Thursday, November 26, 2009

Live Blogging: Turkey Day 2009

9:25 a.m.: Good morning Gobble Gobblers! Happy Thanksgiving! Some of you are probably super busy getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, while others of you are enjoying some quiet time before you head off to dinner with your side dish.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I'm cooking my first turkey tonight for my nephew and his girlfriend. And I'm live blogging about it. I have to admit, I only woke up an hour ago so I already feel like I'm so behind. But I did get a head start last night when I made the cranberry and caramelized some onions that I'm tossing with the green beans. Still, even before I start cooking I have some cleaning up to do around the apartment and washing dishes that I plan to use today. Ugh, I'm so behind!

As you're reading, feel free to drop comments about how your day is going. If you also have questions, post a comment and I'll see if I have any suggestions. Yes, I'm still helping you even though I'm busy here. :)

9:30 a.m.: The Official Menu

Wondering what I'm making, here's my menu...

Persimmon and Prosciutto Flatbread

Pomegranate Frisee Salad w/Hazelnuts

Lemon-citrus Turkey w/Chestnut Cream Sauce

Chorizo and Leeks Stuffing

Five-Spice Glazed Sweet Potato with (or without) Walnut Toffee

Cranberry-Asian Pear Sauce

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions

Pumpkin Cheesecake w/Bourbon Whipped Cream

10:00 a.m. OK, that didn't take long. I just broke my first glass of the day. Luckily, it was just a cordial glass that was the victim of a falling cake pan as I tried reaching for it to prepare for what I needed to make my cheesecake. This is what happens when you live in small space. Everything's a target.

10:07 a.m. What's in my frig? Lots of stuff! It's never been so full.

I pointed out some things I plan to use, like the pomegranate for the salad that I seeded a couple of nights ago. See my turkey? I got it at Whole Foods (I reserved a couple of weeks ago to be safe) and it was just partially frozen, so I didn't have to worry about defrosting for days. I just wanted a 10 pounder and they gave me this 12 pounder. Oh well, it doesn't look too big does it? Hope it fits my tiny oven. I just salted it with kosher salt (about 3 tablespoons) and some lemon zest since I'm trying to go for a lemony turkey. So it's been sitting in the salt for 24 hours. I wasn't about to brine it in a mass of salty water, too much trouble!

11:40 a.m.: Pumpkin cheesecake in the oven but not really cooking.

OK, so I wanted to do something different this year and I love pumpkin pie, but my nephew likes cheesecake so I thought it'll be fun to make a pumpkin cheesecake. I couldn't really find a recipe that sounded good, so I just combined a few things. First off, I went with a graham cracker crust but I bought one of those ready made ones. Hey, why deal with all the mess? It was a bit tough getting all the pieces into the cake pan I'm using. Then for the filling I used a Los Angeles Times recipe, but wanted to make a marble effect so I kept the pumpkin and cream cheese separate. Then I poured the two ingredients in alternating methods. Above is how it turned out. Not too bad huh? Kind of marble-ly.

Problem is, it's not cooking well. The recipe says to cook it at 300 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, and it's been in the oven for 40 minutes and when I checked it was still like liquid! ARRGH! I should have made this last night. Anywho, I just bumped the oven up to about 325 and hopefully that'll help the filling cook faster. I have to get the turkey in the oven in an hour so this has to be done soon!

12:20 p.m.: Yeah, cheesecake done and out of the oven. Now cooling off on the rack. Looks nice and golden on the edges. Hope it taste good. Now, time for a lunch break. Going to make a chicken Caesar salad. Then time to cook the turkey! (BTW, I bet some of you are already eating your Thanksgiving dinner. I find it interesting that people start eating at 2 or 3 p.m. What time are you guys eating?)

1:27 p.m.: Turkey is in the oven!

So the real cooking begins! The turkey is in the oven. And I have to say, it barely fits. The top of the turkey is hitting the top of my oven roof. It's not like the turkey is so big. It really does look like a chicken on steroids. But before the turkey went in, I roasted some hazelnuts I got at Trader Joe's. They're for the salad later. I have to skin them, though. What a pain. Hope it's worth it.

Then I made a herb butter with sage, thyme and rosemary. The classics. I tucked these under the skin of the turkey. There's no stuffing in the bird, just celery, onion, garlic and a lemon and grapefruit for the whole citrus theme. It's the same thing I do when I roast a chicken. So now the turkey is cooking at 450 degrees. I'll turn down the heat in an hour. Time for more prep and Brady Bunch reruns. (There really is nothing to watch on Thanksgiving.)

2:06 p.m.: Table is set. Check. It's a good thing it's just the three of us because my table is too small for anyone else. (Plus, those Indian corn is taking up most of the centerpiece.) I'm going to put the food up by the kitchen counter and we're going to have to do it buffet style because the food won't fit the table. Now I'm just waiting for my guests to arrive and that turkey to be done so I can do other things in the oven. Is it time for wine yet?

