An Alimentary Canal Thanksgiving Getaway

Hopefully you've had your fill of turkey by now. In case you missed our Thanksgiving meal recaps, check 'em out. And we've got a bonus recap from The Alimentary Canal's dynamic duo of Zakary Pelaccio and Jori Jayne Emde, who went to their upstate New York getaway and found more joy in cooking than in eating their holiday menu.

Tuesday we bought the turkey. We had been unsure until two days before Thanksgiving as to exactly where we would be celebrating the holiday – or celebrating at all and instead hibernating, a moment of reprieve from the dreaded pirate Reality — so we hadn't ordered any special birds, Heritage or otherwise, we hadn't planned our menu (save pumpkin pie, which Jori had been planning for weeks) and we hadn't done any shopping. Our friends at Northwind Farms in Tivoli, NY raise chickens, rabbits, pigs and cattle — all natural, all free range. So, Tuesday afternoon, when we decided it was time to get moving on our holiday plans, our first move was to drive to Tivoli and get a bird from Rich.

We often cook Brussels Spouts, but they were not shoeing well, anywhere, so we opted for collards, turnips and parsnips along with the requisite potatoes and sweet potatoes. Pleroma farms, south of Hudson, had giblets galore, we bought a bunch knowing they end up in most things: collards, stuffing, gravy.

Jori set to roasting, pureeing and hanging her pumpkin to prepare it for pie making.

On Wednesday we made stock, Jori made pumpkin pie and Texas pecan bars and we drowned the turkey in a brine of pumpkin water and Riesling. At night we stopped by Helsinki to listen to Chop, Sauerkraut and the Velvet Frog w/ Pete Adams. A band led by a tall, lanky fellow with Jonathon Richman affectations and a John Lurie profile. Ballads, honkytonk, blues and country rang out as we drank into submission the barely concealed panic that sets in over the holidays. To our delight, a sweet little middle set brought a guest band, the Sweet and Lowdown, on stage with two cute girls decked out in festive reds fronting. We stayed until the end and then smartly routed ourselves toward home via the back roads as Thanksgiving eve is notorious for police traps.

Thanksgiving morning we were slow to get going and out of black pepper. I reluctantly made my way to the Price Chopper while Jori par baked pecan bar shells and made biscuit dough. At the grocery store I watched lonely souls buying canned beans, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. Perhaps they aren't lonely, I thought optimistically, perhaps, like me, they're running a last minute errand. My thoughts, the lighting, the squeaky grocery cart wheels, the jiggle of cellulite in acid washed jeans all a cacophony of unwelcome stimuli, a ghost I could not block out until, safely at home, I downed a glass of champagne and set to task on our turkey.

We've cooked turkey in various ways over the years, sous vide, frying, and grilling, but a simple, low temp roast is still a favorite method. I filled the cavity with stuffing as Jori made an herb butter to stuff under the breast skin. Turkey in, we made a brief giro of the eastern hillside, sat on a log and contemplated the sunlight as it was scattered by the stubborn trees. We did not speak much, our silence preferable to unwanted topics. As we descended I was surprised by my eagerness to make the roux.

I make roux in a cast iron skillet, medium low heat. Brown the butter, just short of noir and then sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly. I find a slow, repeating beat, a trance that only breaks when I reverse the stirring motion to ensure no bits are left to burn in the corners. No bits to burn. Not today. We had made a dark, roasty chicken and turkey stock. The rich brown color of the roux, dark stock, a touch of Pleroma raw cream and drippings from the roasted pan. All that and black pepper mignonette. I knew my trip was worth it.

Jori set the table and arranged the dishware for our numerous plates. Sherry in hand, we toasted and set to it. We did not eat much. This happens every Thanksgiving. A great feast and no appetite. Sometimes, it's all in the making, we don't need to wait around until the end to enjoy it, and often, that's not the most enjoyable part. I did eat a lot of gravy an hour before dinner. I poured a couple more glasses of sherry while Jori slipped out of her chair for a nap on the dining room floor.

The best meal is always the after party meal anyhow.

The menu....

  • Northwind Farms Turkey – pumpkin water brine
  • Veal, pork & giblet stuffing with lots of celery
  • Berry Farm potatoes, pureed
  • Sweet potato gratin with bourbon-poached raisins, orange butter and roasted marshmallow
  • Parsnips and Carrots – meat juices
  • Turnips – maple syrup and chili
  • Collards Greens – gizzard confit
  • Cranberries – ginger, preserved lemon, wine
  • Biscuits
  • Gravy – toasted Wild Hive flour roux
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Pecan Bars
  • (Champagne & Sherry)