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Posts Tagged ‘turkey’

Christmas 2010

Christmas this year was a lovely success! Even though it was the first Christmas J’s family members and his brother’s girlfriend had ever spent away from home (it was #5 for me), there was enough joy, fun, and delicious food that everyone was as happy and comfortable as they would have been at home. While I had a little bit of stress as hostess, overall everything was casual and relaxed. We did some improvising to make everything work– we placed the kitchen table in the middle of the living room and extended it with a desk so there would be enough space for six people around it, plus we used disposal plates placed over actual dinner plates (a brilliant move in a place that doesn’t have a dishwasher).

On Christmas Eve we ate a traditional Finnish Christmas dinner prepared by J’s mother and father, starting with the fish course, which I think I may enjoy more than the traditional Finnish Christmas kinkku (ham). Of course there was ham too, accompanied by all the traditional puree casseroles– carrot, potato, and rutabaga (the rutabaga is my favorite– it’s slightly sweetened with dark syrup).

Dinner on Christmas Eve was followed by some clean-up, which I didn’t mind because when were at J’s house for Christmas his parents insisted on doing almost everything. This time cleaning up and washing the dishes was much more of a group effort, and I was happy that his parents were relieved of that burden this year. After-dinner clean-up was followed by an apple crisp with vanilla ice cream (I forgot to take a picture), opening gifts, plenty of wine, and even singing some Christmas songs (as her two sons refuse to join in any singing, I think J’s mother was thrilled that me and her other son’s girlfriend were more than happy to participate :-)).

Can’t forget about Christmas candy!

Christmas Day was definitely the most stressful day for me, as I was serving my first-ever Christmas dinner to a group of people who weren’t familiar with all the dishes being served, as it was supposed to be a traditional American holiday dinner. I remained mostly confident, but it was hard to silence some worries– what if the food doesn’t taste good? We all ate so much yesterday– what if nobody is hungry enough to eat my food?

Biscuits baking and turkey in its serving dish.

I made as many things in advance as possible. The buttermilk biscuits and pumpkin pie were waiting in the freezer, and I baked the mushroom stuffing in the morning before heading over to the apartment where J’s family was staying. While the stuffing baked I ran to the store in my pajamas to buy whipped cream– I couldn’t serve my pumpkin pie without whipped cream!

Overall the plan I’d made worked out wonderfully (timing is one of the hardest things for me when it comes to making a meal, so I was pretty proud of myself!). J helped me with some of the trickier things– making sure the turkey was done, carving the meat, skimming the fat off the drippings, and making gravy. We were both so busy in the kitchen that there aren’t many pictures of our prep.

Yummy mushroom stuffing!

I forgot to mention that I added something to the menu that I published the other day, or actually J added something. I mentioned that maybe the meal needed some kind of salad and he said, “How about cole slaw?” I loved the idea! Although cole slaw is kind of a summery salad, I felt it was a crispy, refreshing addition to the holiday meal (plus it’s so easy to make!).

This post is getting really long, so I should just get to the point– my Finnish audience LOVED the American meal. I had made printed menus that included the name of each dish in English and in Finnish, which everyone seemed to like. J and I had made up some of the names, since the dishes don’t actually exist in Finnish (for example, stuffing was leip√§laatikko). Everyone tried everything that was on the table, which is of course polite, but it was only when people started taking seconds that I was really convinced that they liked it ;-). The biggest hits were probably the stuffing and the cole slaw (I think those were my favorites too!). I was so pleased that my first holiday dinner attempt went so well, and I couldn’t have prepared it for a warmer and more receptive crowd :-).

Plates have been emptied, glasses have been filled.

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Even though I live in Estonia and Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated here, I’m still an American at heart and didn’t want to let the holiday go by without some kind of recognition. So, in addition to calling my family and getting to chat with everyone while they prepared for their holiday feast on Thursday, I also bought a piece of turkey with the intention of making J and I a nice meal on Saturday night.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it exactly, so J suggested I consult my gorgeous Jamie Oliver cookbook, which has been sadly neglected as of late. So I did, and of course it gave me some fantastic inspiration: I decided to brine the turkey. Apparently soaking turkey (or chicken) in a salt solution for a few hours (or overnight) before cooking yields tender, moist meat. I’d never tried it so I was willing to give it a shot. Then, since I was already using the brine portion of the recipe, I decided to just go ahead and try the whole recipe.

It was quite simple– sliced potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, carrots and onions got a head start cooking in a casserole dish with some chicken stock, and later the turkey (or chicken) pieces were added, along with some cream and a few pieces of butter. Not a traditional Thanksgiving meal, though a lot of the components are the same– turkey, potatoes, and oven-roasted vegetables.

Isn’t that lovely? Most of the vegetables were cooked nice and soft and had wonderful flavor (although the cream in the sauce curdled, so it wasn’t very pretty). The turkey pieces were quite juicy on the inside, but I don’t know if they were moister than turkey usually is. Since I don’t make turkey breast often it’s hard to say how much the brine affected the meat (it was in the brine for 4-5 hours). It certainly didn’t do any harm, though.

So that was how J and I celebrated with our own little non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner. As always, I was happy to try a new recipe, happy to have so much delicious food, and happy to have J here to enjoy it with me. Thanksgiving or not, it never hurts to be grateful for all the good things in life.

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