I’m a pretty good cook. Really a quite good cook, when I put my mind to it. Too often I don’t, though. I put something in the oven and then pick up a book and sit down at the kitchen table while I’m waiting for it to brown, or for something else to come to a boil, and then . . . well, it’s not for nothing that one of my family’s sayings is “Dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off.”
This year I’m pretty sure I lost one of my imaginary Michelin stars. First, we had decided to brine the turkey. A beautiful turkey from a turkey farm no more than 8 miles away. Herbs and lovely things like bay leaves and juniper berries went into the brine on Wednesday afternoon. We sequestered the turkey, submerged in the beautifully seasoned brine and packed in ice in a large bucket with a big rock we call The Groundhog (that’s another story) on top of it to keep the turkey in and the raccoons out in my husband’s woodworking shed to keep cold and safe.
Then on Thanksgiving morning I went to get the big jar of salt so I could add a tad of it to the pie crusts. That would be the same salt of which I’d used a cup and a half in the brine. But if I’d done that, then why was the salt jar still . . . completely full? One of those moments ensued, the kind of moment in which a slow reckoning occurs and you think, “Dear god, then whatever did I give the wife for lunch?”
All together now: brine is mostly water and . . . what, dear reader? Yes, you in the back row? Right, salt. And I had left out the salt. But completely. We hastily whipped up an extra salty quart of water and used it to replace some of the salt-less liquid covering the turkey, and put off starting the cooking for another 4 hours.
Which meant dinner was at 8:30. I tried to convince everyone that the really sophisticated people never eat before 8:30.
In the interim I got onto other things. I made dressing. I made gravy out of the bones of a turkey breast I’d cleverly put in the freezer a month ago (freeing up today’s turkey bones for a second act as soup). Second child did all the sous-chef chores, chopping mountains of onions and celery. She made a spectacular cranberry sauce. First child peeled many potatoes and put them in cold water. And made gorgeous dinner rolls I baked two pies, one apple, one pumpkin. Here is a photo of not one of those pies:
I ask you: is that not a beautiful pie? It is my pie, a mince pie, baked in November. Of last year. Because the sad truth is that the crust of my pumpkin pie got–shall we say?–just a tiny bit too golden brown. And the crust of my apple pie came out beautifully today, but was a tiny bit on the droopy side to be genuinely photogenic (still tasty, though). So I thought I would show you a more successful pie instead–this mince pie from last year.
And while I am showing you things I didn’t make this year, here are not First Child’s wonderful Parker House rolls. Because I was so busy hanging my head in shame over forgetting to put the salt in the brine that I didn’t get an actual photo of these actually wonderful rolls. Instead, here is a shot of last Thanksgiving’s rolls, which were also wonderful–my friend Sandi’s crying rolls*, for which the recipe is here. They are so named because they are so good they make strong men cry. They are and they do, though, for the record, First Child’s Parker House rolls were every bit as tasty as these:
Anyway, it’s a shame to dwell on all the things that went wrong, because there was plenty of yummy food and we were deeply grateful to have both children here and healthy (a few cold germs notwithstanding) and to know that, though First Child goes back to school on Saturday, he’ll be back for a much longer visit in only two weeks.
I was going to tell you all about our Thanksgiving experiment to have only local foods at our table this year. Details can wait, but the plan succeeded more than it failed, and involved good lessons about economics (why does a pound of green beans grown 15 miles from here cost more than a pound of green beans trucked clear across the country?), flexibility (when you can’t get locally grown baking potatoes for our traditional twice-bakeds, then mashed potatoes are just fine) and gratitude to the 72 laborers who brought us this food when so many are without the very basic things they need.
But I won’t tell you all that after all this–I’ll merely say happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and urge you to go over and get that crying roll recipe from Sandi’s blog. You won’t be sorry.
* Mine are yellower than hers because I made them with mashed sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes–both are very, very, very good, though, trust me.