I hope all my U.S. readers had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. I have a new piece up today for Insiders covering the Nolasco and Haren signings as well as the Pirates/Padres swap of minor leaguers.
I also want to take a moment to thank all of you who read my work here or on ESPN.com. Your readership and loyalty make it possible for me to do something I love for a living, and write about all this other fun stuff on the side here at the dish. It’s an honor to write for you and I feel very fortunate to be able to do it.
My tweets this week describing my daily prep work leading up to Thursday (tagged frivolously with #gameplan) had a small point, that doing all of that stuff ahead of time could make the holiday itself a lot easier. I’ve tried to do the whole thing on Thursday, or just on Wednesday evening and Thursday, and it’s miserable. This year, I even slept in Thursday morning, since we weren’t eating the main meal till 5 pm. That alone made a huge difference, but it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t done so much cooking and prep work in advance.
The final menu for yesterday:
* Sweet potato gnocchi with kale and brown butter (recipe from Richard Blais’ Try This at Home)
* Turkey two ways: Roast turkey breast and turkey leg confit
* Gravy: brown turkey stock reduced by 75% plus drippings from pan deglazed with white wine, thickened with a flour-butter roux (2 Tbsp each)
* Basic bread stuffing with pain au levain (recipe from Joy of Cooking)
* Cranberry-port gelée (recipe from Canal House via food52)
* Roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet-and-sour sauce and sesame seeds (dressing based on one from The Whelk in Westport, CT, via Bon Appetit)
* Cucumber-pomegranate salad with lime-cilantro dressing (recipe from Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life)
* The awful green bean casserole (the less said about this, the better)
* Pumpkin pie (recipe from Baking Illustrated)
I probably would have pulled the turkey breast and the pie a little sooner from the oven, but otherwise it was a fairly smooth week. Doing so much prep ahead of time, like quartering, blanching, and shocking the sprouts on Wednesday, made a huge difference on Thursday; I was only actively cooking for about two and a half hours, which includes the standing-around-and-waiting parts. And when the day was over, I was tired, but not a wreck. I hope those of you who cooked had a similarly pleasant experience, and only set off the fire alarm once (par for the course in my kitchen) rather than, say, deep-frying your entire house to the ground.
For the sprouts, I made a few changes to the Whelk’s recipe linked above. I blanched them as mentioned above, and tossed them with canola oil rather than olive, because I roasted them about 25 minutes at 475 degrees, a temperature that will cause olive oil to smoke. (Any neutral oil, like soybean or safflower or even rice bran oil, would work.) I used rice wine vinegar rather than red, and honey rather than pure sugar (2.5 Tbsp instead of 3, as honey is sweeter than sugar). I only finished them with toasted sesame seeds, trying to stick with the Asian flavor theme without losing the crunch added by the Whelk’s pumpkin seeds; if I had had toasted sesame oil in the house, I would have used some of that in the vinaigrette as well. The idea is simple: Cook the sprouts through while browning as much of the exterior as you can, then toss in a vinaigrette that hits sweet, sour, salty, and umami flavors, as the sprouts themselves will provide a hint of bitterness. You can alter ingredients in the dressing at will as long as you maintain the balance across those four tastes.
Some final admin notes – my updated board game rankings for 2013 will go up Wednesday or Thursday of next week, most likely, and my top songs of 2013 list will go up two weeks later on the 19th, after the winter meetings. I’ll chat again at ESPN.com on the 5th and 19th, with the winter meetings week chat possibly pushed to the 13th due to travel. Thanks again for reading.