We had a crazy crowd chez Chovy yesterday. We hosted three other young families, so there were children aged 7, 7, 5, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2, and zero (yes, that means the adults were outnumbered--a childless couple did show up for desserts, which made things briefly even, at least on paper). My idea was that more guests => less for any one person to prepare, which turned out to be just right. And the kids made less chaos than I had feared (thanks to starting at a regular dinner hour, being pretty well prepared, and having a favorite movie for them to watch after they had inhaled their dinners and the adults were still eating).
I made the turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Others brought the green beans with slivered almonds, yam souffle, rolls, pecan pie, apple pie à la mode, mint brownies, fruit pizza, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Everything was delicious. We had a two-year-old table (the coffee table with kid chairs, moved into the dining room bay window--Number Two was the only toddler who actually sat and ate for any appreciable amount of time), a kid table (all boys!) in the breakfast room, and a grownup table set with my grandmother's sterling and linens.
I thought the turkey turned out fabulously well this year. I bought a natural turkey, but did absolutely nothing special to prepare it (I have a newborn, remember?), just loaded the stuffing, put it on the roasting rack and shoved it in the oven at 425° for a half-hour, then lowered the temp to 350° for most of the duration. I tried to use my oven's probe so I wouldn't have to keep checking the temperature, but had a hard time finding a good spot to stick it because (this year's big experiment) I put the turkey on the rack breast side down, AND LEFT IT THAT WAY THE WHOLE TIME. There are lots of recipes that recommend putting the turkey prone for part of the cooking time, but they all say to turn it supine at some point so it looks better. Well, I don't care what it looks like! What with resting and carving ahead of time, no one other than me and the carver sees it whole. I only care what it tastes like. So, I would say this experiment was an unqualified success. With no brining, and no basting, I had breast meat that was juicy--hooray!
The stuffing was also primo. I made a loaf of plain white bread in my bread machine (remember how trendy these used to be? now I only use it once a year), cut it into half-inch cubes, and dried it in the oven. Right before loading, I sautéed in a few tablespoons of butter a large onion and four or five ribs of celery, finely chopped, and added a lot of finely chopped herbs (a whole bunch of parsley, and fistfuls of thyme and sage from the garden) at the end. After tossing the veggies/herbs with the bread cubes, only about half of it fit in the turkey's two cavities, so the other half got tossed with two cups homemade chicken broth and put into the crock pot on low. Before serving, I mixed both parts together. Yum--the stuffing was the one dinner item I didn't parcel out to send home with the guests; I just like it too much to share.
As I mentioned, the pie crust using part leaf lard (4 T, with 6 T butter) turned out flaky and fine. I can hardly wait to use it in a crust I'll be eating right away, and not the next day. The filling was the good old stand-by, the recipe straight off the side of the Libby's can. To me, it just tastes how it oughter.
Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!