Holiday meals: normal or novel?

22 Nov
Max and Sam: ousted by a kitten

Max and Sam: ousted by a kitten

These two, they look a little pissed off, don’t they? I mean, it’s a bit chilly out there even if it is California. But better a bit of a chill than to deal with the hell that is inside of the house. Hell by the name of “Ali.” My parents bought a kitten a few months back, to replace the cat that I bought for them when they moved out to California as a present. (Some might argue over this last sentence and claim that I dumped my kitten on them when I figured out that I wouldn’t be able to care for her in my last year of university, but this is simply not true. NOT.) Alex, the former kitten, died a few months ago at a ripe old age of…very old. Ali, the newbie in the house, has no respect for her elders. She jumps on them, chases them around the house, hisses at them when necessary, hogs the warm spots on the bed. The good traditional and normal life is no more.

To hell with normal, though. We all have to adapt and learn all our lives. Just because it was done one way for the last 30 years doesn’t mean that it won’t be good another way. And this was the discussion this morning on a number of occasions as we come to the last 24 hours before the *big* meal. What is on the menu and how is it going to be cooked? It’s easy enough to say “turkey,” but HOW will the turkey be cooked? There were discussions about barbequeing, deep frying, turduckens (no, never), and finally spatchcocking. We’ll come back to that awesome word in a moment. There were discussions around bread – serve rolls or no rolls (I voted “no,” who needs the carbs? I lost in the name of “tradition.”) There were discussions around adding tomato soup to the food line up – my fault because I mentioned how good my friend Limor’s tomato soup was that we ate last night and I think my mother was intrigued – “just a little cup,” (I won that one, not that I am keeping score), there were discussions about nuts or no nuts in the salad, the flavor of the dressing – “sweet and sour” or “bitter, sparkling, sour”, how much persimmon to put in the salad, whether or not to make a pumpkin pie a pumpkin cake or a pumpkin flan – we landed at something between a pie and a flan. There will be more debates tomorrow all along the way. All part of the tradition too.

To be or not to be: A Spatchcocked Turkey

To be or not to be: A Spatchcocked Turkey

So back to spatchcocking. Very simple idea. You cut out the backbone of the bird – you can “spatchcock” a chicken, a turkey, a duck, any bird – and roast or bake it flat. The idea here is that everything roasts evenly and everything roasts faster. Rather than spending some four hours in the oven roasting (especially if you have stuffed the bird), it’s an hour. At least according to Mark Bittman. Additionally, you don’t have the problem of ending up with dry white meat. It is all lovely and juicy. The problem with this is two fold. 1) when you take it out of the oven and serve it, it doesn’t *look* traditional. It isn’t shaped like a bird. It’s flat. Dis-assembled looking in a very non-romantic way. And 2) you can’t stuff the bird that way. You need to cook the stuffing/dressing separately. Which is a whole different flavor, both for the dressing and for the bird. Ah, my mother just interrupts me now as I write this post to lament the fact again that we are going to spatchcock this damn bird. “I will have nightmares about this, Julie.” Just came out of her mouth.

Nevertheless, we will try it. This morning I told my nephews, who had slept over last night, about the puppy at my friends’ home – a “shih tzsu” is the name of the breed. Say that fast. If you are an 8 year old or a 5 year old, that is a particularly fun word to say. Just like spatchcock. I need to come up with a list of these kinds of words and introduce them to my nephews tomorrow. My sister is going to freaking kill me though.

The never boring view

The never boring view

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Posted by on November 22, 2012 in California, Cooking at home, vacation


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