My Creations, Places I like

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gobbler Gluttony

    I probably should have washed my hands before I began this thanksgiving post, but to be frank, I'm just too damn tired to do so. Today was a monumental thanksgiving because it was the first time I got to prepare everything myself. While my parents spent thanksgiving in Long Island with my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins, I was busy slaving away at a fairly ambitious menu. Initially I had planned to buy all the groceries the night before to get a head start on some prep work, but a wild night out in Saratoga prevented any trip to the supermarket.
    I woke up Thanksgiving morning fully clothed on the living room couch with my cone head of a dog staring right at me. As I sat up I noticed that my brain felt strangely similar to the Grinch's heart--two sizes too big. My mouth? Sand. Desperately I made my way to the frig in search of liquids. While on what seemed like an endless journey to the kitchen I fantasized about opening the refrigerator door to find an unlimited supply of blue Gatorade (for the record, if you like red Gatorade you're nuts. I've had Dimetapp that tastes better than that shit). Unfortunately, all that was in the frig to greet me was a half carton of OJ, and a gallon of skim milk. 
    Right from the start I knew milk was out of the question. What I longed for was juice, man! Staring at the carton of orange juice I remembered my good friend Toby Ostrov making the world's worst Screwdriver back in the tenth grade. My bros and I stayed up late one night, and Toby proclaimed that he knew how to make "the perfect Screwdriver". A generous pour of Svedka here (there was no measuring back then), a splash of OJ there, and voila! The perfect screwdriver. It was anything but. Thinking about it now, what Toby had effectively created was, "the perfect pile-driver". Maybe he was on to something? I can see market research teams now, conjuring up a way to introduce the drink to young college kids across the country. The Pile-driver: "heavy on the booze, light on the juice". I swear Toby, if you ever make money off of this, I'm getting a cut! Its the least you can do for forever tainting my love for orange juice...

    Through the marvels of modern time travel lets skip to the supermarket. By 2:30 I made it to Hannaford shopping list and all. "What time do you guys close today?", I asked; not wanting to hear the answer. The cashier lady looked at me with folded arms and replied spitefully, "in thirty minutes..." I could feel her devil-eyes piercing through the back of my head as I sprinted away. I must have done a half-way decent job of categorizing items based on their location in the store because it only took me twenty minutes to grab everything I needed. While two girls my age rang everything up I helped bag (it was my job when I was fifteen so do not lecture me on "eight to ten items per bag"), and briefly chatted with them about the girl in front of me who conveniently misplaced her I.D. when she tried to buy beer for her two siblings. I was eighteen once too so I can relate, but there are better ways to go about it, miss...
    Back at the house I preheated the two ovens and began to systematically break down my menu based on length of prep and cooking time required. I had planned to roast little cornish game hens and brussel sprouts, make stuffing from scratch, whip potatoes, and try my hand at some baking. I always detested those croissants and dinner rolls that you simply popped out of a Pillsbury can. They seemed so...I don't know...Susie-homemaker middle America? I'm taking a baking class currently and thought, well why not try a batch from scratch. If they came out wrong or did not rise properly, at least my older brother wouldn't know the difference.  
    Following the recipe I downloaded online, the directions asked me to cut the dough using a pastry ring two inches in diameter. Clearly there are no "pastry rings" lying around in the Hahm family kitchen so a little improv was needed.  

    That's what they looked like when I pulled them from the oven. I know they don't look anything like biscuits but at least they were warm and pillowy on the inside? In hindsight I probably would have been better off going with that pudgy little Pillsbury guy (seriously, what is he supposed to be? I swear in another life him and the "Michelin Man" are romantically involved)

I'm going to hell...

    I guess the point that I am trying to make here is that it doesn't matter that my biscuits looked like hockey pucks. I scrapped the idea of "pre-made", and just went for it. So what if it didn't look great, at least I had the courage to try. I mean c'mon, I took a stance against "canned dough" God Dammit!
    Way before I began my biscuit belittling escapade, I knew one of the first things I needed to do was bake off some homemade cornbread in order to incorporate it into the stuffing recipe I was using. Akin to the Pillsbury canned biscuits, boxed stuffing just makes my soul die. If you think about it, how often does one actually make stuffing? Once, maybe twice a year? No matter what season it is you can always find boxes of Stove Top stuffing at the grocery store. It could be mid July and if I have a hankerin' for boxed stuffing you better believe Stove Top will be right there to fill the void. Now that I think about it, I don't want to know how long those boxes stay on the shelves...I am going to go out on a limb and say all the boxed stuffing was made in the 80's and the world has been living off that same supply ever since.
    The thing that separates Stove Top from Pillsbury is that Stove Top is actually delicious. Sinfully delicious. Many a Thanksgiving night I can be found at the kitchen table eating leftover Stove Top in the dark in my boxers. Its fool proof. Anyone can make a simple biscuit; its just flour, fat, baking soda, baking powder, cut and bake. Boxed stuffing on the other hand, has barriers to entry. There's a severe learning curve advantage. Try to enter the market and people get nervous. During Thanksgiving dinner, biscuits tend to fall by the wayside, but screw up the stuffing and you might as well strap on the boxing gloves because you're in a fight; at least in my family. Seriously, if you forget the stuffing the ONE night out of the year people actually get to enjoy it and you better not walk home alone at night...
    After the cornbread was baked off, I cubed it up along with sourdough and baguette before baking it all off with sauteed chorizo sausage, roasted mushrooms, Granny Smith apples, and a bunch of other things. The video below is what a proper saute should sound like. I wanted you to be able to hear the sizzle because that is how you will achieve a good sear. The video is a bit amateur, I know; but that's mainly because I was sauteing with one hand and filming from my Iphone with the other. If you were expecting some Food Network quality video I am sorry to disappoint. The story continues with more pictures and humorous anecdotes after the jump so keep reading.  