2:39 p.m.: Yikes, look at my turkey after just one hour in the oven!?

Doesn't it look like it's done? I think the high heat definitely browned the turkey, especially in my small oven where the heat is probably really up close to the turkey. I hope the turkey doesn't dry out on the outside. Gosh, this is such the typical Thanksgiving cooking dilemma huh? Anywho, I lowered the heat to 325 degrees, which I had planned to do after an hour anyway. But I bet this cooks faster than the planned 3 hours. I'll probably check in another 1.5 hours. In the meantime, I put foil over the breast, hopefully that'll keep it from turning black. (Oh, and also to baste, I put some of the oil that came out and rubbed a lemon half on the skin to give it that lemony taste. Keeping my fingers crossed that the skin doesn't turn any darker!

3:20 p.m. My nephew Chris and his girlfriend, Mary, just arrived. And he brought pumpkin bread. Although it looks kind of like cake, huh? He says it's a recipe from Alton Brown. (Now he's off to Safeway on a beer run. I guess he's not into my wine.)

3:45 p.m.: OK, big debate about whether the turkey is done.

We just did an instant read and the thermoter quickly jumped to 160 degrees, which I think is good because when we let it rest it should be ready, but Chris thinks it should be 170 because that's what the recipe says. The turkey looked pretty dark and dry. I'm worried it'll be over cooked. Anyway, it's back in the oven and I think it'll be done in 10 minutes. It's a pretty fast cook, huh?

4:15 p.m.: Turkey out and now baking the yams. Chris and Mary are busy being my prep chefs and are cleaning out the green beans. I'm getting confused by my schedule that is now blown out of the water.

4:42 p.m.: Sitting down for the Pomegranate Salad with Hazelnut, but skipped the flat bread since Chris made pumpkin bread that was more like pumpkin cake. So we're just munching on the prosciutto instead. I sliced up the persimmon on the side, and the combo with prosciutto is like figs with prosciutto.

5:18 p.m.: Mad rush to the end! Just finished a quick chorizo leeks stuffing and now made the chestnut cream/gravy. Chris is thickening it up now. Last thing to do: green beans! Aiiiie! Hope the turkey isn't all cold by now.

5:44 p.m.: Yes, finally sitting down for dinner. Carving turkey was tricky with no carving knife and getting oily and stuff. But now for eating. (Whew, the turkey wasn't dry, but it wasn't super moist. It helped to have the gravy or cream or whatever it was that we made.) I almost forgot the cranberry that I had in the frig, but cranberry is my favorite so I pulled it out at the last minute. Enjoy your thanksgiving dinner everyone!

6:49 p.m.: Oh. MY. Gaawd. I'm so full. And you know what? The free-range turkey tasted like chicken. A big chicken. Now we're watching "Glee." Then in a bit it's dessert and we're going to see if that cheesecake was fully cooked.

8:24 p.m.: OK, after watching "Glee" (love it), it was time for dessert. Gosh, it's late. I bet all of you have already gone to a movie and back. Anywho, the pumpkin cheesecake was sliced up but not before we made some whipped cream the old fashion way. No, we didn't go harvesting the cream itself from milk. But I got some heavy cream and had my nephew start whipping it with a whisk until it got stiff and fluffy. Oh, boy, he was a wimp. He hardly whipped it before he got tired. We ended up taking shifts where we each whipped the cream until it was magically stiff and firm after being liquid just a few seconds before. I'm so amazed when that happens. Oh, and yes, we added liquor, but not the bourbon that I was planning to because I didn't find any at Safeway (but they sure love their whisky), so I just poured a dash of Disaronna. But we didn't really taste the alcohol in the cream. But it was light and fluffy. The cheese cake itself? It was like someone took a pumpkin pie (which I love) and put half of it with a cheesecake. I guess I should have blended it more instead of trying to marble it when it wouldn't. Here's a shot of the slice (I had to use my point and shoot because my camera battery died all of a sudden. Go figure.)

So that's it with the eating now that dessert is over. Whew. That was a lot. Oh, and you don't want to see the dishes. Yuck. I'm so tempted to bury everything. We're going to watch the DVD of Ice Age 3. No 3-D glasses though. Hope you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner and night! So I showed you my Thanksgiving, I'd like to hear how some of your Thanksgiving went.


JulieK said...

Hang in there -

JulieK said...

We eat at 3 or 4 so we can have sandwiches at 7 or 8

Mrs. L said...

In the car, driving to the in-laws, following along.
You are making me hungry!

Single Guy Ben said...

