Monday, November 30, 2009

Massaging the bird ...

Thanksgiving, I believe, is the cruelest of holidays. Who put this crap on a Thursday? A day where the only obligation is to hold the steering wheel steady and avoid a sharp right into the White Castle drive thru in Hinckley. Blocking my throat to keep those delicious grease ball burgers from forcing themselves down my throat. Yet it requires waking up two hours earlier than normal, and resuming my day-to-day life 24 hours later.

Chuck and I left Brother Pista's house with a plate of leftovers, which were consumed with the ease of liquids later that night. The next day I got to thinking about gravy and stuffing and rued the sparse veggie-bore-ian contents of our fridge. Rich in lentil this-and-thats, poverty stricken in the ways of Thanksgiving foods.

I texted Chuck with what I thought was a brilliant idea, only to remember Ma Pista subscribed to this brilliant idea years ago when our family split time on T-day between the Grandparents Pistas and the Grandparents Smittleys: A fake Thanksgiving dinner for me and mine. This, of course, requires more preparation than any meal I've ever considered. I usually bat about 66.666 percent on meals that include more than one component.

Recipe hunting for things from the turkey kingdom gave me the willies. Each recipe included a part where the cooker must pull skin away from the meat -- sometimes this includes the word "membrane" -- season the meat, pat skin back into place and massage the bird. I looked at about 900 recipes, and could not find a way around this.

I prepared myself for one big fat disgusting day. A cage fight: Me versus salmonella poisoning, with a bonus scene reminiscent of an Emergency Room on Halloween.

When I got to Cub Foods, I found my cheat: Precooked Jenny O Turkey breasts. Put in a pan, season and baste, cook until it hits 170 degrees. I could get through this without even touching the bird. Score. The rub: It was gross.

Most of this meal turned into a gigantic, time sucking, money wasting failure. My multitasking skills are nil.

Pumpkin Cheesecake.
Boiled Beets. (self explanatory).
Mashed Potatoes. (Also self explanatory).
Gravy. (from a jar).
Rolls. (Pre-made).


Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya: I used to hate when my mom made jambalaya -- I think it was the measly pieces of earring-sized pink shrimp -- so I'm not sure where this hankering came from. I suspect it has something to do with a meal taken from a Cajun food cart during a music festival this past summer. (You really put your colon in your own hands when you eat shrimp from a cart in the hot sun). Anyway, this one is just chicken, sausage, green pepper, onion and garlic, a shitton of Cajun seasoning and rice. It was okay. Definitely itched the Cajun food itch.

Fun fact: Much like the word "mushroom," I also always ignore the word "celery."

I made a version of this Apple and Brie Beggars Purse. It was too sweet.

Spanakopita: Hate, hate, hate working with phyllo dough, but love, love, love spanakopita. My two errors were corrected by VNick via Twitter: Make sure the dough is thawed, and cover it with a damp cloth. Both of these make a ridiculous amount of sense, and might make me curious enough to use phyllo sooner rather than later. Anyway, this is easy, aside from the part involving the dough. Chuck said it looked like I was trying to wallpaper.

A mix of spinach, onions, green onions, ricotta cheese, eggs, and feta, spooned into the layers of dough and cooked. Yum. I served it with a couscous salad and some dolmas from the co-op. Dolmas now hold the distinction of being something I am not at all interested in ever eating again. I don't know if it is the leech-like shape of the grape leaves covered rice, or the overwhelming flavor. It was ick.

The Machinist: More interesting than this movie is the death defying 250 calorie a day diet that Christian Bale adopted to prepare for the 2004 role, dropping his overall body weight to a digit I whizzed past in junior high. His rib cage and spine look like percussion instruments, and his pelvis is hollowed out like a bike seat. At the end of the film I wondered "Was it worth it, Christian? This is hardly an award-winning film." (I love Christian Bale. I can probably tell you more than you'd ever want to know about him).

Into Temptation: This film, set in Minnesota, centers on one of those cool, liberal Catholic priests who becomes obsessed with a woman after hearing her confession. How she went from the roughest of upbringings to the oldest of professions. Our hero doesn't know much about her other than that she is stacked and that she wears a cross necklace. He searches for her in the dregs of Minneapolis, earning himself VIP status at a sex shop. This whole film is really good, with touches of good humor. The final flashback does everything possible to ruin all the good that came before it.

Also: A secondary role is played by Minnesota actor Brian Baumgartner, who plays Kevin on The Office. He does a really great job as a priest from a wealthier congregation, which kind of ruins the character he plays on The Office. His character on The Office is weak sauce.

This one streams on Netflix. Giver 'er a whirl.
Lakeview Terrace: This movie is a perfect example of how sometimes the villain can be more likable than the person he is terrorizing.

Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr: Mary Karr’s third memoir Lit is her own personal VH1 Behind the Music-style story, picking up the tale around where Cherry ended and stumbling into the place where The Liars Club became something Karr could sign in bookstores for fans waiting in a line that winds around the block. It’s all the stuff that happened after adolescence, seeping into the part where she committed her tumultuous upbringing to paper.

First she has to shake the drink. Totally, totally liked this one.

Full review here.

Kevin Kling's Holiday Inn by Kevin Kling: Kling writes about traditional holidays like Christmas, Mother's Day, and the Fourth of July, but he also tacks on regional holidays like Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, ice fishing season, and the Minnesota State Fair. And then there is just some stuff for fun, like how he learned hobo law spontaneously riding the rails to Seattle with a buddy to settle a bet about whether inland seafood could compare to crustaceans on the coast.

This book by the storyteller, National Public Radio commentator, playwright and poet is a real charmer. Full review will be here.


Wahkonamama said...

I can do the separation of the turkey skin, but I cannot do the neck/giblet removal. That's Dave's job. I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about turkey innards.

If you ever decide to do a whole turkey, this recipe is phenomenal: (I used a fresh bird and because I was lazy, I used all fresh cider).

CDP said...

I'm going to try to get Lit at the library. (they frown on that, but who's to know if I sneak a bottle in there in my totebag. Ha ha!)
Seriously, though, I really liked Liar's Club when I read it.

chuck said...

From McSweeney's:

The Art of Turkey
You must deny you are holding the carcass of a dead bird in your hands. You are not a vegetarian, and you secretly make fun of vegetarians when they discuss things such as "chickens' feelings." But now you are rinsing out a turkey under running water, and you put your hands into what they call the inner cavity. You are invading the interior recesses of a dead bird. Several vital organs have been gathered there into a small paper bag. You are not to be shocked by this. The art of making a turkey is about not being shocked. You have guests.

Princess Wild Cow said...

I buy skinless boneless turkey breasts, cover with cheesecloth which can then be soaked in wine, butter or whatever you want...Also, I will email the worlds best stuffing recipe. It relies heavily on poultry seasoning and butter. I can't eat any meat that looks like a body part...with skin or bones.