Discernably Me!


Bastardization of ‘Thnx,’ which is a bastardization of ‘Thanx,’ which is a bastardization of ‘Thanks,’ which is a bastardization of ‘Thank You.’ Urban Dictonary

I would like to add that it’s the calendar abbreviation for Thanksgiving.

A week ahead of time I was mentally cataloging our stock and going over menu ideas in my head. I knew of things that I would make that would be traditional. And I had a few ideas of things that I was wanting to try. So, a quick rundown. Every year we have fewer friends over. And the last three years we’ve started our group meals on Friday instead of Thursday. But the same amount of food shows up. That means that this year, after three days of eating, we still have leftovers.

I look forward each year, not to the eating, but to the cooking. Mostly, it’s just the challenge. I’m not overtly competitive but I do like to challenge myself to do things better each time. This year, I reviewed my past frustrations with Thanksgivings and put all the blame for past issues on my cutlery. I decided that for this holiday to be better than last, I would have to carve the Turkey better. And for that, I needed a new carving knife. Sure I have a forever Cutco carver. But being serrated, it just does a number on the tender (or dry) turkey breast and reduces it to filaments and chunks. So after pricing, shopping, and reviewing options, I have a new 8 1/2 in Henckels Carver.

Before I go further, let me segue to shopping, not for knives but for food. It’s true that we haven’t had to buy a turkey for quite some time thanks to Anne’s employer seasonal turkey give-away. We also don’t do whole chickens as there is just so much waste from bone and lesser parts that we have been reduced in our purchasing to just thighs and breasts. In the store this year, between the boulder pile of turkeys and packs of pebble-sized quail that I see every year there were some decently rock-shaped duck for a quite reasonable price. So here’s some of the thought process. Thea and I have a quiet Thanksgiving day coming up. A duck is the perfect size for just two people. And I want to practice carving a bird ahead of the turkey serving day. So, I buy a duck.

How do you cook duck? It turns out that there are two schools; hot and fast or low and slow. The former gets you the most succulent pink flesh and the latter renders the most duck-fat without drying out the meat. Since pink meat scares Thea, I chose the latter. Having chosen my method, I read up on the particulars. As I read, I wonder about the accuracy of what I’m finding. I wouldn’t believe it except that everyone says the same thing, Score and prick the skin of the duck and cook at 300 for four hours turning the bird over every hour. This will not only render the most duck fat out of the bird, it will also ensure that the meat doesn’t dry out. I’ve got to admit that it worked. From a 5 lb bird, we rendered 10 ozs of duck-fat and enjoyed some good grub. (There was the moment when I turned the carcass from breast up to breast down for the first time and wound up deep fat frying the fresh herbs that were in the cavity with the pool of duck-fat that had accumulated there.)

So how did the carving of the duck go? I was able to carve some thin slices out of the breast of the duck. Unfortunately, my research into dining on duck didn’t delve into it’s anatomy. Chickens and turkeys are walking birds and weak flyers so their thighs stick out from the body. I badly guessed at my duck’s joint locations and wound up cutting through good meat that I was wanting to get slices of.

On Thanksgiving evening, Thea and I had:

  • Duck with pan gravy
  • Roasted red potatoes with rosemary
  • Whole steamed green and yellow beans with carrots

On the day after Thanksgiving, (let’s give it a name. How about Welcomemas) as has been the tradition for, well more than sixteen years so literally for a generation, I was responsible for the turkey and dressing while Thea made the cranberry sauce and gravy. As with past years I experiment with my dressings and Thea tries out new sauce ideas. So the Welcomemas menu looked like this.

  • Turkey
  • Dressing with oyster mushrooms and brown mushrooms
  • Dressing with artichoke hearts, apple, and pecan
  • Cranberry sauce with apricot and tawny port
  • Pan Gravy
  • Vegetarian onion gravy
  • Diced Sweet potatoes with cumin and cinnamon
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • sautéed carrots
  • Braised Brussel sprouts
  • Fruit salad
  • Green Salad

That begins to give you the idea of what we had at 1:00 and 6:00 and what we eat for the next three days.

(Saturday afternoon, David came in with chicken and pork tamales from a little place near where they went shopping. Big time bonus for me, but not my cooking. So won’t be discussed here.)

For Saturday evening, I took the leftover mushroom stuffing, gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, and potatoes and layered them in mini loaf pans. I topped each with cheddar cheese and baked them at 375 for twenty minutes. Anna called it a terrine. Not in the classic sense but it was still pretty good.

Remember how I went shopping? Homeland didn’t have any mushrooms on display while I was there that day. I asked the stock clerk and she apologized and went to check stock. It turns out that they were returning the entire lot for being in poor condition. She pulled two packs for me and promptly marked them down to half price. They were perfectly fine. I used one on Friday for the aforementioned stuffing. But the other wasn’t going to last into Sunday. I didn’t mention earlier that as well as duck-fat, we made duck stock. When I make stock, I use the carcass and pick the meat off the bones. In this case, I used the duck meat, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes to make four medium sized appetizer pizzas. (I left one without duck for Anne). It was one of the things that I had in the back of my mind to try.

And that brings us to the story of Sunday shopping through Walmart where I told Thea that we were almost out of flour. Thea looked at me and said “Since when?” I looked back and said “I made pizzas last night, remember?” Which prompted the woman between Thea and myself to say, “Can I have him? My husband has never cooked anything.” It’s always a “Wow!” moment when I hear of people who don’t cook. I may not be the best cook. Nor the most original. (And I may watch “Chopped” far too much to get an accurate rating of what I do cook.) Whether my friends enjoy it more because it’s actually good or just because they didn’t have to cook, I may never really know. But I will say that 99% of what I cook turns out edible.

But what about carving the turkey? I have to say that I’m just going to have to practice more. I got better results, thinner slices, less shredding. But I know that there’s room for improvement. Maybe next year, I’ll try to throw in some chicken meals in early October. Just to get warmed up.

5 thoughts on “Thx…

  1. +1 to Richard’s suggestion.

    I don’t cook, but my wife does insist that I cut the ham/chicken/whatever, so I bought an electric knife (generic, I think) that works wonders, though the handle gets a little warm if you cut for more than a few minutes continuously.

  2. Further: When I see “thx” online, I almost always think of THX (the sound company) and the snippet of sound that used to come before some movies. And then I remind myself I still haven’t seen the film THX 1138 despite wanting to. And only after all of that do I think: “Oh! They meant ‘thanks’.” See? I’m messed up.

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