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The day Before Thanksgiving and more

I am cold this week! I keep hearing everyone bemoaning the ‘nasty’ weather and everyone seems to be so surprised at how rainy and cold it is. I looked up the averages and our temps are very normal for November. We do have about an inch more rain than average, though I don’t think that is so much that we are noticing. What I really think happened is that the combination of the onset of our blustery November weather, combined with a later changing of the clocks, has thrown us off. Personally, I think it is ridiculous to change our clocks and if I could stand Arizona at all I would be tempted to move there so I wouldn’t have to do it! It’s an outdated and irrelevant practice, and I think we should stop. Pick a time and stay with it! Although I do remember fully enjoying being on graveyard shift when it was time to ‘Spring forward’. I hated it extra on graves when we had to ‘Fall back’, that was never fun.

Last week I picked up some chicken from Shannon Harkness, a local farmer and purveyor of excellent chicken. They are plump and juicy and so flavorful! We just finished the last of our Sunday chicken last night and we can’t wait to roast anther one, so thank you, Shannon for taking such good care of us by growing great food! For Thanksgiving we have an order from Farmer George for a locally grown turkey. I tried to find a farmer to go to directly, but no one had any around here. We did order a heritage turkey, like last year, though that one is down by my sister’s place in Bingen so my family will get to enjoy that one without us. Fresh-Local Bremerton is now open so we can get local produce, grains, and other items at this great new store! I love that! They will serve their own blend of coffee, soups, sandwiches & other food that they make at their commercial kitchen across the street, and generally just be a wonderful place to gather and enjoy our community. I love that Jean Schanen has forged ahead with this fabulous project! It is so exciting!

On Saturday night we went to dinner in Covington with my ‘BFF’ and her husband. They took us to Trapper’s Sushi: a locally owned place with a modern decor and fantastic fresh sushi. Their menu is simple in that it really is primarily sushi and sashimi, with a few appetizers and I noticed one or two teriyaki style dishes as well, though I really only read the sushi part. Lots of sushi long rolls, and several hand rolls (the cone shaped ones) as well. I got the sushi/sashimi combo plate to share and Mark got a long roll called ‘extreme’, and it was plenty for the two of us. I liked the snapper and the ‘tako’ (octopus) the best, though I did not taste any sushi that I didn’t love. The best part, of course, was seeing my friend Linda, who I miss so much that it hurts sometimes! It wasn’t enough time and we didn’t get a chance to really dig in and talk as much as I would have liked, so next time we get together (it won’t be soon enough) I will push for just the two of us to get together, I think. I miss my girl time with her!

We started gearing up for a busy week on Tuesday, when Italian wine maker Antonio Sanguineti came in for a couple of hours to sign bottles and schmooze with us wine drinkers! As always he was charming and pleasant and even though we only had a couple of days’ notice for his arrival, quite a few folks came in and enjoyed the afternoon. We handed out samples of our caramelized onion tart and Gorgonzola pizza ‘truffles’ that were such a big hit at our last party. We tasted his white blend ‘Vincero’, his red blend ‘Caruso’, and his beloved ‘Chianti’. It was just a tease preview of our Friday night wine tasting where I will open several of our new Small Vineyards wines to pour, as well as a super secret treat that I will unveil that evening. Teaser: it has wine in it, it is more for dessert than for with the meal, and it is really fun to sip! Friday night is going to be so much fun! It is our last wine tasting of the year and I am excited to premier these amazing wintry wines.

Saturday we have our quarterly staff meeting, which I always look forward to. After every meeting we invite the staff to stay for our ‘after party’. They are each welcome to bring a guest, and we invite our past staffers to join us as well. Mark makes pizza dough & sauce, and gets all the toppings ready while we are in the meeting, and then once everyone is there they can top their own pizzas however they like! We enjoy a little wine, some great conversation, and sometimes even play a board game or two. It is a fun family night and Mark and I enjoy feeding our family this way. I love being surrounded by our ‘girls’, it makes me very happy.

Sunday is a special day for two reasons: 1)it is our little kitty’s 1st anniversary with us. Mark fell in love with her and brought her home last year and since she is clearly part Persian, and very cute, I decided she should have a show name. You know how they do those super long names that we don’t really understand but somehow delineate the cat’s heritage… though they always call the cat by a very shortened part of the name. Well our Callie is technically: Madamoiselle Amouse Bouche Callebaut Bonnie Blue Butterfly McQueen. (I can explain it if you really want me to…) The #2 reason Sunday is special is that we are going to the MLS cup!!! THANK YOU, KAT! My friend Kat got us great seats with her via the Coast Guard and while my Sounders won’t be on the pitch (frown) it will still be a blast to have my first pro soccer match be the superbowl of soccer! I remember going to my little sister’s games (she played for many years) and as I got older I was forced to go (it was my little sister, after all!)… then I married a guy who played soccer and here I am a huge fan of the game! It was a surprise to me how much I loved it this year since I only watched the first game to hear my beloved Kevin Calabro. (I missed him after the Sonics left. Sore spot!)I watched every Sounders game that I could, as well as the other playoff games. It’s crazy fun!

