I went to Fred Meyer twice today and Haggen once. Haggen because they stock the posh ingredients I like to buy, like triple cream brie and meyer lemons. I still need to bake cornbread tonight and make up the brine base. I did manage to get mah bukkit.
If anyone out there is familiar with the tools available to brine a twenty pound avian, you'll know that they're sparse at best. I will not trust so-called "brining bags" because I have a nightmare scenario where they burst or are punctured and several gallons of brine spill out leaving old Tom Turkey exposed to the elements. So the only suitable tool I've found is the enormous plastic bucket.
I remember the first time we found the bucket. My old roommate Amelia and I had wracked our brains trying to figure out what we could put the bird in. We had scoured the housewares section at Fred Meyer and as you know the hardware section was right next door, and there they were. Stacks of enormous plastic buckets in green, yellow and red. That was my first brined bird and it was for a holiday party at our apartment on Irving street. We had a plain appetizer... a cooler of fresh boiled crab which was devoured in moments by happy party goers in our livingroom... a mixing bowl of cracked shells was all that was left, and after all that they still had room to demolish a twenty-something pound bird and trimmings.
It was a great party.
That was five or six years ago, and when I think about all the birds that have been since... at least one a year... I figure I've pretty much got my bird down to a science.
I am trying something new this year. I'm adding buttermilk to the brine base instead of water. This was suggested by my mother, who saw it in Williams-Sonoma. If it's in Williams-Sonoma, it's fancy enough for my mom, and since old women in the south soak their chicken in buttermilk before frying it, it's just salt-of-the-earth and culinarily sound enough for me. Those things intersect in cuisine a lot... yesterdays folk-food is today's haute cuisine. It's all about trends for the magazines and retailers, but for me it's all about good food.
I had a new york steak today smothered in sauteed chanterelle mushrooms and onions. I decided to treat myself. I suppose I should be eating extra sensibly with Thanksgiving on the horizon, but fuck that noise.
Well, I'm off to make cornbread for dressing, blanch some green beans for my casserole, and construct my brine base. After that it's working out, taking a bath, and making my lunch for tomorrow. I'll leave you with a Thanksgiving tip:
NEVER mash your potatoes with an electric mixer. Ever. I know, it sounds easier and faster, but to get a uniform consistency, you will need to overwork the potatoes, and all the starch will get riled up and stick together and you'll have a horrid, gluey porridge instead of fluffy, delicious mashed potatoes. Instead, get a friend's child to mash them up for you, using a hand masher or a wire whisk. Oh, and lumps are okay, really. Even food critics are now saying that lumps are okay. So relax.