Thanksgiving at the ranch: smoked chicken, roasted turkey, pulled pork, ham, freshly made rolls, dressing, corn, mashed potatoes, the requisite sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, roasted veggies, various desserts. Not in the picture: the cranberry-apple-orange compote I made earlier.
There are few things in life for which I will get out of bed at 5:30 in the morning after going to bed around 3 or so. Since I’d not done a lot of the things I had wanted to do earlier in the week, there was quite a lot of prep and cooking to be done on the big day. I hauled myself out of bed and got my thoughts together.
One of the benefits of getting up before the sun is watching the sun come up over the barn and trees. On this particular morning, the colors were even more striking, as we were expecting rain and this lent an extra vivid start to the day.
The colors faded rapidly as the clouds moved in, and that was my hint to get started on what would be the real show of the day: the food.
Our family gatherings for Thanksgiving tend to be huge. Between family, friends, and assorted guests, in the past we’ve had up to 80 people at any one meal. This year, we were expecting to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 people. Between moves, sudden other engagements, scheduling conflicts, and miscellaneous issues like flat tires, we wound up with a much smaller, much more intimate gathering: 12 people, four animals.
This, when you think about it, can be a good thing, really. At times when there are dozens and dozens of people wandering around, sometimes it’s difficult to really touch base with some people you might not see very often. Now that we’re living further out in the country, it makes it doubly so.
The amount of food I’d planned did not change. That is, after all, one of the joys of a holiday like Thanksgiving: leftovers. Fewer people equals bigger doggie bags.
As I was spending most of my time cooking, one of my sisters wound up with the camera for much of the evening, so many of the photos here were ones she took throughout the festivities.
Mom had the right idea to start the day: coffee first, before anything.
Through the window, we could see the rain beginning to fall. Since we weren’t really planning anything outside, this was not weighing too heavily on our minds.
Fat Man was up first. Like Little Boy, he had spent a luxurious evening soaking in the brine. After a shower…
he was ready to meet his match: aromatics.
I like to keep it simple, and I don’t like to stuff my bird with stuffing (dressing, to those of us down here). Aromatics only, please, along with a good dose of this
under the skin. Finish with a nice rub of various spices, and the big guy is ready to go.
Except that we discovered a 20 pound bird will not fit into our standard roasting pans. A little improv, maestro, if you please: a giant steam tray, with racks in the bottom, made for a nice bed for the bird. And then, another problem: no twine. No problem.
Some judicious use of cheesecloth to tie the legs, a little tuck of the wings underneath, and we were okay to go.
Low and slow: the bird went in for his marathon cooking at 8 AM.
After some hours, his tan was shaping up nicely.
Not to mention creating some great drippings for gravy later.
Little Boy went on the smoker about half an hour after the big guy went into the oven for roasting. But the day is not just all about turkey, of course. There were also rolls to be made.
Fresh, day-of-event, pull-apart rolls.
Seriously, though, it’s the people. What would happen to all the food if they weren’t around?
Susi and Samir took a stroll about the grounds.
Gabrielle stayed inside and kept us company.
While Ricky and Mom also took a stroll outside and then came back in…
Gabs showed us how she was enjoying the mushroom turnovers.
Then she showed us all how to be quietly beautiful.
Ricky was very serious, or just looked like he was about to go into a coma, probably because he and Gabs had been at his mom’s earlier for an early dinner.
Barb arrived, alone, a few hours after her own early dinner with her group.
Frank arrived, either a bit out of focus, or the recipient of my sister dashing around snapping pictures right in everyone’s face. Probably the latter.
Angie looked fabulous, as usual.
All, right, I hear you: enough with the people. Where’s the food?
Tarragon pickled mushrooms and onions, crabcakes, mushroom turnovers.
These didn’t last long.
Or even those.
We also had assorted other stuff: sweet potato casserole, shrimp, stuffing (with and without sausage), mashed potatoes,apricot glazed carrots…
broccoli gratin , cranberry compote, brussels sprouts, those aforementioned rolls, crabcakes, and pickles. Everything was labeled.
Because you have to know what you’re eating. The ham is hiding over there on the right. The butternut squash soup is in the crock on the left.
There was also focaccia, which disappeared before a good picture could be taken, a hawaiian dessert that mom made that likewise disappeared, cinnamon raisin bread…
assorted cookies, fudge, pie.
After stuffing ourselves and watching more football, things finally broke up and everyone went home, no doubt to sleep and then get up in the middle of the night to tear off a piece of turkey as a midnight snack.
Overall, a highly successful evening. From this dinner, and for the next four days, I ate turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry compote, and gravy. Over and over, for each meal. Not a bad way to get some food into yourself.