I always remember fondly Christmastime in Jamaica, waking up to the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven, and then in the middle of the afternoon, dining on slices of juicy white meat with a bread potato stuffing smothered in a giblet gravy spiked with country pepper. Wherever we lived, from Milwaukee to Lake Zurich to Bangkok, I make this turkey dinner every year using Aunt Cela’s recipes. She was a generous cook who shared her recipes with my mother, and that is how I got them. Among other things, these recipes call for lots of Chinese celery and cilantro. For Christmas this year, I am in Bangkok again and we invited 16 people for dinner on Sunday.
Saturday December 22, 2012
10:00 p.m. I was ready to prep the turkey but the turkey wasn’t. Though it had been defrosting unwrapped in the refrigerator for a day in a covered roaster, it was still frozen so I filled up the roaster with water to defrost it, changing the water every hour.
Sunday December 23, 2012
1:00 a.m. The nice thing about being jet-lagged is that staying up to prep a 7kg (15 pound) turkey is easier. I seasoned the bird with a rub I made from salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion flakes. I chopped and crushed two bunches of scallion and rubbed that into the skin. After seasoning, I put the turkey back in the covered roaster in the fridge.
7 :00 I boiled 24 medium potatoes in three Dutch ovens that when cooled, peeled, and quartered will become potato salad and stuffing. Then I boiled the eggs for the potato salad.
8:30 This year, I am trying a new recipe for orange blossom candied cranberries. Then for the next hour, Andy peeled cooled boiled potatoes and eggs. The eggs for some reason wouldn’t peel properly. They looked ragged but since they were going to be chopped into potato salad, I figured they didn’t need the aesthetic factor. I put the ham in the oven. In the order of things, the ham has to be baked before the turkey goes in for roasting.
9:30 I put the cooled cranberries in syrup in a tightly covered jar and refrigerated them. Two-thirds of the potatoes were cubed for the potato salad. The rest were mashed coarsely for a bread-potato stuffing.
10:00 I softened 1/2 cup unsalted butter for the potato salad. Then I washed and trimmed the cilantro and Chinese celery. I only use the stems and discarded the leaves of the Chinese celery. If Chinese celery can’t be found, my mother advises using the leaves of regular celery. Having a food processor helps. In addition to the celery and cilantro, I prepared prep bowls of scallions, onions, scallion, garlic. I also put the turkey giblets in a saucepan with 1 chicken bouillon cube and 3 cloves garlic and enough water to cover. Then I forgot it on simmer for hours. I took the ham out of the oven to cool.
10:30 We were aiming for a 6 pm dinner, so the bird had to go in the oven at 1 pm the latest. It was time to start the stuffing. It’s always a favorite so I tripled the recipe. I divided it between 2 pots and set aside 10 cups to stuff the turkey.
12:30 p.m. I “remembered” the giblets again and took them off the heat. I took the turkey out of the roaster and stuffed it. I transferred the turkey to a roasting pan with a rack inside it. Then the turkey went in the oven.
1:00 I whipped the butter, added the mayonnaise and seasonings for the potato salad. I tossed the salad and refrigerated it.
1:30 I chopped the root vegetables for roasting, and refrigerated the veggies until later. I couldn’t find parsnips and turnips at Villa, so for a sweet contrast, I substituted man wan a Thai yam that’s purple on the inside, and a quarter of a pumpkin.
2:00 Andy carved the baked ham glazed with brown sugar and pineapple.
3:30 I baked the extra stuffing in the convection oven for half an hour at 180˚C or 350˚F.
4:00 I started the giblet gravy.
4:40 I chopped the vegetables and chiffonaded the basil for a chopped salad with herbs.
5:45 I seasoned the root vegetables and distributed them in two baking trays then slid the trays in the convection oven for 45 minutes to roast at 200˚C or 400˚F.
6:00 Andy carved the turkey. The guests started arriving. This year, because I’m dissertating, I did not have the time to make dessert. Mimi brought green apple and nam pla wan and Lek brought kanom chan (a layered gelatin dessert) with foi thong (sweet egg threads).
7:00 The guests helped themselves to turkey, ham and all the fixins, buffet style. Three of our guests, Robert, John, and David sing in a band. Between courses they entertained us with song. And so, in the spirit of the season, offer a song and share a meal, and remember absent family and friends.