NaBloPoMo

No more November!

This month went fast. And now I am no longer under a self-imposed obligation to post every day. Which I did do, mostly, although the writing was thinner than I'd hoped. I guess it takes more practice than just a few weeks.

Still, on a personal level, it was a very good month, and daily blogging lends shape to things. It encourages you to notice things more, to distill things into a few paragraphs--or, conversely, to find at least one thing to salvage from a shitty or utterly unremarkable day.

I do plan to write more than I have been, but I am not going to post every day in December. There are enough obligations in the month already. So I'll post when I feel like it, and be quiet when I don't.

Hey, look! By my clock it's just now December as I'm wrapping up this post. Thanks for reading. Come back and see me soon.


Food food food food

That's really all I've done all weekend: cook and eat. This morning I transformed the stock into turkey noodle soup. We had that for breakfast. Later Eric and I went to the grocery store and I decided we needed to make a pan of turkey mole enchiladas. So we had that for an early dinner. We are set for meals for the next couple days.

We bought a jar of mole at the store to make the enchiladas, but now I'm wondering if it would be worth it to try to make mole at home. I've been wanting to do that for a while, but it's extremely time consuming. If it'd be miles better than the jarred kind, I think it would be fun. If it would only be a little better--or even worse--I think it would be a dispiriting waste of time. I will let you know my findings.


Mike and me

I love this story about Michael Dukakis soliciting turkey carcasses from his friends and neighbors. I am not quite as hardcore as he is, but I do think one of the nicest things about hosting Thanksgiving is being able to make stock out of the bones the next day.

Stock

I'll make a batch of turkey noodle soup tomorrow, and then I'll freeze the rest of the stock to use in soup, beans, roasted vegetables, rice, and whatever else needs to taste like rich smoked meat. This recipe more or less covers the method I use, although this time I'm doing it stovetop, and I like to add a few cloves and a glug of apple cider vinegar to mine.


Hey, hey, Turkey Day: Smoking bird liveblog

10:24 p.m.: Aw, man, it's over. Now it's time to take off my bra and help with the dishes. We had a great time. Hope yours was good too.

4:50 p.m.:

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I think it's beautiful.

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Eric makes a roux for you.

Chooooooo

And Lei-Leen reorganizes the fridge so we will have room for beer.

I need to take the laptop off the counter so we have room to serve food, so I guess that's it for the liveblog. I hope everyone is having a fun and delicious Thanksgiving!

3:59 p.m.: The bird is 20 degrees over the recommended temp for white meat and the legs are practically pulling themselves off the turkey and doing a little dance. It's tented. Eric's mom's dressing is in the oven. The potatoes are cooling. The thighs are done. I think we got this.

3:42 p.m.: A friend stopped by to drop off treats. We drank wine. Now I need to mash some potatoes. The bird should come off in a half hour or so. Everything is falling into place.

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1:58 p.m.: Oooh, here come the potatoes! Smoked mashed potatoes are so good. I'm more excited about these than anything else today.

1:32 p.m.: The smoker door is propped open for now. Eric has the neckbone on the stove for stock to make gravy. The house is starting to smell good.

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I pulled the turkey thighs off the smoke and am going to finish them in a very low braise and use the pan liquid for even more gravy. I also made a batch of vegetarian gravy last night. In conclusion, we will not lack for gravy.

1:06 p.m.: Crap. The temperature is too low so I opened up the door to let more oxygen in and the latch just...disintegrated. Half the parts fell into the fire, so there's no fixing it. The door is being held shut with a cheap metal patio table at the moment.

12:20 p.m.:  The last hour was intense.

Fuego

We put the hot (firey hot) coals in the smoker and put the rest of the fuel on top of those.

Chunks

Today we're smoking with chunks of pecan wood, which has a light but distinctive flavor. And we are in Texas, after all.

Eric assembled the rest of the grill and left it to get up to temp.

Crack

Crack!

And then came the spatchcocking, which is a hilarious way of saying "cut the backbone out, break the breastbone, and push the bird flat so it cooks more quickly."

Interest

√úter watches the proceedings with interest.

I slathered the beast with herbed garlic butter, Eric seasoned the extra thighs, we had a brief squabble about where to put the temperature probe (we opted for the breast but I'm always paranoid it's in there too far/not far enough), and then it was go time.

Splayed bird

Bye, bird, see you in a few hours. Now we disinfect the kitchen again, eat some lunch, and wait.

Go go go

Go go go!

11:06 a.m.: A lot has happened in the last half hour. Eric started the fire.

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We use a chimney starter, so you don't have to use lighter fluid, which can lend a petroleum flavor to the food. This way you just stuff an Austin Chronicle in the bottom, put the coal in the top, light the paper, and let the fire do the rest.

