Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deep Fried Thanksgiving: one week out

Since Thanksgiving is upon us and I reposted by holiday advice from '08, I thought I'd just go ahead and let you all into my crazy for a bit.  In all honesty, my crazy now is nowhere near where it used to be a few years back.  I have now learned how to let other people help me in the kitchen and take some of the responsibility. I have also learned about the benefits of the food processor and planning in advance. This way, I no longer have a nervous breakdown on Thanksgiving day and tell everyone that we're having turkey subs next year.  (That happened a few years in a row, but without actually having the subs the next year).

I am a bit behind schedule with my T'day planning this year.  I blame this mostly on attempting to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (who chose November as National Novel Writing Month anyway?), taking a few classes and actually working at work.

To start planning for the T'day menu, I start by looking at old menus and recipes from previous years to see what worked and what didn't.  Sometimes I like to switch stuff up, sometimes we have a lot of repeats.  This year we are going to have some new faces at the table (food wise, the people are pretty much the same).  I keep my menus and my recipes from year to year.  I'll show you what those look like in a bit.  

After I look at my old records, I start scouring the internets for fun new recipes that I think will add something to the meal.  A lot of stuff out there seems to be reinventing the wheel, so I am pretty picky what I add to my menu.  This year, I used my Pintrest boards to collect recipes and pictures I thought looked interesting and tasty.  I love Pintrest.

Once I have figured out basically what I want to make, I set up a Word document to keep track of my recipes, their ingredients and directions.  
I use two columns and put the ingredients in one side and the instructions on the other.  This keeps me from having to keep flipping from page to page in a cookbook or magazine.  Having all the recipes in one document is helpful, and numbering the pages keeps me organized.  I have definitely found it useful to put the link of where the original recipe came from on the document.  That way when I see that I transcribed something incorrectly, it's easier to figure out and I don't end up with a meat trifle.
After I have the recipes all typed up (or copied and pasted more likely), I print them out and go through the ingredient lists with highlighters.  I highlight for produce, grocery and perishable.  The next step is to make the grocery list, which I can now do easily because I have used my super organized color highlighting system.  So, after I have scribbled a lot of written really coherent things like: 2 yellow onions +1+1+3, I come up with something that looks a bit like this:

Then I send the shopping list off to my parents.  If you notice, there are no turkeys on my list.  That is because buying the turkeys and figuring out how much we need is someone else's job.  I just cook the stuff...  I also write little notes in the shopping list and other intelligible things like: "Maple Syrup and whatever else we need to make this taste good." Then I cross out things I know we have and will now hope to remember to bring with me.  It works for me.

Planning, part 2
So, the next part of planning is where the aforementioned food processor comes in.  I used to make each recipe from start to finish without taking other recipes I was about to make as well into consideration.  Two years ago I had an epiphany that if I figured out how much of each product I needed in advance, I could prep it all in advance.  So, if I need 2 cups of diced onions for one recipe and 3 cups for another recipe, I can just dice up all the onions in advance and then scoop out what I need when I need it.  It was quite a freeing revelation.

To do that, I go back to the recipe lists and start making notes again of the preparation of different items. The other thing this helps me do is actually read the recipes in advance.  Then I am more likely (though now 100% determined) to avoid those persnickity little things like, "let this chill for 4 hours" two hours before the meal.

I should mention that none of this keeps me from having to go to the grocery store at 11pm on the Wednesday before, or from swearing a lot.  At this point, I alter some of the recipes as I go, so I am not as careful as I should be about asking for specific ingredients.  Another issue is always that it doesn't matter how much of something I have at home.  If I forget to bring it with me to the Cape, where we do Thanksgiving, I'm still out of luck.

Oh, what's that you say?  You still don't understand why this post is called Deep Fried Thanksgiving?  OK, I'll tell you why.  We're deep frying everything.  Actually, that is a blatant lie.  But we are deep frying a turkey, which we haven't done in a few years.  And since we're getting the turkey fryer set up, I figured we should probably deep fry some other stuff.  Like sweet potato fries, and fried pumpkin wontons.  I had originally had a plan to make some sort of stuffing ball that was beer battered and then deep fried, but as the time gets closer, I seem to be getting nauseous every time I think about it, so we'll see.  I have been on a deep-fried food ban for the past two months.  It's actually been a bit harder than I thought it would have been.  Something about not being able to reach over and grab a fry off someone else's plate that's just been painful.  There are definitely some chive fries with blue cheese fondue in my post-Thanksgiving future.

So, that's all I've got for now.  I'll have updates as we go along.

Oh, and by the way, I have no idea what this thing is, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to get one:

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