Thanksgiving in Franconia Part II

IMG_0291Putting Thanksgiving together started Thursday evening (Thanksgiving Day in the US). After Jola and I shopped and did a little cooking together at her house I came home and made the dough for the pie. Later we Skyped to the family in the states while they were eating and it was almost like being there.

The next day, Heinz dropped off the fresh cranberries and I made the cranberry sauce and baked the pie.  Saturday I thawed the turkey and made the dry brine. While I waited for it to thaw, I prepped the stuffing and made the Cheddar Horseradish Spread. (At first it was too thin so I asked Jola to bring some cream cheese with her and luckily that did the trick to make it into a spread.) I waited and waited for the turkey to be thawed enough so that I could try my hand at spatchcocking but to no avail. At 1 am Saturday night it was still too frozen to hack into it so I decided to go to bed.

IMG_1526At 6:30am Sunday morning it was time to spatchcock.  This technique is supposed to cut way down on cooking time and didn’t seem too difficult for a small turkey. (Ours was only 8 lbs.) I thought the most difficult part would be breaking the chest bone.  I was wrong. Cutting out the backbone was a major undertaking.  Basically, I had to saw through it, but I got it. (Especially impressive for 6:30am.) The rest was easier than expected.  I rubbed the bird with the salty, anise, orange, sugar brine, put it back in the refrigerator and went back to sleep for a while. Just a note: I really thought three days of prepping would totally cut down on the amount of work on the day of. Wrong again. Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner is an all day activity.

Thanksgiving day: First things first, Get the pie out of the freezer. Next, put together the stuffing. Jola and I had a hard time finding any kind of familiar canned broth (Brühe). She encouraged me to make broth with her favorite flavor mix (called Tel-o-fix) and that worked out great. I prepped the carrots and the green beans and then started the potatoes. This buttery recipe was D-elicious. I saved some of the cooking water and added a bit more milk later when I put them back on the stove. (Truth be told…I may have added extra butter to every recipe and I’ll admit and stand behind my statement: more butter is better.)

The plan was to eat at 4pm. So, after chopping all the ingredients and preparing the roasting pan, the freshly rinsed Turkey, bathed in oil, orange peels and anise went into the oven around 1:20pm. If I had it to do again, I would’ve started out with the turkey covered and then fully allowed it to roast at the end. It worked out fine but it was a little bit too hot in the beginning and almost burned the skin.

The last step was making the gravy.  I was very nervous about this part. Nervous it would be thin, nervous it would have lumps, nervous it would have no taste.  I started by simmering/boiling the giblets for three hours or so. Then in another pan I began the rue. Melted butter, flour, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, stir, stir, stir. But then too thick–more butter, then not thick enough–more flower.  Finally I had enough rue to feed a small army, so I began slowly adding the cooking liquid from the giblets, then stir, stir, stir, then slowly adding milk, stir stir stir.  It was too thick, and rich at first, so I added the rest of the cooking liquid from the giblets.  After that I chopped the giblets really small and poured them in. Finally it was the right consistency and taste.  Not exactly like mom’s but close enough for a first try. Phew!

Jola and Heinz arrived at 3pm on the dot.  They visited at our brand new table (kudos to Thorsten for putting it and the chairs together over the weekend) with Thorsten and ate the Vorspeise while I finished roasting the carrots, beans and stuffing. Periodically I would drop something and have to shout “Alles Gut, Ich bin ok!” so that they wouldn’t come rushing to my rescue. I went in and out to visit between checking things and felt immediately relieved when they gave the thumbs up to the Cheddar Horseradish Spread. Jola hadn’t tried cheddar cheese before and may have been a little skeptical when we had to look for a while to find it at the store.

I found some wooden skewers along with the other things that Jola let us borrow. I wasn’t sure what they were meant for.  In the end, I was checking the turkey’s status with the meat thermometer and she explained, “You put the skewer into the meat and when it comes out clear the meat is done. If it comes out with any blood or any color, it’s not done.” Really this method was just as or more effective than the thermometer reading (especially because the thermometer is in celsius and the recipe was in Fahrenheit.) Spatchcocking really did cut the cooking time. The turkey was about two hours total in the oven

Thorsten carved the turkey. We were both pretty clueless about the best way to do it. We had a video but suddenly right when we needed to watch it the internet was too slow!  Anyway, we made it thanks to Jola’s electric knife. A little after 4pm or maybe 4:30, all the food was on the table!
We all sat down to eat together and I was relieved to find that everything was warm and had a taste. A good taste even! Admittedly the green beans were nothing special, but the turkey recipe really flavored the meat and the stuffing with apples and herbs was a good compliment.  The potatoes were not gummy and all the flavors seemed to meld. Heinz and Jola liked the meal and finally I had introduced an American food tradition besides cheesesteaks and hamburgers!  We chatted and took our time. Finally a few hours later we got to the pie.  I highly recommend both the crust and this pie recipe.  Yum. The best moment was when Heinz took the first bite and said, “Ah, Laurie, sehr lecker.”


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