East Texas Thanksgiving 2012

We traveled to the Dutchess's family farm, Porterville, in Nacagdoches, Texas for 
Thanksgiving this year.  We took on a lot of the cooking duties, but didn't go too crazy 
cause some of the country folk, not all, aren't too crazy about fancy fooding.  
We did do a few things that we've never done, so I thought I would share.

First thing I did was make homemade cream of mushroom soup to 
use in our green bean casserole.  I had to try a bowl of this on its own
and it was awesome!

I have recently seen the light in the brine vs no brine debate...I now BRINE!
It goes against all physics but the salt, instead of drying it out like you would think, 
makes the turkey so very juicy and tender.
I put chicken stock (homemade + some store bought), salt, brown sugar,
allspice berries, ginger, bay leaf and peppercorns into a stockpot
and simmered it to melt the salt and sugar, and incorporate all the 
flavors.  Then I let it cool down to room temperature.
I put our 14 pound turkey in a LARGE zip lock baggie
and poured in the brine.  I put it in a bucket, added ice, and let it do 
its magic overnight.  I rinsed thoroughly before cooking, of course.

Another thing I did this year, first time, was made roasted chestnut mashed potatoes.
Yes, its as good as it sounds.  I got this idea from fellow foodie Brad Murano.
Check him out at http://www.thebradsblog.com/.
I roasted chestnuts, NOT on an open fire, with Xs cut in them.
Then painstakingly removed the shells.
I cooked them in a milk and butter mixture, then pureed it.
This was so awesome, it was hard not to eat it all in this form.

I added a bit too much of the milk/butter mixture so the
puree was a bit thin.  Next time it will be thicker.  I put it
in a mason jar and held it to finally add it to the mashed potatoes.

The brined turkey was simply filled with aromatics, lemons, apples, onions, rosemary,
thyme and sage.  Then simply rubbed it with olive oil, salt, pepper
and herbs de provence.

I've fried turkeys many times, but since I bought my no oil, infrared turkey fryer,
I tend to use that instead.  Its basically, just an outdoor convection oven, disguised as
a fryer.  The fact that its safer and you don't have to mess with the cost and cleaning
of the peanut oil, make the choice a no brainer.
I've also cooked chickens and roasts in this thing!

The green bean casserole didn't turn out as good as I had hoped.
It wasn't near creamy enough.  We will rework this recipe and try again, maybe
at Christmas.

One of my favorite dishes to make is baked corn with sour cream.
This was one of the dishes I made the first time I cooked for my mother.
Once I had moved out, I had her over to my apartment and cooked
cornish game hens, this corn dish and a salad.
It has a special place in my heart, and is very popular 
at every event that I take it to.

The Dutchess made 2 versions of baked brie, one savory and one sweet.
Savory included shallots and the sweet had apples and figs.
She also made some homemade cheese crackers (bottom left bunch of crackers), 
that tasted a lot like cheese-its.
Unfortunately we cooked them on wax paper, which smoked up the kitchen,
and burned some of them.  The ones that survived were very good.

Here is how the turkey turned out!!!

We also purchased a smoked turkey for a choice, but our
fried turkey was more popular.  I got to use my culinary 
school knives to carve the bird.

LOOK at how juicy this turkey is!!!!
I did use an injection, cajun butter, which helped, but
the combo of the brining, cooking method and injection was perfect.
Juicy, tender and delicious!

We went conservative on the amount of chestnut puree we added to the mashed potatoes, 
but next time I will make no compromises, as it was a bit lacking in the nutty flavor.
Christmas will be a different story, as we will make this again.

Here is the turkey platter, the smoked in on top, and the awesomeness
is on the bottom.

Nanny makes the BEST dressing, I had 3 portions of this.
The best way was to top half with her giblet gravy and the
other half with our orange/cranberry relish.

Here is the spread, which includes chestnut and normal mashed potatoes and
our orange/cranberry relish.

Here's how I roll!  Cranberry relish on top of my turkey (both kinds)
and dressing, chestnut mashed taters, baked corn and lima beans.
I just realized that I didn't even grab any rolls. 

Father helped feed expanded flock!


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