Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let's Talk Turkey... or Pig...or Oysters?

Thanksgivings in our family have become an epic event. I come from a family that hardly ever plans any event months ahead of time and we have found that, lately, we have started plannning Thanksgiving as far as eight months out. CRAZY!This is the third year running that we've done this now and our group has grown this year, too. We've added a new spouse, a girlfriend, and a couple more babies to the dinner table. It's a big, crazy crowd of kids and adults for an extended three or four days of fabulous food, endless drinks and tons of laughs... and we love it! 
This wonderful madness all began the Thanksgiving of 2007. My family had all agreed to get together at my house (which was huge because at that time it meant that half of them were travelling cross country to see us) and I, along with Chef, agreed over the phone that this would not be an ordinary Thanksgiving. This one would have a more rustic, more European taste to it and there was not to be a turkey. Chef ran with this. This was his dream. One non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner coming right up!
2007 Crispy, Cracklin', Stuffed Porchetta
He special ordered a porchetta to stuff and roast and we planned on ratatouille, risotto, and a couple other side dishes. Appetizers would be bruschetta topped off with roasted red peppers and crumbled goat cheese with olive oil on top. Mmmmm...no turkey, mashed potatoes, and the stuffing was
inside the porchetta! Chef cooked the porchetta to perfection- crispy and brown on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth on the inside. And, we did end up roasting a whole chicken just for Ruckus. It turned out he was too much of a traditionalist for the rest of us. For dessert? Not pumpkin pie, or even pecan pie. I made my first homemade tiramisu. It was my first ever attempt at my all-time favorite dessert and it was a little heavy on the brandy. But none of the men seemed to mind that. It was a deliciously non-traditional Thanksgiving meal and we found, most importantly, that it was a fun way to start a new family tradition.
Thanksgiving of 2008 we decided we had had so much fun with the non-traditional Thanksgiving theme that we would do it again, but still find a way to keep the traditionalists happy. Chef special ordered a bigger version of his porchetta- this time an entire, organic pig to roast. Lucky Chef had an empty seat next him on his flight to my house so that the pig (which was frozen and packed up whole in his carry-on luggage) could fly comfortably next to him. 
Chef with the 2008 Thanksgiving Pig
Can you tell we are serious about our food in my family? Chef prepared the pig that night upon arrival and injected it with all sorts of special flavors that he had brought with him. The poor pig turned out to be the source of much heated debate that Thanksgiving. Would he be served whole on the table? After all, we serve the turkey whole, don't we? How else do you present a Thanksgiving pig at the table? The family was split on this matter. As it turned out, Patty (Ruckus's fiancee) used to raise pigs growing up and was becoming more and more traumatized by the whole display (understandably so). So Chef decided to cut up the pig and serve it as pork slices and shredded pork at the table. We still had a fried turkey to display and make room for. We do feel badly about Patty's experience with the whole thing.
And now ... Thanksgiving 2010. (We all made different plans for 2009 since two members of the family were deployed.) So this year, somehow, we have come back to a fully traditional Thanksgiving (much to Ruckus's relief)... well, mostly. A big organic turkey has been ordered to roast and serve at the table along with some version of mashed potatoes, select veggie dishes to be determined and, oh- the stuffing! My favorite part! We have decided to make it an oyster stuffing... I've been put in charge of bringing the oysters, too, since they are a local delicacy in my neck of the woods!!! We'll find our own ways of adding some foodie twists to the side dishes, I'm sure. And there will be an oyster roast added in as a pre-Thanksgiving meal or maybe post Thanksgiving meal, too! Mmmmm... 
Whether your Thanksgiving is about creating new traditions or keeping the old traditions alive, I hope it is filled with lots of family, friends, laughter, great food and even better memories! Happy Thanksgiving and happy eating!!!

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