basic cornbread


    Once the stuffing was in the oven, the rest was pretty straightforward. While the stuffing baked I got started on banging the rest of my prep out. My next area to focus on were the potatoes seeing how they would take a great deal of time to come to a boil, and cook. Right away I grabbed a garbage can, cleared the kitchen table, set up a cutting board, and filled a large pot with cold water. I sat at the kitchen table hunched over, gently tossing the peeled, cubed potatoes into the pot. 

    The most important thing to have here? A damn good peeler. Akin to our school issued peeler, the peeler we have at home is just too brutal on produce. You all know the feeling when you go to get a hair cut and "a little off the top" turns into a full fledged buzz cut. "Uh, excuse me ma'am I just want a trim...why are clippers involved??" The same goes for peeling produce. You just want to remove the skin, not shave it down to a pencil. My advice? Buy a Swiss peeler. They're gentle on delicate produce, cost less than a cup of coffee and can be found at almost every kitchen supply store.

Swiss peelers

    Alright so the taders were cooking and that freed up some time to cut the brussel sprouts and get them roasting. Things were starting to come together now. I roasted the brussel sprouts in the oven with salt, pepper, and this glorious lemon-infused olive oil I found in the cupboard. Boom, done. 

    The last item on the menu I had yet to conquer were the little Cornish Game Hens. I found a recipe online that had me stuff the cavity with orange wedges, and make a citrus glaze from the pan drippings. It was by far the best tasting thing I did, and will forever remain a staple in my culinary repertoire. Right around the same time I was prepping the hens, my brother's friend from law school--Regina, arrived on the scene to eat some dessert. Little did she know that my brother and I had yet to even eat dinner. I knew she was coming so I made sure there was plenty of food for the three of us (and then some). Regina brought a bottle of sake as a house warming gift, and I entertained the two of them by doing a little "jig" with the birds on my cutting board; a strong indication that I have not fully embraced adulthood yet. Everything was ready to go. All the sides were kept warm in one oven while the hens finished roasting in the oven. During this time the three of us drank warm sake and tried to guess Regina's nationality. My brother and I only guessed one of the two, which is not too bad for the world travelers we are not.
    Thirty minutes later and the hens were resting, and the glaze made from the pan drippings was reducing. They set the table and I carved the hens. I was surprised how succulent the hens appeared when I cut into them because I have always been conditioned to smother dry turkey meat with gravy. To all you home cooks out there: the little built in "thermometer" in your thanksgiving turkey doesn't pop out until the bird reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees. While having a built in thermometer is great in theory, the problem is that poultry only needs to cook to an internal temp of 165 degrees. If you have ever wondered why your turkey meat is dryer than the Gobi Desert, this may be why. It behooves oneself to be aware of these things...

    In the end everything came out beautifully...all things considered. I wish the hens got a better color on them after roasting, but the glaze I basted them with stole the show anyway. After dinner we were all so full that the idea of dessert seemed like overkill. Originally my mom had left a delicious pecan pie behind for us to eat on Thanksgiving; but as you can already guess, it did not make it to the table. Being in a house with just my brother the day before, there was no way we weren't digging into it. We had reserved a few pieces for Thanksgiving, but when the two of us strutted into the house fully inebriated at 2am, the collective decision was to "heat that shit up!" Don't worry, I picked up a pumpkin pie at the grocery store in anticipation of Regina's arrival. It didn't even get touched, and that's the way it should be. If I have room for dessert it speaks volumes as to how good the actual meal was. In my humble opinion, a great meal leaves no room for sweets. Sorry pastry chefs...

    At some point in reading this, you probably were asking yourself, "why did he cook so much food for  just three people?" Although there was enough food on the table to feed the three of us and the entire commonwealth of Puerto Rico, I was already anticipating the best part about Thanksgiving: LEFTOVERS. I  had planned a "leftover potluck dinner" with my friends from home so I was not concerned with food being left uneaten. There will be a separate post all about it so stay tuned. Cheers! 


  1. :D Adore the post- I'm absolutely dying of laughter!! Thanks for cooking the heaps of food, again, - I'm still savoring the stuffing and hens!

  2. You were drinking in 10th grade???!!! No wonder Dad's bottles were always half empty. Hhhmmm. ~ M

    1. They were half empty due to evaporation, mother...

  3. I hope M is Mom. Or James Bonds' boss. Great post, Petey. Now start preparing the menu for when your friends are all home for Christmas. -J

    1. I want it to be money penny so bad. Unfortunately that's just not the case...