Friday, November 18, 2011

Reflections on Entertaining and Thanksgiving Turkey Prep

I am by no means a perfectionist. Anyone who's ever seen the interior of my car (particularly in the middle of a styling job) knows that firsthand. But when it comes to entertaining and consequently cooking, I've been known to overdo it. Be it hand rolling ravioli for 18 of DH's closest friends the first time I met them or preparing hundreds of tamales for the sake of throwing a great party, I can't help but go big. DH remains patient (for the most part) when it comes to my exacting entertaining and party planning style but I suspect he believes it could all be a lot simpler. 

Perhaps it's because my first model for entertaining was Entertaining by Martha Stewart. Compared to Martha, I am a total scatterbrain. In defense of my overachieving tendencies though, I always feel inclined to quote my global marketing and merchandising professor from my final semester in Italy. Benjamin Malhotra oft preached, "Ultimately, it takes the same amount of time to do something well as it does to do that same thing poorly. And anyway, what's the point of doing a thing if you aren't going to do it well?" He was and still is one of the most tasteful, best dressed men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I swear the Dos Equis 'most interesting man in the world' campaign is based on this man.
me and malhotra and another riveting dinner conversation
This is all a long drawn out way of saying DH and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year. For as much as I love to cook and as much as Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, (srsly, I'd be fine if it was just Thanksgiving, Halloween and Fourth of July in any given calendar year) I have done the bulk of the cooking only one other year and that was with the help of two close friends...and we bought a pre-smoked turkey. Which is to say I will be cooking my first Thanksgiving turkey this year.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
I wax and wane between confidence and sheer dread about cooking a 20# bird for all of DH's family. In my strong moments I am confident it will go off without a stitch...a true Norman Rockwell holiday. In my weaker moments, usually around 3am every night this week, I visualize something more like the desiccated turkey Clark Griswold cracks into in Christmas vacation.
In preparation of the big feast I decided to sit in on a turkey carving class hosted by John Lee at 18 reasons. From the moment John started talking about birds I felt more at ease. Half the battle is being prepared and the other half is being confident. John expertly carved the bird as a butcher would, dissecting the legs, then the wings, then the breast all while explaining the differences between heritage and traditional, dry and wet brine, stuffing and dressing. He answered all our questions with ease, expertise and patience; the three most valuable qualities in any great teacher.
I plan to wet brine the bird in a apple cider, star anise, black peppercorn brine and cook the bird slow and low. I am still debating whether it is necessary to do a trial turkey. Most experts say no, save for one I trust dearly. It seems excessive, especially since I'm the only one in the house who'd eat it. I will decide today or tomorrow.
Stay tuned!

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