Thanksgiving is obviously my favorite holiday, and that of my friends, who dutifully heed the call of a nationally-sanctioned day of feasting. With all the fun that goes into sharing a great meal with friends and family, my East Coast friends have long been having annual Trial Thanksgivings as a precursor to the real deal. This year, some bay area friends decided to host a pre-Thanksgiving potluck before we all scattered away to our respective roosts for the Holiday. It promised to be a delicious extravaganza so I answered the cattle call and hopped on a Southwest flight for a traditional Thanksgiving with all the trimmings.
As predicted, the proverbial cornucopia was overflowing from the start. One turkey might be sufficient for the crowd but why risk it? Have two instead. That was thought process of my ultra foodie friend, The Doctor, who took it upon herself to prepare two turkey dishes, each with its own unique flavor profile. One was a traditional turkey with a salt brine modeled after Zuni Cafe’s roast chicken. The other was a chili and orange rub turkey taken from the current issue of Saveur Magazine. Both were flavorful and succulent.
Megs and I aproned up to be The Doctor’s sous chefs and tackled different stuffings for each turkey, resulting in crumbs and butter flying everywhere. Stuffing is my favorite part of any Thanksgiving meal and the thought of having two different kinds sent my salivary glands into overdrive. We had a simple and delicious sage and bread stuffing which benefited from tons of butter, sage, and home-made turkey broth. We kept sampling while waiting to rotate the stuffing into the oven and it’s a miracle most of it survived to adorn the dinner table.
The accompaniment for the Saveur turkey was a cornbread and chorizo stuffing published in the Los Angeles Times last year. In the spirit of more is better, the execution of this recipe featured at least five kinds of fat: the bacon fat used to make the cornbread (The Dr’s own twist), the butter and olive oil used to fry the chorizo, the chorizo fat itself, and the comparatively harmless pumpkin seed oil that was drizzled onto the cornbread. And to amp it all up, slices of jalapeño brought a nice latent heat that dealt a swift kick to wake you from the stupor of food coma.
The turkeys and stuffings were the anchors stars for the night but there were plenty of supporting cast. Two kinds of gravy graced the table, one a traditional light brown and the other made from the drippings of the chili rub turkey. If you couldn’t make up your mind, just have both. And of course, two kinds of home-made cranberry sauce and two kinds of mashed potatoes courtesy of The Doctor, Tsunami, and Mango. MuiMui made a lovely ensalada russa and Frenchie made a multicheese quiche, strong emphasis on the cheese. Megs put together Cambodian eggrolls with pork, carrots, and taro. There was mac and cheese, green beans, and a killer sweet potato casserole contributed by Robdini. And sadly, for the first time ever, I strategized poorly and did not have enough room for dessert so I only watched as everyone else downed peanut butter and chocolate brownies, apple and cherry pie, and home-made almond danish.
Was it all too much? No of course not. Because if just enough were the rule rather than the exception, there would be no leftovers which we all know are key for continuing the meal into a second day. As the lunch sized storage containers were passed around, there was a mad dash for favorites, leaving an empty and shell-shocked buffet table in my friends’ ravenous wake. And the only thought in my head at evenings end was: Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away…
Additional gratuitous food pics from Trial Thanksgiving on Flickr.