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Everything is taking a little longer today because it's so damp. (If you're coming for dinner, sorry, it might be later than we said.)

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Smoking is fun but not very good for air quality.

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We also foiled and filled the water bowl. This will help moderate the temperature of the smoker throughout the day.

10:35 a.m.: The turkey is rinsed, trimmed, and patted dry. The water made an interesting protracted farting sound as it left the body cavity. My fingers are pruney from handling wet poultry. Yuck. Now to bleach the sink and wake up Eric to start the fire.

10:01 a.m. I'm up! Happy Thanksgiving. It's pouring rain, which I hope does not play hell with cooking times.

Briney

We have a 15-pound turkey and a few turkey thighs that have been brining in a salty sage bath since yesterday afternoon. Dry brines are supposed to be better, but I've noticed the herb flavor gets into the meat pretty nicely with wet brines.

Turkey

Raw poultry is pretty repulsive, but we are going to gloss right over that and get to it, just as soon as I drink a little coffee and get the kitchen ready to briefly become a biohazard.

I'm going to keep updating this post throughout the day so as to not spam everyone's Twitter feed, so check back soon.

 


T minus one

I am ready for it to be tomorrow. We're smoking a bird and having a few people over to eat it, which is one of the best things in life. The weather is supposed to be shitty, which is too bad, because I love hanging out in the backyard while the smoker runs, working in the garden and playing with the dogs and maybe doing a little day drinking. But that's okay. We can move the smoker under the patio cover and watch the rain instead.

I think I'm going to liveblog the bird smoking tomorrow, too, just because that sounds kind of fun. So I'll stop writing now; I'd hate to wear my typing fingers out.


Yay we are home

And the trip wasn't as harrowing as I thought it might be, thanks to a nonstop flight, fast security at LAX, and unexpected exit row seats.

One thing I noticed is that all the locals we talked to were really friendly and down to earth. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't warmth. Sweetness, even. We didn't spend any time in Los Angeles proper, though, so I can't speak to that. I would very much like to explore L.A. at some point too, but Pasadena was a dandy place to spend a weekend.


Beat

 

image from http://www.starsandgarters.com/.a/6a00d834518e2169e201bb089440ca970d-pi

Dag. I had so much fun this weekend. I've been cooped up in an office for the better part of two decades, so I forgot how fun it can be to stand behind a table and talk to everyone who flows past. Exhausting, but fun.

We met so many creative, funny people this weekend and saw and bought (and sold, if I do say so) some really cool art.

Tonight and tomorrow morning is our mini-vacation portion of the trip; so far it's been sushi, a trip to the liquor store for good local beer, a ramble through old town Pasadena, and a soak in the hotel hot tub.

I had ambitious plans to get down to Watts towers before our flight home tomorrow evening, but man, we're tired. We may just end up sprawled out by the pool until it's time to check out. It's a very nice pool. Don't judge me.

 


Greetings from the toy convention.

The people watching here is amazing. It's nerds on parade, flowing through the aisles like a river, and it's beautiful. Blue hair, cat T-shirts, punny tote bags ("Sofa King Rad," with a little cartoon king poking his sword and crown out of a couch-cushion fort was my favorite). Hot dog tights.

HOT DOG TIGHTS. Jammed into black patent-leather platform shoes.

One guy in his early 20s breathlessly told me, "I love this place because at home we're all weird but then we get together and you see how many of us there are!" I wanted to hug him but instead I just sold him a sticker. My face hurts from smiling. Some of that is come-buy-our-stuff customer service smiling, true, but mostly it's genuine.


Fulmination culmination

Heads

Freshly-painted heads. Photo by Eric.

Tomorrow morning we fly to Los Angeles to attend Designer Con, an art and toy extravaganza in Pasadena. Eric rented a booth there and has been feverishly painting, designing, printing, and packaging toys nearly every day for the past several months. It's been intense.

Krampuseses

A couple of krampuses. Photo also by Eric.

He's been playing around with customizing existing toys for a long time, but it's only in the past few years that he's ramped up his efforts and started designing his own figures and putting them out. He even wrote a backstory for the latest batch. I'm extraordinarily proud of him--plus I'm excited to go take in the spectacle of ~300 toy vendors in one place.

His website is here and he is krotpong on Instagram if you want to go see what I'm talking about.


Class photo

The agency I work for had a group photo taken* in the Senate chamber today. It was a lovely clear morning, so we eschewed the underground tunnel that connects our building to the Capitol and walked over outside together. People were a little dressed up and there was a giddy, field-trip feel to the whole thing. You don't get that too often as an adult.

An air of release hung about the day, even after we returned to our desks after the picture was taken. Maybe office workers should have recess too.

*Or "made," if you want to be really Texan about it.