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Blog Housekeeping

Thanksgiving Break, 2018

So with it being the day before Thanksgiving, I’m switching over to holiday mode here on the blog. After today, normal blogging will resume on Monday (unless something really big happens, which I rather hope it doesn’t, considering what that usually entails). I’ve already made a base of turkey gravy (from turkey neck and wing tips), so I have that in advance, and tonight I’ll be making my usual chocolate pecan pie and this year, another dessert that’s nontraditional (as was last year’s cranberry-lime pie).. Both our college-age kids had left before we had a chance to pick blackberries with them, so when my wife and I were able to, we both made some blackberry cobbler with the fresh starting material (results from September at right), but also froze a cobbler-sized batch of the berries to use at Thanksgiving. I can post the recipe for that one if desired, but I’m assuming that it’s sort of out-of-season for most readers.

Otherwise, the kitchen synthesis work will take pretty much the same form it always does around here. I’m definitely with the Washington Post‘s Megan McArdle on this one – we don’t scour the food blogs for the latest new way to cook the turkey or the hot new side dish (parsnips with harissa! rutabaga foam!) We’ve made pretty much the same lineup for over twenty years now, occasionally adding an extra dish for a one-year appearance, but keeping the rest of the team intact. We buy a kosher turkey to save on the trouble of brining another bird, and the only fancy thing we do while roasting it is to cook it upside down on a rack for the first hour and a half or so and then flip it over (seems to help with keeping the breast from drying out and gives the dark meat a chance to cook a bit faster, which it needs).

We have stuffing both in the turkey and in a separate pan, since we have a lot of customers (both of the kids have specifically requested large amounts this year). That’s my mother-in-law’s own recipe, which starts with store-bought seasoned bread cubes, but adds a goodly amount of a mixture of sauteed onions, celery, chopped apples, whole fresh cranberries and (seriously) chopped pepperoni sausage. We always have halved pan-roasted brussels sprouts, and I make green beans with chunks of country ham in them (my Southern contribution), and I make some creamed pearl onions with a sage-flavored sauce on them as well. We make mashed potatoes (Yukon Gold work well for that) and there’s the aforementioned turkey gravy, which is enhanced by the cooking liquid from the roasting turkey itself, and I add mushrooms and onions to it while making the stock itself. The Iranian contribution is “jeweled rice” (javaher pullo), which is basmati rice cooked with saffron, pistachios, almond slivers, small sour red zereshk berries, and orange zest. If the Bon Appetit people are looking for another hot trendy Thanksgiving side dish that no one’s made before, requires a lot of prep, and calls for ingredients that you probably don’t have (which seem to be the criteria), they can use that one because it actually works out great with the rest of the food. Their harissa parsnips I’m not so sure about.

30 comments on “Thanksgiving Break, 2018”

  1. John Wayne says:

    Kitchen synthesis … nice 🙂

  2. Hood Rat says:

    Maybe you should quit your day jawb and get working as a full-time chef.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      This one pays better!

      1. Michael TD says:

        Well, you can be a maestro of molecular gastronomy. I’m sure what you do in labs are way more precise complicated than Jose Andres in his kitchen…

    2. Erected devolution says:

      You took the week off? Not exactly what I would call *intensity*

  3. Nick K says:

    I recently saw a photo of British chef Heston Blumenthal with a rotary evaporator on the bench behind him! Apparently, he uses it in his sous-vide cooking.

    1. Diver Dude says:

      I’ve eaten at Heston’s Fat Duck restaurant and I can attest that his kitchen uses a variety of scientific instruments and equipment to produce astonishing food. Pro tip: get the tasting menu – it messes with your mind!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think that the entire Harvard course on molecular gastronomy (for non-science undergrads) is on youtube; twelve 1-2 hour lectures. They had numerous guest celebrity chef lecturer – demonstrators. I’ll put a link in my name.

    Ugh … the first youtube ad was for something called D****finity. I’ll try not to ruin the holiday and re-post post-holiday.

    Happy T-Day, one and all!

  5. Thomas Lumley says:

    Parsnips with harissa are excellent (though I can’t vouch for their recipe).

