Food for Thought

And they said turkeys were stupid.
And they said turkeys were stupid.
I’ve been posting on this blog for a few years now. Time to time noting changes in my life. Some people enjoy the personal stuff, others flee from any thought of intimacy, even across a digital divide. Since the former far outweigh the latter I still have faith in humanity. I get some interesting emails from you readers and am often reminded that we live on a big round ball and not just in our little space. I recently found myself trying to explain the concept of Thanksgiving to a Japanese lady who was serious about trying to understand the holiday but curious why it was needed. After all, in Japan, every day is a family day of thanks. Well, different strokes for different folks, I did what I could and she seemed as satisfied as she was going to get. But I do have to be careful. I was writing to a person for whom English was not a native language trying to explain a, uniquely, North American tradition without coming off as a condescending jerk. I think I scored major points though when she found that I knew why the Japanese have a tradition of having their Christmas dinners at Kentucky Fried Chicken. She was also impressed that I knew who Rob Pongi was, and still is. But she was still baffled by Thanksgiving.

Rebecca Orchant says that while this holiday might be alien to some, it is even more alien to us as people range further and further from traditional meals.

Around here, we like to say that Thanksgiving is like our Super Bowl. We’ve talked turkey and stuffing recipes, gravy and cranberry sauce, and on account of this year being a once-in-a-lifetime Thanksgivukkah combo deal, we’ve tackled brisket and latkes too. Each year we get to a point where we’re not sure how much more Thanksgiving talk we can handle. But then, like clockwork, the holiday comes, we eat all the things and spend a full year getting nostalgic for doing it all over again.

Because we’re never content to eat a Thanksgiving meal without one new addition to the table, I started asking around — what dishes are mandatory on your Thanksgiving table? A dear friend John answered without hesitation, “Coca-Cola salad.” I made him repeat himself. Coke salad? In what sense? He explained it was probably a Southern thing (he is from Louisiana), and that it combines cherry Jell-O with Coca-Cola and a few other things. He promised to get the recipe for me.

Now, keeping in mind how my last Jell-O mold experiment went, I was a little more than trepidatious. But Coke salad didn’t seem to contain anything too scary, and a few people I mentioned it to even seemed to have eaten it with their families. Aside from being insanely sweet, and decidedly un-salad-like, Coke salad seems to fall in line with the American tradition of calling anything suspended in Jell-O “a salad.” Thanksgiving is probably the one day of the year I feel pretty willing to let that slide.

John’s Mom’s Coca-Cola Salad
1 bottle maraschino cherries (quartered)
1 can crushed pineapple
8oz softened cream cheese
2-3 Tbsp milk
1 Large package cherry Jell-O (I used two 3oz packages of black cherry)
12oz Coca-Cola
1 cup chopped pecans

Drain cherry and pineapple juices from the from the containers and bring to a boil. Dissolve cherry Jell-O in the boiling juice. Make sure it’s dissolved fully, and add the Coke by pouring it into the juice slowly on the side of the bowl to prevent foaming. Refrigerate till it begins to congeal.

In a separate bowl thin the cream cheese with milk until you get the consistency of whipping cream. Add cherries, pineapple and pecans to cream cheese mixture and then fold into partially jelled Jell-O. Pour into mold and congeal again.

Once I knew about this, I knew there must be other, even weirder things being eaten in homes across America on Thanksgiving. A few people bravely shared their weirdest Thanksgiving traditions with me.

And people shared. If you click the link above you’ll see everything from raw stuffing to lobsters to Peking duck.

This was my fave;

“DeeDee’s Cheese” (Deedee being my great-great-aunt or something? I forget). It’s made of massive amounts of cream cheese, and like… soy sauce, I think? And some other stuff. It’s delicious and goes on everything except the pie.

There you go. A cheese recipe made with cheese. I think she’s referring to this classic, but God only knows.

Rebecca must be the Huff Post’s “go to gal” for holiday stuff because she also has a wonderful expose’ on how to cook turkey in a dishwasher.

No, I am not making this up.

No one ever expects chef David Burke to do anything the usual way. He’s built a legendary career on playing with our expectations and making food fun. But we’ll admit that even knowing about Burke’s commitment to the element of surprise and flair for drama, we really did not see his Thanksgiving turkey recipe coming.

Let’s set the scene: you’re hosting Thanksgiving, and have an oven’s worth of side dishes to cook and reheat. How can you lighten the load on this kitchen appliance during its most active day of the year? Burke says you can cook your Thanksgiving turkey in the dishwasher. Dishwasher turkey. You read that correctly. This is a dishwasher turkey recipe.

Dishwasher

Yes. This kind of dishwasher. Can this really be done? Why would you ever even try to find out? Well, the legend goes like this:

In 1982, Burke worked as a private chef for a family in Oslo, Norway. The family requested cold poached salmon for a buffet that Sunday evening. The group of chefs went out and caught themselves a 10-pound salmon. After realizing they didn’t have any cooking vessel large enough to cook the whole fish in, Burke’s notorious creativity kicked into gear. He seasoned and wrapped the salmon, then hung it on the top rack of the dishwasher, where the glasses typically go. Three cycles later, he was rewarded with a perfectly poached whole fish, and has been experimenting ever since.

Which brings us to today. Now, before you all lose your freaking minds the way we did when we first heard about this, we want to stipulate that Burke is not suggesting you wrap up an entire, 20-pound Thanksgiving turkey in cling-film and toss it in the dishwasher — his recipe calls for turkey breasts only. Still, if you want to give your oven a break (and probably freak out your relatives as an added bonus), we got Burke to share his Thanksgiving dishwasher turkey recipe with us.

Chef David Burke’s Dishwasher Turkey

Ingredients:
2 boneless turkey breasts, 12-14 lbs total
4 tablespoons parsley
3 tablespoons sage
3 tablespoons rosemary
3 tablespoons thyme
4 tablespoons garlic
4 tablespoons shallots
1 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons pepper

Mince the herbs, garlic and shallots, then combine with salt, pepper and olive oil. Rub into turkey breast and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in an open Tupperware container (just to hold everything in place) and sit on top shelf of dishwasher.

Run dishwasher for 3 full cycles for a total time of about 3 hours and 25 minutes. Let sit for 25 minutes then place under broiler to crisp skin for finish.
Of course, everyone’s dishwasher, like everyone’s oven, will work a little differently. If you guys really try this, please, please, please tell us all about it.

Actually, if you do try it, let me know how it goes too. My dishwasher is a cloth and a sink with a drying rack so that won’t work.

Since I’ve traveled a lot I’ve been introduced to a wide variety of odd food attached to this holiday. And Rebecca is right, if it can float in Jell-O, it’s a salad.

By the way, Jell-O is made from boiled bone marrow so it’s on the DO NOT FLY list for vegans.

Just a tip for your holiday planning.

Anyway, I have had squid, chili covered turkey (a must try once in your life), crab (big in the Northwest), moose and more. The moose was kind of gamey but it felt good to get a little revenge.

We all have our petty parts, don’t judge me.

I guess, if I can give you any advice, it would be to be open minded about the day. It’s more about who you’re with than what you eat.

And grilled squid in a lemon sauce is a religious revelation.

Widgets Tubby Luvin’ from Aaron Covich on Vimeo.

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