Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Thanksgiving Cooking Experiment

I have not a single photo from Thanksgiving this year. My mind was a bit preoccupied with the menu. If I can scavenge some photos from my family I will post them. In the meantime, if you want to check out our LOVELY Thanksgiving table take a look at my sister-in-law Michelle's post on her blog regarding all of her hard work.

My November had been filled to overflowing with school, school, school and applications for graduate school and the GRE and work that I had barely a moment to breathe. But I promised myself a whole day of cooking for Thanksgiving. Since my allergy-free diet, I don't eat wheat or gluten and that was going to put a big cramp in any major dining at the table since stuffing, rolls, pie and often the turkey have gluten in them. So, I was going to create an entire Thanksgiving meal that was gluten-free.

We didn't actually have our dinner until the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend so that gave me all day Thursday to cook and bake. It was a good thing too because I needed all that time.

The menu included:

Cranberry, almond, apple spinach salad
Ground turkey and mushroom stuffing (my riff on my Grandma J's classic stuffing)
Mashed red potatoes
Pumpkin pie with almond flour crust from The Gluten-free Almond Flour Cookbook

It was a little bit insane. Mostly because every recipe but the salad and the potatoes was brand-new for me. Eeek! What was I thinking? Not to mention, I started the whole shebang out with making my own chicken stock too--another first! I needed a great chicken stock as the base for my gravy and stuffing and I had frozen several chicken bones from past roasted chickens and I decided to turn them into a chicken stock. I cobbled together a chicken stock recipe by pulling bits and pieces from some of my favorite cooks and started simmering a huge stockpot on my tiny white oven. It made enough chicken stock not only for Thanksgiving recipes but I also froze several packages of it as well to use in later recipes.

The stock turned out great and smelled so good as it simmered on the stove. It totally put me in the mood for a day of cooking and baking. Good thing too because that mood was going to get stretched a bit thin. The turkey turned out well, the salad was good, the potatoes were a bit dry b/c I didn't mix them until right before dinner and I was kind of harried at that point. The gravy, stuffing, rolls and pie were each pretty time intensive and here's why:

Gravy: I made this very, very last right before dinner was served. What I didn't realize was that I would spend about a half an hour over the stove experimenting with the thickness and trying to get it just right. I was completely bushwhacked at this point so that is likely my memory could be elongating the time it took. The consistency turned out fine but I think to kick it up a notch next time, I will add a bit more seasoning and salt in the beginning so that it zings more.

Stuffing: The stuffing actually turned out much better than I imagined and was probably the biggest success of my adventure. For the bread base, I used a mix from Pamela's that was expensive but worth every penny in the end because the bread was good and spongey and soaked up the chicken stock and flavors from the mushrooms, turkey and seasoning very well.

Rolls: The rolls were good especially for my first real attempt at rolls from scratch and using a mixture of gluten-free flours that would have quelled me with fright a few months ago. I actually ended up making two batches of these though because I needed more than a single batch and didn't realize this until they came out of the oven. Also, the texture of the rolls is a bit more biscuit-like. They were not light, airy dinner rolls so while the taste was excellent, I would prefer to find a roll that more closely mimics my idea of a soft, fluffy dinner roll.

Pumpkin pie: This recipe needed the most finessing as my crust burned on my first attempt. I tried it again and this time, I cut the baking time in half, cooked the pumpkin mixture mostly on the stove and then covered the almond flour crust with aluminum foil when I put the two together and back in the oven. This time the pumpkin pie was much better. I still need some work on perfecting that almond flour crust but all in all it was an admirable pie for another first.

So, you can see why taking photos was the last thing on my mind with all that cooking. The problem is that I need to take photos of what I am cooking though too. It helps my memory of the event and it makes it more fun to blog about too. Maybe that can be one of resolutions for the new year? Take food photos!

I took all of my food over to my parents' house for Thanksgiving where my mother served 52 people--bless her heart! I had one cousin at dinner who is gluten-free as well so she got to enjoy my food too and of course, I put it out for everyone else to taste and try as well. Michelle put together a fabulous table that stretched out to incorporate all the adults and teenagers. The nearly 20 children had their own tables that she decorated as well out in the garage.
All in all it felt like a spectacular Thanksgiving with the best people, the best food and lots of thankful hearts.

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