- Ted & Debbie (Photographers)
Our friend Teresita brought us bundles of beautiful persimmons and apples from northern California.Â Debbie’s pressure cooker has been going non- stop, turning out delicious persimmon pudding after persimmon pudding as holiday presents. I’m keeping a steady course of a loaf of bread a day and too many espressos while visions of home made sausage and biscotti haunt (in a good way) my mind.
It’s quiet. Debbie just left to pick up kids from school. The pressure cooking is taking a breather. I’m washing a few dishes watching the soap make a winter spiral on a cast iron pan. I sometimes like to imagine myself having a more monastic way of life, sipping tea, illuminating scriptures, enjoying a bowl of rice and communicating with the creators by a silent transcendental hot line but think that might get really boring.
There’s no stopping it. The hounds have been released. The holidays are upon us. I mowed the lawn real short, threw down some grass seeds and spread out a nice layer of steer manure as the boys came home from school bearing art & crafts projects with Thanksgiving motifs. They yell, “Eeewwww, what’s that smell.” I say, “It’s cow poop, it’s a natural. Just stay off the lawn for a few days.” I think to myself, Â yeah, good luck with that dad.
It’s Thanksgiving already. Debbie is in the kitchen making her 6th or 7th persimmon pudding of the season, a couple of the boys are playing MilleÂ Bornes in our bed, Theo is writing a tell all expose of the Catanzaros, Sam is still asleep and Ollie, Simon and I are going to Temescal Canyon to collect oak bark to smoke the turkeys.
There’s always a fight for the wings, soÂ this year we’re barbecuing 2 turkeys. That’s four wings. After massaging the birds I placed fresh sage, oregano and rosemary under theÂ loosened skin. Â The two 10 pound birds have been sitting in a kosher salt and aux Poivre pepper blendÂ rub for threeÂ in the fridge.
Cooking a turkey (turkeys) on the barbecue is aÂ different experience every year. This year, along with the bacon draped over the birds in a symbolic X marks the spot gesture, I’ve added a cheesecloth cloaking device over the breasts. Guests start to arrive. There’s a frenzy of peeling, mashing, and stirring in the kitchen. As always, there’s a shortage of oven space. Debbie needs to heat the stuffing, make the yams and mashed potatoes. Food is shuttled here and there. Peter and Virginia are making the brussels sprouts and baconÂ and Bruce has added his Parker House butter rolls to the menu both of which Â require oven space. Â No one really comes out to see the birds on the grill (or me) this year. It’s just me and my birds as I rotate and flip them over their cast iron pyres. In a record 1 hour 45 minutes the turkeys are ready. The turkeys are beautiful. I’m a stinky, smokey, greasy mess with no time for a shower.
The meal takes longer than usual, maybe because I end up at the kids table sitting across from Sookie who is eating at her ever well-mannered pace. I’m Â flanked by Theo and Simon. Theo seems to be pacing himself too in anticipation of all the desserts Debbie has made. We adjourn to the living room where Peter and I break out the ukuleles and start practicing our Christmas songs. As usual, it evolves into Peter teaching all the kids how to play BlitzkriegÂ Bob. He says, “It’s easy on a guitar but really difficult on a uke.”
After playing some really silly songs quite badly, we somehow make room for dessert. It’s time to bring it on- Persimmon pudding, persimmon cake, pumpkin pie and a tart tartin all made by Debbie. And before you know it, the dishes are done, there’s a chihuahua on the dining room table, I’m under a dog-pile of kids in front of the fire and it is all good. Time for bed. Tomorrow is another big day. Time to clean out the gutters and put up the Xmas lights.
Trying to find balance throughout the day is sometimes easier with the help of a chainsaw and axe. Oh, and the possibilities of persimmon pudding helps.
Every year we sit down at our Thanksgiving dinner table (actually this year we had 2 tables, one for grownups and one for the under 14 crowd) and every year (after the grandmas stake their claim on the turkey wings and everyone has finished asking “where do we sit?”) after we say our blessings I always attempt to thank everyone for helping us throughout the year but I’m always drowned out by the onslaught of friends and family filling their plates and…eating. Well here it is in writing . Thanks everyone. We couldn’t do what we do without your help.
This year the big news on the food front is the special appearance of the capon… yes, the castrated(I’ve used the word castrated more times in the past week then ever before) rooster was sent to us by our dear friends in Maine.
