2017 Thanks Taking

Two place settings, the centerpiece, a candle, the cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, and the meat plate.

Let me start with a statement about “Thanksgiving”. We’re supposed to give thanks for all that we have. That’s great, but it elides the genocides, massacres, and wars that US settlers had with the natives of North America before taking possession. It elides the biological warfare. It elides centuries of neglect, abuse, and outright murder that settlers perpetrated against Native Americans, as well as the ongoing social and political programs to disenfranchise and further steal for natives and native families. This is why, for more than 20 years, I’ve privately referred to the holiday as Thanksgrieving, and may start calling it Thanks Taking, based on a workshop/discussion title I saw last week. I am also grateful for friends, family, and plenty and food and drink and wonderful company and projects running up to the holiday, but let’s not forget these atrocities.

This said, read on for how we celebrated with family and friends, what we cooked and ate, how we prepared it, and notes for future endeavors.

For the turkey, we got a heritage breed from BN Ranch (Note that Bill Niman left Niman Ranch in 2007, and later sold BN Ranch to Blue Apron – in 2017), but it’s his business model that brought the turkey to our table). The turkey was almost more leg than breast, but that’s okay. We had cooking methods lined up for both that worked out very well for us.

First, Jen parted out the turkey. I ended up with the legs (both drumstick and thigh), and the wings (sans tips). Total weight was about 80 oz, or 5 pounds. My (successful) plan was to do a sous vide-powered olive oil confit. I got my base recipe and method from Chefsteps. My sous vide stick is an Anova, though, so minor changes. I also changed up the seasoning a bit. I used olive oil, salt, meyer lemon peel, sage, and fennel. I bagged my cooks in zip lock bags and used the submersion method to push out the air before sealing (I’m not fancy enough to have a vacuum sealer).
Important note here: I didn’t quite seal one of the bags properly so I got oil all over everything in the tub. Easily cleaned with a good amount of soap, and the cook wasn’t affected. Only oil came out, not water in.
I also used my new sous vide balls and light plastic wrap (because I don’t have enough balls for a full double layer in my tub) to contain evaporation for the 24 hour cook at 149F. Speaking of 149F, the meat can come out looking undercooked. But it’s not. It’s delicious!

Jen cooked the turkey breast in the Serious Eats Turkey “Porchetta” way, and did an awesome job. Because we were a bit short of breast meat from a more conventional turkey, she also used turkey tenderloin to bulk up the roll. And the important safety tip here was that when the scored meat roll got too floppy to work with and tie up properly, chilling it in the freezer did wonders for being able to control and shape it properly.

The sous vide confit asks you to sear the meat both before and after the 24 hour sous vide cook, and we actually held it unseared after, thinking the sear would help heat up the legs/wings for serving, which it did. We also seared the turkey porchetta at the same time to get the color on the skin on the outside of the roll to a nice golden brown.

Sous Vide Confit Leg and Turkey "Porchetta"
Sous Vide Confit Leg and Turkey “Porchetta”
Turkey Leg Meat
Turkey Leg Meat (looking a little under, but absolutely tender and delicious)

She also made a lovely wild rice with wild mushrooms (we used a pound of chanterelles and a few shiitake mushrooms, along with some good soft-cooked leeks). She initially had reservations about the wetness of the mushrooms after cooking them, but no worries. The final product was moist, toothsome, and delicious. I didn’t get a shot of it by itself, but it sits underneath the meats on the platter in that picture.

Meat Platter
Meat platter (set out for the table)

Some interesting additional meat cooking notes:

  • Be careful to preserve the liquids from the sous vide cooking process (don’t just dump it out!). What I preserved from that was:
    • An amazing amount of gelatin that had rendered off the meat during the 24 hour cook. What I thought was mostly gravy liquid turned out to be rich, silky, highly flavored gelatinous stock that was great in the gravy.
    • An additionally fabulous seasoned oil, which we used for various purposes throughout the meal.
  • I’d like to say I separated the liquids with my Dad’s old separation funnel but unfortunately I don’t have a stand for it and it’s too difficult to thoroughly clean, so it’s just an accent piece in my liquor cabinet. I separated by decanting (pouring carefully) and using a skimming spoon and finally a paper towel to soak up the last layer of fat off the melted/heated gelatin.
  • I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given what I know of thermodynamics and surface versus volume, but it turned out to be silly for me to be worried that searing the outside of the legs would ruin the work of gently cooking in the sous vide. That didn’t turn out to be an issue because the searing was such a relatively short cook.

Jen also made a lovely cranberry sauce, which is just cranberries, heat, water, sugar, and a pinch of salt. You can add maybe some zest or a cinnamon stick if you’re feeling sassy. But it was a perfect compliment to everything else.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce

We had a lovely autumn salad with autumn greens including endive and other leafy greens, persimmons, cheese (Old Amsterdam), and caramel pecans.

Autumn Salad
Autumn Salad

S. made a lovely creamed kale dish.

Creamed Kale
Creamed Kale

Here’s one of the best shots of the end of the table’s setting, with fluffy mashed potatoes and a bowl of gravy, both delicious and true to their origins dishes. With the gelatin from the sous vide in the gravy, it was so rich and the mouth feel was incredible. A great job both created and eaten by everyone!

Two place settings, the centerpiece, a candle, the cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, and the meat plate.
Table Setting

Another Thanksgiving (taking) meal that couldn’t be beat, Mr. Gurthrie. (Oh and I forgot to listen to Alice’s Restaurant on the actual day, but did listen to it the next day.)

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