Friday, December 4, 2009

With Thanks to Squanto, Who Taught Us How to Cut and Peel Fish*

That's me, in the metal hat.

Dear Boo,

I know Thanksgiving is at this point old news, and we're full swing into the Christmas/Solstice/Winter wonderland season (though the weather doesn't quite seem to have gotten the memo), but I have to take a moment to revisit since you and I (for the first time ever?? Is that possible?) didn't partake in the same feast this year and I feel I must catch you up.

It is at this point that I have to hang my head and cower in the corner for a moment to confess that I have no pictures to share. I know, I know! Quel horreur! Let me tell you, in a small attempt at defense, that a) the fact that the Boyfriend and I managed to get out of our apartment, with at least one pair of underwear and an acceptable shirt, on time, without missing our plane or getting into a taxi accident on the FDR (remember that?), after handing in midterms and closing my show and tying up loose work ends and and and, is a minor miracle. Thus, the fact that I realized on our pre-dawn walk to the subway that I had forgotten my camera is a tragedy, but not entirely unexpected. And b) when you're spending the holiday with your Boyfriend's family and meeting some of said family for the first time, constantly aiming your camera at your plate each time a meal is set out, or following your host around snapping pictures whenever the fridge is opened might not be the first impression you want to make. That said, for you, I would have done it gladly had my brain not turned to mush in the packing process.

So, I will be brief and say that my first Thanksgiving away from our family, at the Boyfriend's oldest sister's home in Virginia, was fun, relaxing, and fattening beyond belief. The whole family had warned me multiple times to bring loose waisted pants and resign myself to gaining about 5 lbs over the weekend. Added to the fact that the Oldest Sister and her Husband both love to cook, is the inherent nurturing role that goes with being the oldest and usually translates to comforting, welcoming, and caring behaviors including constantly feeding ones guests and relatives, as well as the Southern influence of the Husband whose cooking often involved a tremendous amount of butter, and let's not forget meat. The Oldest Sister put the kibosh on allowing us to count the pounds of butter consumed over the course of the weekend (about 50% of which was used on Thanksgiving day). A wise move.

(Food) Highlights would have to include:

1) The look of horror on the faces of the Boyfriend's three nephews when told I had never had a breakfast of biscuits and gravy before.

2) Of course, the actual eating of this dish, which, for the uninitiated, consists of a fresh baked buttery biscuit split open and smothered--absolutely annihilated, by a rich white gravy studded with crumbled sausage and chopped bacon. A side of home fries is a given, of course. My stomach literally didn't know what hit it, while my mouth slapped me upside the head for waiting 29 years to indulge.

3) Cocktail/appetizer hour around the island in the gorgeous and enormous kitchen that the Boyfriend warned me I would covet, and which included such tastiness as warm crab and artichoke dip, enormous shrimp grilled with old bay, and pita chips with tzaziki (we snuck in a few carrot sticks under the radar, possibly the lone raw vegetable I had all weekend. why bother, really?)

4) The iron chefesque cookoff replete with silent voting procedures judged impartially by Papa in which the Boyfriend and Oldest Sister represented Team Leftover Turkey Potpie and the Oldest Sister's Husband and I represented Team Leftover Steak Potpie, the latter of which I can proudly say was victorious (there were au gratin potatoes under the top crust. I mean, come ON.).

5) On the morning of our departure at 6am for the airport, we tiptoed downstairs to find individual egg and cheese on biscuits warming in the oven for our homemade breakfast on the road. FYI, If you're planning a trip to Richmond, I've got the perfect little bed and breakfast for you....

6) The O.S.H.'s Thanksgiving teriyaki green beans. In a banquet of the traditional stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with pecan topping, turkey, gravy, and cranberry sauce, the green beans stuck out like a sore, asian-flavored thumb. Or so I thought. In reality they were the perfect addition, their salty/sweetness complementing a forkful of mellow mashed spuds and moist turkey. It perked up the triptophan-laden meat, went surprisingly well with the sourness of the cranberry, matched the garlic in the potatoes and balanced the sweetness of the yams. When I went back for seconds, I surprised even myself by going straight for the beans. And don't worry, there was still plenty of butter in them, so it wasn't just out of virtue.

I asked the O.S.H. for the recipe on I think three different occasions, in three different ways, and emerged each time with a list of ingredients but still really no concept of how to make it. I could attribute this to the plague of the home cook making their traditional holiday dishes which can now only be described as "some of this and some of that and you sort of taste it til it tastes right and then you add some more if it needs it." Or it could have been the gravy-addled fog I am only just emerging from.

Here's what I gathered: Maybe a cup of soy sauce and a cup of teriyaki (or was it less soy?), some sugar, maybe it was also a cup though that doesn't seem possible, boiled and reduced down. At some point corn starch gets added to thicken the sauce, and a couple of cloves of roasted garlic mashed and added in. I THINK softened butter gets added to create a thick sort of paste at some point. The beans are blanched--this I know for sure--and then tossed in a baking dish with the sauce and reheated through. Sorry, I know this isn't very helpful. Sometime soon, when I'm done with finals (will that ever happen??) I will experiment and come up with something more quantifiable for you. Or if you're drooling already (as I am as I write this), try it and let me know what you come up with.

Do YOU have pictures?? I want a recipe for the pomegranate martinis I heard rumor of....

On to figgy pudding!

The Mouse

*"I am thankful for Squanto, who taught us how to cut and peel fish" --The Youngest Cousin, circa age 8? in a book of thanksgiving made by his school, in which most youngsters mentioned their siblings, parents, puppies, homes, and favorite toys.


Sam said...

Thanks for the shout out! I thank Squanto every year, so you know...

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go to my 'memorabilia box' and take that Thanksgiving book out...I think it's time for us all to view it once again!
Oh, and great post....we missed you so much. Next year I hope we're all together in NYC.

Anonymous said...

ohmigod, I am stuffed!! I thought we don't need the pictures - your writing was all we needed to taste and see every morsel...omygoodness, what a wonderful food fest it was!

a devoted fan of A Mouse Bouche....I'd reveal my identity but can't for all sorts of professional reasons - but you two sure are amazing!!! Your mother must be qvelling :-) your grandmother delighted and your grandfather pining for that gravy...

The Mouse said...

Why thank you, mysterious lady :)

annie said...

i'm still laughing at "that's me, in the metal hat." also, are you sure you're 29? i could have sworn you were 26. xo