Julie, that's a cool idea. Big turkey lunch and then sammies for dinner! I'm going to do that next year. (Started too late for today)

Mrs. L, have fun with the in-laws! What did you bring?

Mrs. L said...

Dinner will be around six. Mother in law handles
every thing, we just show up. And it's always
time for wine. (and the vines are still a spectacular
color up here in St. Helena!)

Single Guy Ben said...

Mmmm, a Napa Valley Thanksgiving. How cool! Can I get an invite next year? ;-)

Mrs. L said...

Next year it will b Christmas in Napa as we rotate every year but who knows, maybe you'll get an invite one day

So was the turkey done? I still haven't gotten the courage to try my hand at one.

Single Guy Ben said...

Mrs. L, yes the turkey was done. No worries. I am so stuff, how about you?

JulieK said...

Thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving with us! The dessert looked awesome...

Single Guy Ben said...

You're welcome Julie. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving too.

BTW, doesn't that whipped cream on top of the cheesecake look like a honey bear? Really, take a close look. It's like a cloud. What do you see in it? It's a bear, really. :)

Jenster said...

We ate dinner at my sister-in-law's at about 5 p.m. this year. Some years it's later, depending on when the turkey is done.

Your dishes looked delicious and I'm impressed by the organization in your fridge. I think I have the same glass pitcher, which I picked up a while back at IKEA.

Ben, do you have a blender for the whipped cream? If so, just put the blender cup in your fridge for about 20 minutes to chill it, pour the heavy cream in and set it on Whip for about 30 seconds. Then you're done, with no shirt-removing or sweating required (unless you're into that, of course).

Mrs. L said...

Glad your turkey worked out. We talked about
your "chicken on steroids". Classic dinner here, turkey,
two kinds of stuffing, yams, mashed taters etc. Pumpkin
and pecan pie and two ice creams for dessert. One was Salted Caramel from Bi-rite! Yum! (yes of course I tried both pies).

Single Guy Ben said...

Jenster, I don't have a blender. Just no space for any more kitchen gadgets in my studio. But that sounds so quick. I am actually amazed how after some furious whipping, the cream stiffens just like that!

Mrs. L, oooh, I miss mashed potatoes this year because I figured the yams would be enough starch. And you can't go wrong with Bi-Rite!

JulieK said...

it DOES look like a honey bear- you are truly talented. We are having Thanksgiving dinner today, after having had Momofuku noodles last night. Turkeys are in the oven and on the rotiseri, stuffing is done. Next mashed potatoes!

agent713 said...

::sigh:: Drooling Canadian here. No turkey for me until Christmas.

And yes, it does look like a bear. Cute :D

Palidor said...

Mmm, what a fantastic meal! I love your idea of pumpkin cheesecake. Good call on increasing the heat. 300F seems awfully low for cheesecake. I think your turkey turned out great! It certainly looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing. My Thanksgiving was last month, but even then I didn't cook a turkey.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the play by play. Everything looks delicious! It's good to have help in the kitchen.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

Hey Ben,

Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for giving us the play-by-play of your dinner. We actually didn't do a turkey this year. (They don't celebrate the US Thanksgiving here in Malaysia; go figure). But we did have a good dinner just now with a bunch of friends, so I'm calling that our Thanksgiving dinner. Will be blogging the recipes later.

Pam said...

Being as I was working I missed everything! But now I've caught up I just want to know, why does your frig looks so neat? Is it always that way? Mine is a nightmare!
The dinner looks wonderful!

Single Guy Ben said...

LOL, my frig usually looks pretty organize because typically there's nothing in it! That's why I had to take a shot of it because it looked so full for the first time.

So interesting to hear that people celebrate Thanksgiving at various times and days. I guess the important thing is that it doesn't matter when you celebrate but you take time to be thankful. Awwww.

Mrs. L said...

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your play by play of Thanksgiving...especially since I wasn't cooking and just had to show up at my in-laws. I wanted to comment more but ah, didn't think the in-laws would have been thrilled with me whipping out my phone in the middle of the meal :)

Carolyn Jung said...

Congrats on surviving your first Thanksgiving! Now, you're a pro at it for sure. ;)
I learned long ago that even if everything doesn't come out perfect, it doesn't matter. In fact, it makes for better stories down the road at future Thanksgivings! ;)

Happy Holidays, Single Guy Chef!

Chris C said...

Aww, I sound like such a wimp...I wasn't that bad, was I? And I followed the recipe to the t (except for the pumpkin seeds and pan size, but beggars can't be choosers!) so it's not really my fault that the bread looked and tasted like a cake!

Cute bear and thanks for that great dinner and letting me sleep on your floor afterwards as I recovered from it :-D

foodhoe said...

wow single guy, you are so ambitious, not only were you busy cooking, you live-blogged while stressing about juggling things in the oven. Looks like a very delicious thanksgiving.