Recipe for the capon: The capon, as Ted mentioned, was a gift, it came from D’Artagnan, a company specializing in free range and organic poultry, meat and fowl. I rubbed it down the day before cooking in a generous amount of black truffle salt.(I got it from my friendJakki, but it’s readily available from Surfas) The morning of cooking I slathered underneath the skin(as well as outside) with black truffle butter I made from balck truffles from the Farmers Market(about 5 small ones) and a half pound of Plugra butter. I don’t stuff my birds with the stuffing we eat, but I did put shallots and a few slices of pain de mie bread, just to keep it from drying out, I don’t really know why. Then I turned it over to Ted who was in charge of the actual cooking of the bird and I resumed the cooking of the rest of the meal.
Another new addition this year was the wet brine for the turkey. Recipe for the wet brine.
- Fill a large clean container ( I used a cooler) with enough water to cover turkey entirely.
- Add 2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup sugar, and a bit of whiskey. Mix thoroughly.
- Add large bag of ice. Wash and dry turkey. Submerge turkey till it’s engulfed in the icy brine.
- Let sit for 6- 24 hours. Never let water temperature to get above 40 degrees.
- Take bird out and rinse with cold water, pat dry and season.
This year I made a paste ofÂ Zankou Chicken butter, fresh sage, oregano, rosemary, salt and pepper and placed it under the skin. I always put bacon across the outside of the turkey in an x marks the spot pattern.
The Thanksgiving Feast consisted of:
- Brussels sprouts with French chestnuts and bacon(and a side dish sans bacon for Henry)
- Stuffing(chanterelle mushrooms, prunes, dried apricots,leeks,shallots French chestnuts,pearl onions-all cooked individually in none other than bacon grease-then tossed together and mixed with 2 loafs of cubed pain de mie and Bell’s Seasoning and a half a stick of truffle butter and some of theÂ giblet broth.Cooked in the oven for about 45 minutes)
- Scalloped potaoes with leeks in cream(courtesy of our friend Catriona who was in Wales but left us her delightful husband and children and much delicious food)
- Yams(baked with brown sugar, butter and salt)
- Cranberries cooked in grated ginger, vanilla, sugar,maple syrup and an orange
- Homemade bread
- Pumpkin pie
- Persimmon pudding
- Glazed cranberry cake
At last, after 3 days of preparation, the fruits of our culinary labors were ready to be enjoyed, appreciated and consumed, all within 25 minutes. We were thankful for Aunt YY’s annual contribution of dirty dish duty.Thanksgiving remains at the top of the favored holiday list, because it(and our family) is all about the food!
Persimmons don’t show up at our local farmer’s market until late fall, but they showed up on our doorstep last week when a friend brought by some that she had been given. They weren’t quite ripe yet but a few days on the kitchen window sill solved that problem. We don’t eat the fruit in raw, I make it into a steamed pudding modified immensely from a recipe in the Fanny Farmer Cook Book.
It is critical to use the correct type of persimmon,in this case, hachiya’s. I don’t know what it is about this dessert but it seems to be universally loved by all who taste it. People become obsessed by it. I have made it for birthdays,Christmas, Thanksgiving,dinner parties,and sent them fed-exed across the country. I think that the richness and earthiness of it appeals to chocolate lovers at their core. It is an elegant dessert that, with the right equipment, is amazingly simple to make. Here’s my recipe.
- 2-3 hachiya persimmons, very ripe. Remove skin and puree in a small bowl w/2 teaspoons baking soda. Let sit(it will stiffen)while you mix you other ingredients.
- 1 stick room temp. butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup moscavado sugar
- 1/4 cup dark molasses
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons Amaretto, Cognac or dark rum
- 1 tablespoon vanilla paste
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 cup pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
Cream together butter sugars & syrup. Add vanilla,mix,then add liquor, mix, then add lemon and mix.Sift in the flour/salt,mix well then add the persimmon puree. Pour into the greased ohsawa pot, cover and lower into pressure cooker(where you have already placed enough boiling water to come halfway up the outer sides of the ohsawa pot) lock in lid,bring to high pressure, lower heat and maintain high pressure for30 minutes.Remove from heat and let pressure drop naturally before unlocking lid and removing ohsawa pot. After the ohsawa pot has cooled for about an hour,loosen pudding with a knife, invert onto a serving platter and unmold. Garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar and if you have some, fresh pomegranite seeds. Serve warm with drizzled heavy cream poured over it. ENJOY!!