What is the best meal or best food that you have eaten all year? Did you make it? Did you get it at a restaurant? Do your best to describe the food and the experience with us.
If I’ve already told you this, please forgive the re-telling of the story.
I still get excited thinking about the best meal of the year, which was our Thanksgiving dinner. It was a personal, all-time best in the “Holiday Meals” category. Even more importantly, the meal was shared with family and friends whom we cherish.
First, the food.
Everybody knows there is only one way to make a proper Thanksgiving dinner: and that is the way you had it when you were a kid. Marital discord arises when different traditions clash. That’s not how MY mom made it. . .
Thankfully, I’m over that — and so are my adult children. I’ve been delighted in the past 10 years to discover, despite a highly invested story put forth by my ex-mother-in-law that I was somehow incapable of cooking Thanksgiving dinner, or didn’t want to, or couldn’t be bothered; that I am a damn good cook and can crank out a Thanksgiving dinner with the best of them. New traditions have evolved since my divorce. The only thing my kids (now 28 and 23) insist upon are the bread stuffing they grew up with (my mom’s recipe, unwritten but passed down by oral tradition and eyeballing it), lots of wine, and at least one pumpkin pie. I think everything else is negotiable.
This year, I was open for something new. I consulted the ultimate food guru, Alton Brown. Every one of his recipes is reliable and totally delicious, so I decided to put our Thanksgiving fate in his hands. I purchased a minimally-processed turkey and chose to brine it. I had not had a proper roasting pan, so purchased one, with a rack, for the day. My parents had not used a rack — just put the bird right into the pan, breast up, and away we went. Let me tell you, I am now an enthusiastic convert to rack use — what a difference it made! In the spirit of adventure, I started preparations the afternoon before, and followed Alton Brown’s directions. After brineing the turkey overnight, then cooking it at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, and then down to 350 for the remainder of the time, our 15-pound turkey was done in 2.5 hours, tender and falling off the bone, with an actual flavor that I had not dreamed possible for turkey. And, if you look up “golden brown” in the dictionary, you will see a picture of our perfect turkey.
In another innovation for this year, I actually made gravy. You see, gravy has been a murky mystery, fraught with cross-motivations, since my youth. My Dad always made giblet gravy, and I thought it was the absolute grossest and most vile-tasting substance imaginable. I could never get on that gravy train. However, this year the pan drippings looked so fantastic that I just had to try — no giblets or neck, thank you very much. Voila! Fabulous, rich, dark, turkey gravy. Unbelievable.
The meal was rounded out on my part with mashed white and sweet potatoes, Alton Brown’s “from scratch” version of the ubiquitous green bean casserole, and an amazing cranberry chatni from one of my new #houstonbloggers friends. Friends and family brought wine, pies, traditional cranberry sauce (homemade), fabulous challah and a creamed spinach casserole that was to die for.
We feasted. We laughed. We took pictures of the turkey. And we were thankful. Best meal of the year, hands down.
[I’m blogging daily (ish) during December as part of #resound11. Join us here.]