)
Cranberry orange jam
Spinach salad with roasted bosc pears, dried cranberries and toasted hazelnuts
Roasted green beans (or glazed baby carrots; still deciding)
Buttermilk mashed potatoes with chives
Wild mushroom bread pudding
Fresh rolls (yes, we make them from scratch)
Individual pumpkin pies
As a project manager by day, my skills have translated to the kitchen in terms of planning how to prepare for a dinner like this. When you consider the turkey will take about three hours in the oven, you have to work out an oven schedule. You would be surprised how much can be done in advance. This week, for example, I’m going to make the crust for the pies and freeze them. I am also going to make the beef stock needed for the wild mushroom bread pudding. I’ve also already shopped for all the non-perishable staples this weekend.