…because I sure spent a lot of Christmas weekend cooking!
Not that I would have had it any other way.
For our Christmas celebration, we (Mama Smart, Sister Smart, and I) headed to the beach in Delaware to spend the holiday weekend at my future stepfather’s first wife’s house with them and their kids.
[It's OK, go back and read that sentence again. "Functional disfunction" is what the guidance counselor at school called it.]
I had come prepared to make appetizers…and lots of ‘em.
(Sundried Tomato Chipotle & Cilantro Hummus)
(stuffed with goat cheese)
Baked Goat Cheese & Marinara
Cherry Maple Pecan Baked Brie
But little did I know that not only would I be involved in making apps (and don’t worry, the recipes are forthcoming)…I would be involved in making the whole shebang* of a turkey dinner!
*Anyone else remember that girl group SHEDaisy? With the CD entitle “The Whole SHEBang”? No? Goll, y’all, I can’t hear or say “the whole shebang” without thinking of them and their assertion that shedaisy means friendship in some Native American tongue.
My future stepfather’s son-in-law (does that make him my future step-brother-in-law?), Matt, is a professional chef, so, while he was of course in charge, once he saw me whip out my camera to document my culinary creations [and the fact that I traveled with my own, borrowed, food processor], I was dubbed the honorary sous chef for the weekend.
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) “honorary sous chef” just meant I did all of the grunt work so he could, and I quote, “go have a cocktail.”
So I happily chopped the ends off of a lot of green beans.
[and later had a lesson in blanching, followed by pan-sauteeing in butter and herbs]
And I peeled a lot of potatoes.
Yes, all while wearing my Santa hat.
[I know I often pose for blogworthy photos, but I really did have this hat on until my pitiful attempt at a run later in the day.]
And even though I got a very intense arm workout while stirring cream into these mashed potatoes and fearing for the fate of the entire meal after having been warned that “if the bottom scorches at all, the whole dish will be RUINED!”*…
*Quite the sarcastic chef Matt is…
….I still couldn’t chop as fast as the professional. [Seriously, I turned away for five seconds and the whole bunch of celery was taken down!]
I did get a great lesson in turkey roasting. Considering I’m terrified of roasting whole birds as I tend to name them (“Maurice” being my favorite poultry proper noun) and have a perpetual inability to cook them all the way through, I stayed relatively calm.
The key to a good turkey (and yes, it ended up being one of the best turkeys I have ever eaten) starts with a bunch of veggies–carrots, celery, onion– in the bottom of the pan in addition to two cans of chicken broth and two cans of water. [I'm not sure, but I guess this ends up sort of 'steaming' the turkey, keeping it SO SO SO SO juicy. I almost just said moist, but people seem to take issue with that word sometimes. But now I guess I've said it anyway. So, there you are...this turkey was incredibly moist. Like a towelette. Except, you know, not coated in alcohol...despite those aforementioned cocktails being consumed by the chef.]
[For future reference, Matt told me that all chicken broth is the same, and you should just go ahead and buy the cheapest, or whatever is on sale...store brand, name brand, whatever. And as the can is usually cheaper, you don't necessarily need to buy the boxed kind. I asked about the "stock vs. broth" dilemma and he looked at me like I was crazy and just shrugged. So I guess that doesn't matter either.]
Matt was my kind of chef. The key to his turkey? Bacon!
Spray the turkey with cooking spray, season with herbs (and pop some inside the bird as well), then drape four slices of bacon over the top.
Try not to let the four-legged helpers nab an early snack. :)
Cook the turkey at 350 degrees. How long? “Until it’s done.” [Thanks so very much for that direction, Matt.]
And how do you make the best gravy I’ve ever tasted in my life? Apparently it is as easy as blending those veggies and drippings from the bottom of the pan in a blender and heating them up on the stove. Seriously, no flour or anything. Maybe a few extra herbs, but that’s it!
A lovely feast was had by all. (Unfortunately for y’all, I only have a “before we put all of the food on the table” photo…)
When it became apparent that, as delicious as the coffee was, we were going to need something more for sustenance, I physically removed a pan from my mother’s hands as she went to make bacon, and said, “I’ll take it from here.”
Inspired by the chocolate chips found in this trail mix discovered during a hunt for late-night crackers…
….and a pomegranate we’d brought with us in the cooler…
I whipped up some White-and-Milk Chocolate Pomegranate Pancakes…
…which we topped with some Sour Cherry Sauce (made simply by boiling down some whole frozen sour cherries).
In addition to the delicious pancakes (a little unusual, perhaps, but pleasing I think!)…
…I whipped up some scrumptious scrambled eggs, using whatever dried seasonings I could find (paprika, pepper, and–the most important–chives), as well as a stirring of sour cream at the end.
The eggs, if I do say so myself, were fabulous (the key is the sour cream at the end).
Sadly, I slightly failed on the bacon front. [I put it in the oven and sort of forgot about it...]
Things got a little heated for awhile there…clothes started coming off….