Thankful for Stuff (not Stuffing)

I’m a bit of a non-traditionalist, particularly when it comes to Thanksgiving. I think turkey pretty much sucks, stuffing does nothing for me, I don’t like pumpkin pie and cranberries are weird.

Kind conquerors feeding the savage Indians at the first Thanksgiving

Kind conquerors feeding the savage Indians at the first Thanksgiving

So I faced a dilemma when my in-laws asked me to bring a turkey. I joked with my mother-in-law that I was going to solve the dry-turkey problem by serving mine medium rare. She laughed uneasily.

I wonder if they will be thankful for asking me to contribute a turkey, when they see what I’ve done to the bird. My sister-in-law, who is hosting, is the Great Inviter of Miscellaneous Random People (last time we had Thanksgiving at her house, there must have been close to 50 people there), so I’m guessing mine won’t be the only turkey. It will be the “alternative” turkey — appropriate, I suppose, given that I will be the lone agnostic-with-Zen-leanings in a crowd of Evangelical Christians.

I, for one, will be thankful for my own turkey, because it means I won’t have to eat dry regular turkey and stuffing. I got my turkey home from the store and immediately began deconstructing it. I removed the legs and thighs, got out my meat cleaver and whacked them into five or six smaller pieces each. I removed the breasts and put them in a brine, and then set the rest in a stock pot full of water over a low rolling boil.

The legs and thighs will be prepared French confit-style, salted and slow cooked in duck fat. The breasts I will flatten out, stuff with proscuitto and swiss cheese, roll back up and then give a southern buttermilk frying. That sounds better, right? I may pull some sort of avant garde gravy out of my hat if I feel further inspired.

The day after Thanksgiving, we are going to the home of our friends, Vic and Jess. Vic had the idea he wanted to collaborate on a fancy gourmet leftover dinner. So for that, I will be preparing Spanish cured salmon (not a leftover, by the way), chestnut soup with house-cured lardo croutons, and turkey truffle pot pies.

The day after that, we are going to the home of our friends, Derek and Cristina, who wanted to have a leftover potluck feast. I do not know what I will bring to that.

Besides my turkey, I am thankful for various other food-related things this year. Here’s a few of them:

• That you don’t have to serve turkey and stuffing for Christmas dinner, too (I’ll be grilling a rib roast, steaming some Dungeness crabs with drawn butter and making an English sticky toffee pudding for dessert).
• The chicken tubes (de-meated carcasses) they sell at the Japanese market that I can make stock out of.
• The Ferry Building in San Francisco.
• All my friends who love good food, and who keep trying to figure out ways to get me to open a restaurant.
• All the ethnic markets in Los Angeles.
• The fact that no one else seems to have figured out that gooseneck barnacles — the expensive delicacy percebes in Spain — grow like weeds on the rocks in Malibu.
• Our chickens who give us their beautiful eggs.
• Next Thanksgiving, we’ve been invited to Mexico.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. andreathompson2
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 00:15:01

    I love your non-traditionalism. Tricky that….you being agnostic Zen-leaning with Evangelical Christians. Here’s a little Zen proverb for your and all other reader’s enjoyment and personal growth:

    Let go or be dragged.


    • scolgin
      Nov 27, 2014 @ 00:21:08

      Yeah, it’s not so tricky really. Feels totally normal and natural after 15 years. The tricky thing is having to pretend like you like the traditional Thanksgiving meal. 🙂


  2. timoirish34
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 02:12:04

    Thanks for this entry; I thought I was alone in this. I’ve found that some persons regard me as a subversive because I don’t much care for turkey or lumps of white bread baked in melted margarine. And for me, notions of an almighty occupy the same sub-basement as my opinion of the usual meal of the day. There are many things I miss from my life in Los Angeles, chief among them are all the ethnic food markets in my old East Hollywood neighborhood. I lived in a place where Armenian, Thai and Indian populations converged.

    An advantage in living in rural New York State is my end of town, hard against the Catskill Mountains, is still zoned for agriculture. My landlord keeps a great number of chickens, four ducks, a trio of (very ugly and mean-spirited) turkeys and a few small goats, so there are always quality eggs and milk around the house. I’d thank the birds and goats if I thought they cared. Enjoy your Thursday.


  3. Pal Ernie
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 05:05:23

    Funny i was thinking of doing the dark meat Confit-style but cooked in bacon fat instead of duck fat, that I don’t have. I mean come on bacon flavored turkey? YES!


  4. Michelle
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 05:05:52

    Oh my. Thanksgiving with Evangelicals? In California? Suddenly my red state holiday doesn’t seem so scary. You really should try a southern Thanksgiving sometime. Cornbread/biscuit dressing beats the hell out of that boring Yankee style stuffing. And there is not a turkey in sight here. (Country ham + chickens this year.) Happy Thanksgiving!


    • scolgin
      Nov 27, 2014 @ 15:52:39

      They’re not scary Evangelicals like y’all have down there. California Evangelicals are more like Catholics in other states. I’m a fan of Southern traditions in general, especially when it comes to food. And now, quick: Southern country gravy recipe!


      • Michelle
        Nov 29, 2014 @ 02:13:16

        Looks like your mom nailed it, though I’d use milk instead of cream. At least that’s the way I remember doing it ages ago.

  5. Mom
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 18:22:25

    Fry a bunch of sausage, remove meat, leave all the fat, sprinkle with flour, whisk it up good and add cream, lots of it and lots of salt.


    • scolgin
      Nov 27, 2014 @ 18:26:12

      That’s pretty close to what I did. I used turkey stock reduction, some duck fat, a little rosemary and garlic. And I threw in the last 1/3 of my cup of coffee.


  6. Glennis
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 19:48:35

    Just eat pie. That’s my plan.


  7. Jessamine in PDX
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 21:08:27

    While I love a cornbread stuffing and homemade cranberry sauce, we are also big fans of the non-traditional holiday meal. This year my husband and I are doing a Thomas Keller-style dinner: oysters & pearls, seared scallops with endive, quail in a pomegranate glaze. So excited not to be eating turkey and mashers. Also really, really hoping you take a picture of your bird when it’s done – sounds incredible!


  8. monica overzealousdesign
    Nov 27, 2014 @ 22:16:57

    Having turkey in Mexico but with chiles and pico de gallo!! Next year in Mexico!!!!


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