  6. 10 Fingers says:

    Taking a break and catching up on Pipeline in between sprints in the kitchen. Trying something new this year (since I am cooking for 17), courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated: sectioning the turkey into whole bone-in breasts and leg-quarters, and then cooking them separately. Sounded heretical, but has actually de-stressed the whole thing. The dark meat gets done a day early, alone with the gravy, by braising, then gets finished tomorrow to crisp the skin. The breasts get done tomorrow afternoon, but only take 1.5hrs in the oven. Stuffing is made separately, in a crazed setup with the sectioned wings as a source of drippings. Timing and carving of everything is a total breeze.

    Convergent synthesis, says I, after reading the recipes (and taking a minute to shrug off the heresy).

    1. loupgarous says:

      I’ve forwarded your heretical suggestion to my Kitchen Goddess for consideration. We’re only cooking for ourselves this Thanksgiving/Christmas season, so if it be true heresy, the damage will be limited.

      However, the most influential ideas in history have been labeled heresy. The one you shared to us sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

    2. Anon says:

      Not heresy – it’s akin to Julia Childs’ own preferred method for preparing turkey, and it’s great. I did the ATK turkey prep as well, and it worked really well. Made stock with the giblets, backs, and trimmings and braised the dark eat Wednesday nite, roasted the breasts and made the gravy Thursday morning, hade everything for 25 people done and ready for the cooler and car before I took the dogs to the park mid morning. Highly recommended.

      Any organic chemist can tell you that miss-en-place is the most important part of any synthesis.

      1. Same anon as above says:

        “Miss-en-place” 🙂 Are there any studies on the increase in prevalence of Freudian slips in the smartphone era?

    3. 10 Fingers says:

      Well, many new orthodoxies start out as good heresies…;{)

      This method for tackling Thanksgiving dinner was a winner in our house. The particular benefit of getting the dark meat cooked fully and with great flavor was noted by many.

      Carving and serving was a breeze, much faster than normal. The only downside, for those who care about this aspect, was the lack of drama and flourish normally associated with the emergence of the whole bird from the oven. From my perspective, the dearth of drama overall was quite enjoyable…

  7. Scott says:

    I may have to try jeweled rice, then.

    Enjoy the time away from work and with the family, Derek!

  8. Kai Lowell says:

    I would be very interested in that cobbler recipe – out of season maybe, but I could easily save it for when berries are readily available.

    I also plan to try that cranberry lime pie ASAP.

  9. An Old Chemist says:

    Derek, I have happily noticed that in your holiday cooking blogs, you often/always mention your Iranian mther-in-law’s cooking. You seem to have a wonderful married life or it could simply be that because your wife is a reader of this blog, you want to remian on her better side (Re: the goddess and the bitch side of every woman).

  10. A Regular Reader Vacationing in India says:

    Derek, I have noticed a typo: It is ‘javaher pulao’ and not ‘jahaver pulao.’ In my mother tongue (Hindi), in India, javahar means jewels, same as in the Parsi language of Iran. In India, Javaher pulao (jeweled rice) is very popular and is prepared using the ingradients you have described, omitting peperoni, as a really big population of India is vegetarian.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Thanks! Corrected the name – oh, and the pepperoni is in the turkey stuffing recipe, not the rice (which is done the traditional way!)

  11. luysii says:

    Some good dietary news at last. It’s time to really eat what you want and enjoy a Thanksgiving feast without guilt. Last Friday’s Science contained an article entitled “Dietary Fat: From Foe to Friend ?” [ Science vol. 362 pp. 764 – 770 ’18 ]. Think I’m kidding? Here is a verbatim list of NINE current controversies (translation — not settled science) from the article.

    1. Do diets with various carbohydrate-to-fat proportions affect body composition (ratio of fat to lean tissue) independently of energy intake? Do they affect energy expenditure independently of body weight?

    2. Do ketogenic diets provide metabolic benefits beyond those of moderate carbohydrate restriction? Can they help with prevention or treatment of cardiometabolic disease?

    3. What are the optimal amounts of specific fatty acids (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated) in the context of a very-low-carbohydrate diet?

    4. What is the relative importance for cardiovascular disease of the amounts of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides in the blood, or of lipoprotein particle size, for persons on diets with distinct fat-to-carbohydrate ratios? Are other biomarkers of equivalent or greater importance?

    5. What are the effects of dietary fat amount and quality across the lifespan on risk of neurodegenerative, pulmonary, and other diseases that have not been well studied?

