An Orphan Thanksgiving



Sometimes my internet doesn’t work. And it’s especially annoying when I take the time to brew a cup of tea and place it next to the oatmeal cookie I purchased from the awful bakery downstairs and the literary stars align enough for me to be motivated to write something. As I stare blankely at the off-white bars on my computer monitor, suggesting that the wireless connection I steal is temporarily unavailable, I tip my head to notice what the yogi has to tell me today on the string of my tea bag. “To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.” I try and find my inner peace and discover a quick solution to this dilemma: I closed my eyes, took a deep breathe, and inhaled my cookie as fast as the whale could eat tiny Jonah. Then I notice this notepad lying next to my laptop, and I proceeded to scribble my thoughts.


In between the shoveling of massive amounts of food, do you ever wonder what it would be like to be an Indian on Thanksgiving (not of the Aladdin kind, but of the Mowgli kind-or should I say of the Ashlee Simpson’s new baby kind)? I can’t imagine it to be as joyous and celebratory of a day as it is supposed to be for most Americans. While Thanksgiving is a day reserved to celebrate the coming of the harvest, it’s also a day to observe the first meal shared by the Pilgrims and Indians in 1621. You know the year the Indians basically saved their asses from the freezing cold, but as we all know, were murdered and slashed into an almost complete non-existence. I don’t know… that might make me a little…perturbed.

But I’m going to go Nazi and pretend it never happened, focusing my energy and knife skills on celebrating the harvest season. This is my first non-obligatory Thanksgiving and it was great to share it with 3 other friends left stranded in the city with me. Our original plan was to roast individual cornish hens. But when we noticed the price of a 20 lb. turkey was about the same as 4 individual hens, my friend decided to casually ask, “Why don’t we just roast a turkey?” After giving him a cold, blank stare that could perhaps be interpreted as my way of covering the anxiety that overwhelmed my thoughts, my mind went through flashes of Lucille Ball-inspired moments of Thanksgiving disasters: serving a “blackened” turkey (and NOT of the Cajun rub kind), cutting into blood and frozen meat, etc. etc.) 

With my notepad of specific ingredients and exact measurements, I wasn’t prepared to buy on the fly. But my pride gracefully saved me from the moment of potential disaster and said of course I said it could be done. Just throw that 20 lb. turkey in the cart and I’ll figure it out… right?? It was only 8 pm and we had enough time to brine our free-range turkey. If I remembered correctly, properly raised turkeys had enough natural flavor that they didn’t need to go through a salt bath. They were naturally flavorful as it is, and a brine could only help enhance the flavor, and not be mandatory. Right?

Right. As we got home, we decided to salt the turkey directly rather than putting it in a saltwater bath, making for easier clean-up and a lot less weight to maneuver. After letting it sit in the salt rub overnight, we washed and dried our turkey and basted it with butter. The cavities were stuffed with chopped onion, celery, thyme, and lemon. I’m not one to put stuffing in cavity as I find it a bit unsanitary and I like eating the crispy crust of the stuffing when you bake it in a baking dish.

I didn’t have a meat thermometer, so I had to go by my culinary instincts and thankfully, they kicked in just in time. I used aluminum foil to tent certain areas of the turkey throughout the roasting period to ensure that the skin was browning evenly (the drumsticks usually brown first, so I wrap them in foil blankets after the first hour or so). After an initial roast at 500 degrees for about 40 minutes (to get that great caramel color), then another 2.5 hours at 350 degrees, it was the prettiest dead bird I’ve ever seen. The meat wasn’t the juciest, but it was flavorful and not too dry. The skin had a beautiful buttery sheen and was crisp. The brine definitely helped and you could taste the herbal-lemony undertones (did I just say undertone?). Carving the bird was another adventure, but I think we all got our lesson in bird slaughter 101 that night.

Is that Gourmet Magazine requesting photo permissions I hear??


I think ‘smack’ is the appropriate word… 


Oh. I forgot to mention, this was all after we SCHLEPPED 3 grocery bags, a giant pot with a dead bird, and roasting pans clanking like a poor man’s rendition of Stomp! down to the financial district. All we needed was a source of fire and Thanksgiving feast could have easily been had at the corner of 4th Street and 2nd Ave. But thankfully, we had access to a lovely luxury apartment in the Financial District and what looked like Crate & Barrel’s estranged showroom (and I mean this in the most jealous kind of way).


Another thing that I find interesting is that there are hardly any Thanksgiving movies. We were watching The Big Chill, and I can’t tell if they were actually having Thanksgiving dinner, or they were just eating turkey. Regardless, it had nothing to do with the harvest or Native Americans, so it doesn’t count (un-tapped movie script anyone?). The only Thanksgiving movie that comes to mind is Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters. It seems like Thanksgiving is a holiday only the 80’s seemed to appreciate, because these days it’s all about Vince Vaughn’s mumbling garble and Reese Witherspoon’s ageless adorable face (does anyone else think she has a mild case of Gary Coleman?).


Thanksgiving 2008 Menu:

Salted Turkey with a White Wine Onion Gravy

Jamaal’s RITZy Mac ‘n Cheese

‘Roasted’ Haricot Verts with Fennel and Shallots (normally, I’d roast them, but due to lack of oven space, we sauteed them in pan…)

Artichoke, Sausage, and Parmesan Stuffing (there’s absolutely no substitution for good sourdough)

Whole Foods’ Cranberry Orange Relish 



4 Responses to “An Orphan Thanksgiving”

  1. 1 smelly

    that looks fantastic. great job. Did you watch the Alinea guy cook his turkey sous vide? There’s video online, and it looks so easy and yummy.

    also — the fried alcohol sounded cool.

  2. 2 foodyi

    I’ll check it out. Did I tell you I ‘met’ him at a food expo and that I almost drooled on his back? I say that loosely because I actually just took a stalker photo of his profile and then scurried off to the prosciutto stand on the other side of the hall.

  3. 3 bestbyfarr

    Looks great, you should go for the Turducken at a Christmas Orphan throw down, here is a play by play. Enjoy, Ryan

  4. 4 rachel

    reading your blog at work makes me very hungry and my stomach very loud. do me a favor and post later in the day next time.

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