Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Until very recently, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday.  (Except for Halloween, and Purim, which are also my favorite holidays.  Mostly I just like holidays.)  Thanksgiving was a big deal at my late parents' house.  Many years we had more than 25 people for dinner.  Most of the year, my late mother wasn't really a very good cook, but she was the Queen of Thanksgiving.  She made the most amazing turkey and stuffing.  Here is a "recipe".

Ellen Mastros's Thanksgiving Turkey and Stuffing

Before the Big Day:
1) Save all the ends from every loaf of bread all year in the freezer.  Raid day-old bread section of grocer.  You will require about 5 loaves bread, in total.  The more different kinds, the better.  Also, the crustier the better.
2) Buy the largest turkey you can find.  In case an army should show up, you should be ready!

3) Argue with Husband about food-safety issues surrounding defrosting poultry on the counter vs. in the fridge.
3) Wed night, rip up all the bread into small pieces.  Use every bowl/platter in the house to place bread on counter to air dry overnight.  Argue with Husband concerning whether or not this will draw mice.  "On Thanksgiving, even mice should eat!"

4) Thursday morning:  Awaken "early" (ie, before 10am).  Grumble.
5) In largest sauce pan (usually reserved for spaghetti sauce), melt 3 sticks of butter.  Argue with Daughter about whether this is enough butter.  Daughter will add extra stick of butter added while you weren't looking.
6) Husband, who has been up for hours, returns from the office, singing Zippity Doo Dah.  Send him to grocery store for something not needed in order to avoid people who are happy to be awake before 10am.  Grumble.
7) Chop 3 onions, 1 head celery, 6-9 apples into small pieces.  Chop extra apples because Daughter keeps filching apple pieces.
8) Sautée celery and onions in butter until translucent.
9) Debate relative merits of raisins vs dates with Husband.
10) Add apples and about 4 Tbsp McCormic poultry seasoning.  Argue with Daughter about whether this is enough poultry seasoning.
11) Turn back on pan.  Daughter adds more poultry seasoning added without your approval.
12)  Add apples, onions, raisins, AND dates to butter mixture.  Sautée until onions are golden.
13) Muse on the relative merits of walnuts vs pecans.  Pro walnuts:  They are better than pecans.  Pro pecans:  Daughter and her bff used all the walnuts making baklava yesterday, and so Husband must be sent to store again to get more walnuts.  Wait...  That seems like pro-walnuts.
14) Discover Daughter was right, and melt additional 2 sticks of butter.  Mix with butter/spice mix.
15) Mix butter mixture into bread.  Use hands.  This is messy.  Pretend you hate the mess, but secretly lick butter mixture off your fingers when you think no one is looking.
16) Wait for Husband to return with walnuts.  He has also bought 4 kinds of cheese, 3 types of olives, and some weird gourmet poultry seasoning.  Hide this seasoning in the back of the pantry, and use McCormick brand poultry seasoning.
18) Add walnuts to mixture.  Wet stuffing with turkey broth until it is sticky enough to mold.  Chastise Daughter for playing with her food while praising her elaborate stuffing structures.  Husband adds more poultry seasoning while you are distracted by stuffing architecture.
19) Have Husband remove giblet sack from turkey, because raw turkey is gross.  Husband complains that turkey is still frozen inside.  Remind him that someone told him it would not thaw sufficiently in fridge.  Fill turkey with very hot water several times to defrost from within.
20) Drop turkey on floor.  Swear Daughter to secrecy concerning this.
21) Manhandle turkey into large roasting pan with cover.  Reminisce about how Son used to hide in the empty roaster and pop out to scare people when he was very little.
22) Remove turkey from roasting pan because you forgot to stuff it.  Drop turkey on floor.  Swear Daughter to secrecy concerning this.
23) Why are there two #3s and no #17?  You just always have to be right, don't you?!?!  Remember the spoons!  (*)
24) Stuff turkey.  Compact stuffing as much as possible, so that the maximum amount will fit inside. 25) Preform 6-dimension Time-Lord magics to ensure 3 gallons of stuffing fit inside 1 gallon bird.
26) Manhandle bird into roaster.  Add about 2 cups turkey broth (Daughter recommends apple cider!) to bottom of pan.
27) Have Husband put roaster in oven, because it is too heavy.  He will remark that oven door seems broken.  Remind him that he's been promising to fix that for five years.
28) Bake at 200' for 6 hours.
29) During this time, occasionally remove lid to "baste" (this is a technical culinary term, which means "filch crunchy stuffing bits from the edges of the pan").  Add more broth or apple cider if dry.  Husband should cavort around the house "helping" and singing "It's beginning to smell a lot like Turkey!" (to tune of "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas")
30) Remove turkey from oven.  Drop hot roaster on floor.  Swear Daughter to secrecy.  Small burn mark on cork remains as evidence.  "That's just the natural variation in the cork!  It's a beautiful and eco-friendly material!"
31) Husband carves turkey while Daughter filches stuffing and Sisters debate relative merits of various cream-cheese to celery application strategies.

(*) It's an inside joke in our family.  Did you know that sets of silverware come with twice as many teaspoons as other things?  My mother did.