So that is our week in a large nutshell… we are getting our Thanksgiving pre order forms in and can’t wait to get tons more! Rolls, pies, croutons, wine and more for the big day, quiche and pastries for the day after when all the company still has to get fed, and anything else anyone could want to make their holiday as easy as possible! The day before Thanksgiving is busy and hectic and we love it! Mark and I will be there for 14 hours at least, then go home exhausted and happy and sleep for a long time. It will be good.

Are you roasting, bbq’ing, or otherwise cooking a turkey next week? If so, I highly recommend using a brine first. The brine locks in juices and flavor, and makes it really hard to have a dry turkey, even if you cook it to the government’s ridiculous recommendation of 190 degrees. If you don’t brine it and cook it that long, your turkey will be dry every time. Not cat food dry… just dry enough to where it is fine, it is edible, and you need extra gravy to get the outside white meat down your throat. We have all had them and there is no need to continue suffering! Just do this:

Take out the gizards and neck if they are stuffed inside and place the turkey in a clean and sanitized bucket. for every quart of water that you put in to cover the entire turkey, also add 1/2 cup coarse salt (or 1/4 cup table grind salt) and let it soak for 48 hours, keeping it refrigerated. Pull out the turkey the night before you want to cook it, pat it dry all around and inside, and place it in the fridge, uncovered, until the morning. You have to be careful to give it a shelf all it’s own, so you do not risk any other food touching it and getting cross contaminated. Cook the turkey however you want to and this super easy brine method will ensure that your turkey remains juicy to the end.

If you want a bit more flavor to your brine here is what I am going to do to our 15-ish pound organic, non enhanced turkey (this is good for 12-15 lbs):

6 quarts water & apple cider combined
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 c. kosher salt
5 bay leaves
3 T. whole coriander seed
3 T. crushed chili flakes
3 T black peppercorns
3 T. fennel seed
3 T. mustard seed
1 bunch thyme
10 cloves garlic
1 quart bourbon

a big wad of cheesecloth in the brine as well.

Later you will need the below mentioned dry rub, as well as a quart or so each of chicken broth and apple cider,

Submerge turkey in brine and soak 24-48 hours. Keep refrigerated!
Remove turkey and get all the herbs and spices off; pat dry inside and out.
Place in fridge on it’s own shelf over night before roasting.

I get the roasting pan ready with all my veggies in 1/2 inch dice thrown in the bottom:
1 onion, 1-2 carrots, 2 celery, 4 garlic cloves, 2 granny smith apples, 4-5 bay leaves, and 1 bunch thyme and then season it well with salt. Arrange the turkey on top of the veggies and refrigerate overnight UNCOVERED! This will help the skin dry out and become really brown and crispy. Make sure that there is no raw food near the turkey in the refrigerator. After refrigerating overnight, the turkey is ready to go in the oven.
Keep the cheesecloth in the brine and refrigerated, though you could certainly move it to a smaller vessel.

The next day, pull the turkey out of the fridge 1-1.5 hours before roasting, and get it on the counter to come up closer to room temp. This is perfectly safe to do as long as you keep all raw foods away from the raw turkey, and do not let it out for more than 2 hours. Get that cheesecloth out of the brine, ring it out a little bit, but keep it good and wet, and then place it in the cavity of the bird. You do not want so much in there that there is no room for air movement, but you do want it touching all surfaces to leach out it’s briney flavors into the cavity.

Preheat the oven to 450

Pour 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup apple cider into the roasting pan, over the veg. Massage your turkey with the dry rub as follows:
Dry rub: Combine: 2 cups bro sugar; 2 cups salt; 1 cup ground pepper; 1 cup smoked paprika

Loosen the skin on the turkey (use gloves and really work your hands under the skin)rub olive oil (or butter) all over the bird, under and over the skin. Grab up some of that dry rub and schmear that all over the outside of the bird, making sure to get some under the skin for extra flavor. (I do this on chickens as well)

Roast the turkey in the 450 oven for about 40 minutes, or until the skin is getting brown. Lower the heat to 350 for the rest of the cooking time, and turn the bird around every hour or so. You can baste your turkey every 30 minutes to really keep the flavors flowing over the whole bird. You may need to add extra chicken stock and apple cider to the base to keep it all moist and happy. (ps this veg base will make a great gravy later on!!)

You should cook it about 17 minutes for every pound, and if it begins to get too brown you can put a piece of foil lightly over the top (don’t seal the edges) and it will stop browning. You want the bird to get to at least 160 degrees. Make sure your thermometer is in a thick part of the meat, not touching bone or pan, and check multiple areas to make sure it is accurate all over.

Once it has cooked long enough, take it out and place it in a safe spot on the counter, tent it with foil, and let it sit for AT LEAST 30 minutes. It will continue to cook from the residual heat, the juices that were swirling and bubbling on the surface of the bird will all soak back into the meat and the meat will relax and get super tender for you. The skin will get crispy and this sounds so good I am salivating! I can’t wait!

If you want to make gravy out of the juices just throw the whole thing into a strainer, pressing on the veg to get all the juicy goodness out, toss them aside and then go on to make gravy as usual with the drippings. If you kept up on the broth and juice additions you should have a good amount of drippings to use. You can always enhance it with more chicken stock and herbs and spices.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!