Although for several years I have been a (sort of) assistant to Dad's Turkey Day preparations, yesterday was my first attempt at a Thanksgiving dinner on my own. Christina and I split the meal pretty much in half, and I was assigned the turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, apple crisp, and cranberry sauce.
Well, first off, finding a whole turkey in Rome is difficult, read: impossible. Non si fa! It just isn't done! So instead, we opted for chickens...lots of chickens. Planning on finding a turkey that weighed about 8 kg (17.637 lb) to feed ten people, we thought we'd have to buy about six chickens. Alas, the oven hit capacity at four, so four it was. I brined those suckers for a little over 24 hours in a brine of sea salt, brown sugar, onions, and lots of herbs, then followed Gourmet's suggestion to roast them fast and at a high temperature. I stuffed several tablespoons of butter under the skins of each one and seasoned aggressively inside and out. At about 450 degrees, they were all four cooked and crispy-skinned in an hour and a half! And moist and juicy to boot! With only four chickens between ten people, the poultry portions were perhaps a bit smaller than they might have been otherwise, but these chix certainly got the job done.
My sweet potatoes were twice baked - first whole, then again once I'd scraped the insides out, mashed them up with butter, cream, brown sugar, and sage, then stuffed them back into the skins. I added more butter and brown sugar on top and broiled them for a few minutes so they got a little sugar crust on top.
In short, all the food was delicious! Christina brought mashed potatoes, more stuffing, salad, deviled eggs, and veggies. Just because we aren't in America doesn't mean we didn't do Thanksgiving right!
But let's rewind a bit, before all the joyous meal-sharing and merriment...the day started off with a battle: our apartment or Christina and Joe's? We originally (more than a month back) planned on having it at Christina and Joe's, picnicking on their rooftop terrace. We thought it was such a good idea at the time that we never thought twice about it, even as the sun began setting earlier and the evenings got colder, and the guest list began to outgrow their 250(ish) square foot apartment. Come the day before the big shindig, however, the wheels started to turn in my head: "Hmmm," I thought, "How am I going to carry four hot chickens, two trays of sweet potatoes, an apple crisp, cranberry sauce, rice krispie treats on a fifteen minute walk? And where are we going to fit ten people?"
And thus began the politics of Thanksgiving - Christina had already decorated, and preferred to have dinner there. We had more space and preferred to have dinner here. Joe wanted to eat outside. Nobody else did. Back and forth, back and forth...finally, we won and sent runners to help carry the food from Christina and Joe's. Ultimately, everything was fine and everyone was happy; we even found a leaf for the kitchen table so we all sat comfortably! And comfortable we stayed from the time we sat down around 5PM until everyone left around midnight, shortly after a large bottle of red wine was shattered and spilt on our tile floors. We decided that was as good of a time as any to call it a night. Despite my best efforts to keep things somewhat clean as the night progressed, being the only one capable of doing so (drunk on Thanksgiving? I bet the Pilgrims weren't, so neither was I...), cleaning up this morning was an interesting task. So was running into the neighbor who lives below us in the courtyard. Sorry Signore!
But all ended amicably, though I'll be happy to resume my duties as sous-TDay-chef next year in Canton, MA :-)