Talking Turkey and Traditions

We won't be having a traditional turkey feast this year. Actually, we rarely ever do. 


In the early years of my wanting to be the perfect wife/mom, I would put out a pretty elaborate spread. Every year, it was a ton of work and very little fun, but I did it all with a smile that would make Zoloft proud. Every year, there was some disaster, too. Like the year I put way too much white wine in the stuffing (and me). Or the year I forgot to start the potatoes on time. I didn't really care for the tradition of stressing out, so one year, we started doing things differently. Now some of you might recoil when I tell you this, but you have to understand... I just don't care about traditional traditions! 

Our tradition became eating dinner at our favorite restaurant on the beach.

Picture a warm afternoon on the beach, the sun is about two hours from setting on the horizon when you're seated. Some light jazz and waves crashing on the sand are your background noise (as opposed to a football game screaming at you on the tellie). You sink into your Lobster and Filet Mignon and smile at all the other diners that are also happy to have avoided yet another year in the kitchen. And then just as the chocolate mousse (served in chocolate swan boats) arrives, the sun begins to set on the ocean. 

It's absolutely beautiful!!

Some years, though, we do try to go traditional... sort of. Like last year. I thought, hey, let's try having dinner at home! Since there were so few of us, it didn't make sense to get a huge turkey. I decided to go with a turkey breast instead. I soaked it in a brown sugar brine and then slathered it in a rosemary rub and let me tell you it was the BEST turkey I have ever made! We kept the sides simple and easy, too. I made sure to get the mashers started early and my husband marinated veggies and grilled them on the patio. We had to have stuffing, of course, which was great without all the wine. Sadly, no lobster drenched in butter. 

((sigh))

This year, we started Thanksgiving early. The stars were aligned just for me and all four of my kids were here on Saturday. I wasn't about to let that day go without celebrating, so we had a pre-Thanksgiving brunch. I served yummy brown sugar maple ham, sliced nice and thin, Hawaiian bread rolls, green grapes, red grapes, strawberries, and of course, green bean casserole. We toasted our family reunion with ginger ale in polka-dot tumblers. And for dessert, we walked over to the new yogurt shop in town. What could be better than that?

We will be having a "real" Thanksgiving dinner this year, too. The Pilot is in Mexico on a trip, so my littlest kids and I will be joining my friend, Sondra at her house... on Wednesday. Her son will be with his dad on Thursday, so we're playing with the calendar a bit. It's all good.

Traditions are comforting. They are something to look forward to every year, but sometimes, in all the hustle and bustle, we lose sight of the real reason we are gathering. In the craziness of preparing for a meal that is devoured in minutes, we forget that this time of year is to stop and be thankful for all that we have and those that we love. It doesn't really matter where that meal takes place or on what day or what was served. It's just about stopping for a moment and being in a place of love and thanksgiving.

We'll be having sandwiches on a blanket at the beach on Thursday. You're welcome to come jump in the waves with us!

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Here's that brown sugar brine that I used last year:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. peppercorns
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 1/2 gallons ice water
  • 1 turkey, 16 to 18 lb., rinsed
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

In a large pot over high heat, combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns and the 1 gallon water. Bring to a boil and continue boiling, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Let cool to lukewarm, about 1 hour. Stir 1/2 gallon of the ice water into the brine.

Place the turkey in the brining bag. Pour in the brine and the remaining 1 gallon ice water. Seal the bag securely and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours. For added stability, place the bag in a pot or on a baking sheet.

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