    6. What are the long-term efficacies of diets with different carbohydrate-to-fat proportions in chronic disease prevention and treatment under optimal intervention conditions (designed to maximize dietary compliance)?

    7. What behavioral and environmental interventions can maximize long-term dietary compliance?

    8. What individual genetic and phenotypic factors predict long-term beneficial outcomes on diets with various fat-to-carbohydrate compositions? Can this knowledge inform personalized nutrition, with translation to prevention and treatment?

    9. How does variation in the carbohydrate-to-fat ratio and in sources of dietary fat affect the affordability andenvironmental sustainability of diets?

    Then totally ignoring the above controversies — they say they agree on such bromides as

    l. With a focus on nutrient quality, good health and low chronic disease risk can be achieved for many people on diets with a broad range of carbohydrate-to-fat ratios.

    2. Replacement of saturated fat with naturally occurring unsaturated fats provides health benefits for the general population. Industrially produced trans fats are harmful and should be eliminated. The metabolism of saturated fat may differ on carbohydrate-restricted diets, an issue that requires study.

    Basically I think you can eat what you want. Perhaps some day the research needed to base dietary recommendations on solid data will have been done, but that day is not here.

    Here is a link to an older post (March 2015) written when the dietary guidelines were changed yet again —

    1. FoodScientist says:

      Ketogenic “diets” are really good at burning calories. The mechanism is restricting carbs to below what the organs/cells that only use glucose need(the ones that don’t rely on much more efficient oxidative phosphorylation). Then your liver has to burn a lot of fat during gluconeogenesis, to turn pyruvate and lactate back into glucose. I believe the ketone bodies(like acetone) result from converting some amino acids into things it can use to make glucose. Though, if you cut out 100% of carbs and ate ridiculous amounts of fat/protein ( a kilo of beans and bacon glazed with an entire pound of clarified butter for lunch), you’d only survive a couple weeks. Your brain would shut down and red blood cells die from lack of glucose.

      It seems like most peoples problem is eating for reasons other than hunger. Stimulation, comfort, boredom, eating more than a serving size and believing it contains the calories of 1 serving.

      As long as you get ~130g carbs(550 calories) and don’t have a severe vitamin deficiency or cancer; you have to burn all the calories you eat by conventional means(exercise+ basal metabolic rate).

  12. Fluorine Chemist says:

    A very happy Thanksgiving to Derek and family and to all of you! This is the time of the year when I start getting nostalgic and long to return to the US! Being a vegetarian, I used to have Tofurkey; my wife used to make awesome cranberry sauce to go with that! In addition, I really miss the amazing pecan pie made by my friend’s mother during my two year stay in South Florida! Another aspect I miss is the Black Friday shopping at the massive outlet centre outside of Iowa City! Great times!

    1. Kazoo Chemist says:

      What probably made that pecan pie so special was that the crust was made using lard. Much better than anything made with vegetable shortening, but not quite vegetarian friendly.

      1. Fluorine chemist says:

        Actually, they were vegans! So, no lard out there!

        1. Kazoo Chemist says:

          Well, there goes that theory! Perhaps it was the local pecans or a special sorghum molasses. I am usually not one to go in for desserts, but I have to admit a special affinity for good pecan pie.

          1. Fluorine Chemist says:

            Yea, could be. Whatever it was, it was simply delicious! Oh yeah, in addition, she also had freshly baked buns hot from the oven, home made cookies… Really missing them now!

  13. AML says:

    A very happy thanksgiving to Derek & family and all readers of the blog

  14. Vampyricon says:

    Late but I hear my stomach growling. Sounds like a great meal.

  15. eub says:

    For anyone curious what species “zereshk” is, it’s barberry. Yep, the spiny hedge bush, except that the Persians long ago cultivated a spineless variety. But the red berries on the hedge bush are tartly edible too (disclaimer: check your specific plant, no warranty express or implied). For pharmacologists, they contain berberine, which reportedly activates AMPK.

    A happy Thanksgiving to all, and I wish everyone who has a family that they wish to be with can be together with them.

  16. Wallace grommet says:

    I can think of nothing that sounds moreover incredibly luscious and decadent than chocolate pecan pie…nothing. Never heard of it, never dared to even dream of it. If I lived a thousand or so miles closer, I would be sorely tempted to drop in, break in, or scheme in just to get a slice

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