Friday, December 3, 2010

Fall with a Multi-Cultural Thanksgiving Bash

I'm a huge procrastinator in my personal life, but do not have the luxury to procrastinate at my I have a lot of catching up to do on my blog. Happy Diwali to all those who celebrated it!!! I have been cooking up a few things since Diwali and all the way through Thanksgiving last week, but just too lazy to update my blog......while I mentioned Diwali, I should talk a little about it.It appears that Diwali or Deepavali is celebrated in Kerala at a much smaller scale than the rest of the country. I recently read that the tradition of celebrating Diwali was not as important to the local Keralites being a festival for merchants. In the early days, there were very few merchants in Kerala.  Keralites had never freely engaged in trade, and this festival was not given as much importance as it was in the other states of India.  Now, with the growing cosmopolitan population in most cities, Diwali is being celebrated with great pomp and show.  I always look upon the festival of lights as a time to invite Laxmi into the home and also feast on the luscious sweets that are freshly made.  Diwali brings on delightful childhood memories and this means time to make sweets to celebrate the conquest of good over evil.  As a young girl when I visited my family in Kerala during Diwali, the highlight of the evening was fireworks. My grandfather took the initiative to light them up and grandma lit up earthenware "diyas" to place on the front porch to welcome Goddess Laxmi.

Most of the women fried "empanada"- like sweet treats stuffed with sweet rawa, cardamom, nuts and raisins- I don't know what they used to call them, but I remember them as karanjis. Karanjis accompanied by laddoos, coconut barfis and jalebis were all my Diwali favorites  ....  these sweets are shared with neighbors and friends by tradition.

 When November comes along we all know that it is the begginning of the Holiday season and quite natural to walk past the checkout counters at shops and gaze at a perfectly glazed turkey on a magazine
cover. I casually flip over the pages and glance at the many tips on how to make the perfect Turkey and sides, gravy and pies. But the Turkey is the main star of any Holiday table, so it must be moist and
juicy and everything else revolves around the bird. In the reminiscence of memories from the past when I conjured up my first "made from scratch" Turkey, I have a few tips up my sleeve that I am willing
to share....
What is brine and why brining made the difference?
The process of brining begins about 24 hours before Thanksgiving Day. Brining brings together multiple flavors and the turkey swims in it, until it becomes intensely juicy and infused with all the flavors I
add to the brine. I combine 1 cup salt, 1 cup sugar, 6 whole peppercorns and 6 bay leaves with a whole gallon of water, sometimes 1/2 cup of hot sauce for peppery perfection, and bring this to a boil. 
Allow this to completely cool down. You may not need all the brine, but if it is a 10 lb turkey it may be just enough. Place the Turkey in a brining bag and then into a large stockpot or cooler. Pour the brine
over it and seal the bag. Let the turkey sit in the brine for about 24 hours. When you are ready to roast the Turkey,  remove from the brine and rub dry. I whip up a mixture of herbs like parsley, mint,
thyme, rosemary and salt, pepper, honey and mix well with maybe 1-2 sticks of butter. This paste is then applied generously in between the skin and meat of the Turkey making sure no spots are missed.
The Turkey is ready to be roasted according to directions provided on the package. The Turkey roasts to perfection and it comes out of the oven in a gratifying golden brown color and an absolutely luscious shine.

Thanksgiving is all about family and togetherness. I think children are the most wonderful gifts from God, so it is difficult to "let go" when they grow up..... but we all have to do it sometime. It took me a lot of strength to let my girls 'go' and allow the 'empty nest syndrome' to sink in.  R and I love to travel so we have ventured out to see as many new places and experiences as we can, however I do love it
when the girls come home for the holidays.  Now that they are home for Thanksgiving,  I am taking up their suggestions for creating a Multicultural 'Mish-Mash' this year. All these years, we have enjoyed
mouthwatering Roast Turkey with green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes,gravy,crescent rolls, pie and savory sweet cranberry sauce. The tradition started when N decided that everyone
in school was talking about gathering round a Thanksgiving meal at the dinner table, and she did not understand why Dad did not like Turkey in the first place and why she did not get to enjoy a
Thanksgiving dinner. is the kind of statement that makes you stop in your tracks and think "Why Not"?---and breaking away from the chronological mould we were in, I got subject driven. We ordered a
Thanksgiving meal from a restaurant that year, but that was not gratifying to the home team-- N was disappointed again. It took me a lot of reading and research to develop some of the sides and a flavorful turkey that the entire family would consume. The funny part is that if I received a penny for all the mistakes and blunders I have made in the kitchen over these years, by now I would be a rich woman!! A new era was dawning and although R never took a liking to roast turkey, I was bent on feeding him a flavorful bird anyway. All this just to keep the Thanksgiving spirit alive for N and V. 

Anyway, this year the meal was a bit different in our family-----and I will post my recipes for Roast Chicken with an Indian Flair, Scotch Eggs, Italian style Baked mushrooms, Fresh Salsa, Rice and Cranberry Pickle, Green Beans, Chilli Rellenos and Thai style Noodles.

Fresh Salsa is made simply by coarsely processing together one onion, 2 plum tomatoes, 1 jalapeno chilli, juice of 1 lime, salt pepper, a little sugar and chopped cilantro.

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