Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cooking with Looney Toons

In my biggest, most outrageous, most over-the-top dinner party planned to date, I think I faired pretty well. There were several cancellations at the last minute, so we only had 16 adults as opposed to the 24 I was expecting.  And from the amount of noise I think then entire Hun army sent their children.  There were some big successes in the food, and some mediocre dishes, but no massive failures.  Which is kind of incredible.  Here is the full, complete, unabridged menu:

Herb Butter rubbed Turkey (weighing in at 25.4 lbs.)
Sage and Mushroom Stuffing (this one was mediocre, but I'll blame the vegetarian for that one)
Gravy (also mediocre, although the only person I can blame is myself)
Black Truffle Mashed Potatoes (pretty good, although needed more truffles and to be whipped)
Baked Macaroni and Cheese (big success on this one)
Butternut Squash Soup (pretty good, but needed something on top)
Grappa Cranberry Jelly (do you even have to ask?  Of course it was great, is has grappa!)
Candied Sweet Potatoes (also good, which was a surprise)
Pumpkin Pie (normal, normal)
Gingerbread Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese frosting (mmmmmmm........)

I was most impressed with the turkey.  And I think the reason it came out so well was just sheer, dumb luck.  I made the herb butter a head of time, and not bothering to read a recipe for turkey simply made a pound of herb butter.

Herb Butter
3T Fresh Minced Rosemary
2T Fresh Minced Thyme
2T Fresh Minced Sage
1lb Butter, softened to room temperature
Salt to taste
Mix well and either refrigerate for up to a week, freeze for a couple months, or slather immediately on turkey.

So, when it came time to rub the turkey with butter I had forgot to bring the butter back to room temperature, resulting in big clumps of butter under the turkey skin.  And being lazy, I just kind of poked them into place and left them.  Then microwaved the rest and brushed it on the turkey skin.  Now, keep in mind that I'm doing this by myself, so lugging around a 25lb, slippery, rubbery bird is going about as well as a Looney Toons cartoon would do.  I put a cooling rack directly on a solid oven rack because that was the only think I could find that would fit the turkey.  Then unceremoniously dropped Mr. Butter-up-my-Butterball on top and threw him in the oven.  After a few times of basting the skin was getting a little too brown too quickly.  Hmmmm, perhaps having it directly against the heating element isn't helping...  Lets flip him over.  Cue Looney Toons music again....

Besides using every kitchen towel in the house, watching the bird slide across my counter into the half prepared sweet potatoes, and dropping turkey fat on the cats, I got him turned from breast to back...

So I flipped him, basted him, and put him back in the over.  After a while the skin was a little too dark so based on the fact that I hadn't ruined the bird yet, I decided to just cover him with foil.  When guests started arriving (and by guests, I mean indentured servants that I conned into helping me prepare) someone thought it would be best if I left the meat thermometer in the turkey so that I wouldn't have to take it all the way out to check the temperature.  And as is usually my luck, the thermometer melted in the oven.  Luckily against the tin foil not the turkey.  So we guessed that clear juices = done turkey.

It was actually really good.  Very moist.  Very tender.  Great flavor.  What's my secret?  A pound of butter and cooking with Looney Toons.

(Oh, and I cooked the turkey at a 175C oven for about 5 1/2 hours, just to complete the recipe.....  Don't forget the 3 glasses of Sekt it takes during the last hour and a half of roasting)

Other dishes and recipes to follow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Over Ambitious?

Anyone who has ever eaten at my house knows that I can be a little ambitious in my choice of what to cook, how much, and when.  I'm prepping for a dinner party of 23, 17 adults and 6 kids.  Which is not the largest number of people I've cooked for, but it is the largest number I've attempted to serve a sit-down meal for.  And of course I insisted on cooking everything myself.  From scratch.  No short cuts.

Are you ready for the menu?  Ok, sit down and grab a glass of wine.  Because that's what I use to cook with.....

Butternut Squash Soup shooters (appetizer)
Turkey (25lbs, rubbed in fresh herb butter)
Dijon Herb Gravy
Mushroom and Sage Stuffing
Truffle Mashed Potatoes
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese
Grappa Laced Cranberry Jelly
Pumpkin Pie
Gingerbread Cake

I have the loaner table set up, silver in the process of getting polished, serving pieces identified, cases of wine bought, and lots of pieces of dishes are in various stages of preparation.  Now heading off to one last shopping trip to get the last little pieces.  Wish me luck.  I think it will be a good time.  Even if I burn all of it and we order pizza.  You can't go wrong with friends around.

Stay tuned to discover whether I burn the turkey because I had to squish it into the oven, or whether the table collapses from all the food, or the mashed potatoes end up on the ceiling......

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scary, scary, and more scary

Well, the halloween party seemed to come out a success.  I was the most proud of my spider eggs.  Although they didn't look exactly like spiders, they were pretty cool none the less.  The cheese ball spiders were mediocre in taste, but not too bad.  The brain dip was pretty tasty, but melted in the over.  It looked successfully gruesome, but not specifically like brains.  And of  course cookies are cookies.

So here are some of the pictures:

Ok, so I didn't exactly bake the last thing.  But she was pretty cute for Halloween, so I had to include her as a little bumble bee.  The mummy dogs were the biggest hit, I think.  And those were actually the easiest.  Hotdogs with pizza dough wrapped around them and baked.

I have some good recipes I have to add to go along with this, but right now I have information assurance fires I need to put out.  So I'll add those later.  And maybe make this post look nicer.  Hmmm.... we'll see how far this glass of wine gets me.