November 26, 2008

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving...

....and all through the kitchen: the turkey was a-brining, the pie shells were a-chilling and the ice cream maker was a-churning. That's pretty much the status here. Actually, the turkey is no longer in brine but now splayed out on a sheet pan in all its full glory (legs wide open, wings akimbo) in the bottom of the fridge. I am following a Cooks Illustrated recipe, which involves letting the skin dry out before roasting. Supposedly this gives a crisper skin. All I can say is right now I crack up every time I open the fridge door and see that naked turkey butt staring at me.

Every year, I try some new-fangled turkey concept and it's usually a bit of a disaster. Let's not revisit last year's grilled butterflied turkey incident (charred on the outside, raw on the inside, anyone?) or the 18-pounder whose brining solution spilled all over the fridge and the floor the year before. This year, I'm back to the oven method but I still couldn't stay away from a recipe that promises perfection through complex processes. So I'll be turning the turkey over 3 times during the course of its time in the cooker, punching holes in foil to go under it and basting with butter. We'll see what happens. Next year, I promise, really, truly, I will just stick the thing in the oven, shut the door and wait until the timer goes off.

Anyway, also on the menu is stuffing which I haven't made yet but will be fairly basic: bread, turkey stock, celery, onions, sage, parsley, apples and pecans. Sometimes I add sausage and I bought a nice chicken-fennel sausage last Saturday with that intention but we ate it on Monday. Oh well.

Determined not to make the gravy easy either, I followed a NY Times recipe for making do-ahead gravy with real pan drippings. Took me all day Sunday. But I ended up with 2 quarts of gravy that is already done. I hate making gravy - always another stresser. It's hot in the kitchen, people are trying to get in and out of the oven while I'm stirring like a madwoman and cursing that stupid fat-separating measuring cup that never actually works. So the gravy is done and I hope it's okay. I didn't really taste it much on Sunday.

I'm making pies too. More on that tomorrow when I know how they turned out. Pie crust is my nemesis and I'm still not sure I succeeded this time. I made another batch tonight despite already having 2 pie shells in the freezer because I didn't feel confident about one of them (had to roll it out twice). So more rolling on the agenda in the morning. Man, do I hate rolling out pie crust - why is it my favorite dessert??

But I love this holiday. We all get along, there's a nip in the air, no gifts are required and it's all about food!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! May your turkeys be juicy, your cranberries neither too tart nor too sweet and your pie crusts flaky! Catch you on the other side of gluttony.

November 18, 2008


Pumpkin as a young kitten

We have been left speechless and heartbroken by the sudden death of our 5-year-old Pumpkin.

Pumpkin had the purest heart we have ever known, sharing love with all of us unconditionally and selflessly. We called him Mr. Sunshine because he brought so much happiness to our home and greeted each new day with nothing but joy. He loved to play, and could jump so high to catch bouncy balls that we also called him Air Pumpkin. His ability to turn 180 degress in midair was truly remarkable and never failed to make us laugh and marvel at his agility. He was a small fellow, never growing much past kitten-size, but he was fast, agile and graceful.

On his favorite orange blanket, with a favorite toy

Pumpkin loved all the other cats in our home, even when they didn't love him back. My first cat Shera never forgave us for adopting Pumpkin and GoGo Boots, as she had been an only child until then. She hissed and swatted at them on a regular basis. Pumpkin was never deterred, continuing to try to befriend her no matter what. When Shera was sick and dying, Pumpkin often sat with her, curling up to keep her warm. Shera had rejected his friendship for the entire time they lived together but Pumpkin never gave up on her. And when Merlin joined our home, coming in as a very aggressive cat used to fighting for territory outside, Pumpkin kept his distance until Merlin was ready to be friendly. His careful dances around Merlin were acts of diplomacy worthy of a Secretary of State.

Pumpkin & Gonzo

Pumpkin also adored his older uncle, Gonzo, who came to us from Tom's mother. Gonzo was shy about fitting into a home with three cats already established there but Pumpkin made friends immediately and loved to curl up with Gonzo in front of the fire or on a blanket. Again, when Gonzo was sick, Pumpkin watched over him.

Hunting for a bug together

But the one he loved most of all was his brother GoGo Boots. We rescued both of them together at 2 months old when they were wild semi-feral kittens. We had no intention of keeping one of them, let alone two, but we fell in love quickly and when we saw how much they loved each other, we couldn't stand to separate them.

Christmas kitties

Pumpkin and GoGo were by each other's side every day since they were born. The hardest thing now is to see GoGo alone. One without the other just seems so wrong. My heart breaks for GoGo all day long, wishing we could bring his brother back or explain to him what happened.

Curled up cozy

Tom and I have said goodbye to older cats and we have wondered what became of feral cats that we fed for years and then never saw again, so we are no strangers to grief for our pets. But this one hurts more than all the others combined. He was too young, and still so full of life to be gone this soon.

We miss Pumpkin more than we can ever say and wish the whole world could have known a heart as pure as his.