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Dr. Kitchenstein Presents: All-Hallow’s Giving 2012 – “Oy Vey, Thanksgiving as Jewish Food”

As explained in a previous post, in 2002 I created a holiday, All-Hallows’ Giving. You can read all about it here, and a recap of the 2010 iteration here (2011 marked the 10th Anniversary of AHG and was marked by a “blind pot luck”, so it was less a “Dr. Kitchenstein” type event, though I suppose it might be worth posting something about the “Oreo Soup” I prepared for that one.

But this year’s evening was framed on the premise of: how might one interpret a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner through traditional Jewish foods. And, well, here are the results:

The centerpiece of most Thanksgiving dinners is the turkey, and as in years past I separate the breast/wing from the thigh/legs and prepare them differently. But first, a bit of background, which is relevant to a degree: this year AHG fell two weeks after Hurricane Sandy caused its damage to the NY/NJ area. I was among the fortunate ones who’s home remained intact, suffering only several days without power. However, the power loss made for a bit of a time crunch, and more relevantly, a challenge procuring ingredients, as most of the groceries in my immediate area were slower to re-stock (so, for example, I could not find turkey thighs for the life of me). So, to continue…

Things actually began with the preparation of a turkey stock, using turkey wings, which came in handy for several dishes.

With ACTUAL turkey meat, the first preparation was “Turkey Drumsticks Braised like Brisket”:

(this photo, sadly, is a bit blurry, but it was a VERY brown dish, to be sure)

Turkey, onion soup mix, shallots, garlic and beef broth cooked for a couple of hours, followed by pulling the meat from the bones and blending the cooking juices, shallots and garlic into a very rich, sauce (thickened by the gelatin and fat in the turkey legs).

The idea I had for the turkey breast I needed an assist with. I wanted to serve turkey breast prepared as pastrami, but without a smoker I was handicapped (I could’ve used liquid smoke, yes, but was wary of the result). Luckily, John Brown Smokehouse in Long Island City, NY, has on their daily menu a house made pastrami and a smoked turkey. I reached out to them and they were up for the experiment:

Thanks to Josh & John over there, who brined, seasoned, smoked and steamed a turkey breast (and endured numerous e-mails from me), resulting in a very flavorful, moist, spicy, turkey-based pastrami. Here’s another shot, close-up:

Now, because the turkey-as-pastrami was as much an experiment as everything else, but out of my hands, I had a back-up plan for turkey breast…something particularly, well, appropriate for the holiday, which I describe as “a feast of frightening food”. I prepared this back-up dish. I present: Gefilte Turkey!

Gefilte fish is surely one of the most feared, weirdest of the Jewish food pantheon…an often gelatinous, pale, cold thing. It was never a dish my brothers and I were fond of as children (enter our mother, who went the extra mile to bread and fry the gefilte fish, which, with ketchup, was actually palatable). Some years ago, however, I attended a demonstration at The Brooklyn Kitchen on how to make gefilte fish from scratch (curiously, one week later I attended a pig butchery demo there as well – pork butchery being the perfect chaser to gefilte fishery, of course), and THAT version of gefilte fish was actually quite good.

So I basically re-created that dish, but replaced the ground fish with ground white meat turkey, resulting in the pale, onion and carrot studded slices of…well, cold, pale turkey loaf, I suppose. Was it the most popular dish of the evening? No. Not it was not. But I commend those in attendance who embraced the holiday and at the very least tasted it.

Here’s another look at it:

After the turkey come the side dishes…

Bagel Stuffing with Kosher Salami:

Everything & pumpernickel bagels and cubed Hebrew National Salami done up as traditional stuffing. Pretty straightforward, really.

Mashed Matzo Balls:

(another blurrier-than-I’d-have-liked photo, sorry)

This was exactly what it sounds like, matzo balls removed from any broth and mashed into a porridge-like mush…a tasty, hearty mush (credit most likely to the turkey cooking stock and rendered chicken fat in the matzo balls).

Sweet Potato Kugel:

A kugel is a kind of  a casserole/kind of a pudding type deal, made usually with noodles (sweet) or potato (more savory). For this I used a sweet noodle kugel recipe and used shredded sweet potato in lieu of noodles. A dairy-intensive, sweet side dish.

Green Bean Knish-eroles:

Green bean casserole mixed with some mashed potato and egg for binding, topped with friend onion crunch, wrapped in a dough and baked. These were not too shabby, though I think I might’ve done a better job rolling the dough thinner and wrapping the knishes…

And the final side dish, Cranberry Haroset:

Haroset is a traditional Passover condiment made of apples, walnuts, and red wine (or grape juice), though there are plenty of variations. This one, clearly, included cranberries, hence the high redness. This actually went well with the gefilte turkey, adding some texture and acid to the less glamorous stuff.

(it’s just so…pink!)

And then, dessert:

Dessert consisted of three items, plus chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

First up, Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding:

I used babkas purchased from Moishe’s Bake Shop in the East Village for this one, which was a big hit, especially warm with vanilla ice cream.

Next, Pumpkin Hamentaschen:

Never much of a fan of pumpkin pie, for these I filled the cookies with pumpkin pudding, sweeter, smoother, less heavily-spiced alternative.

And lastly Black & White Cookie Cake:

This might be my personal favorite, mostly due to (a) my fondness for black & white cookies and (b) that it tasted exactly like what I hoped it’d taste like. In simplest terms, I took a recipe for black and white cookies and baked them as two round cakes rather than 12 individual cookies, and then iced them and stacked them such that each slice would have both chocolate and white icing (I’m not calling it vanilla because there’s no vanilla in it, though…that makes me want to make a batch with vanilla and see how that plays). It wasn’t as PRETTY a cake as I’d imagined, but it ate well.

And that was the menu for this year’s feast. There were some items I’d brainstormed that didn’t make it for various reasons, mostly time (given more time I might’ve explored the idea of Pecan Pie Rugelach, for example). But overall, I’m calling it a success. Now to start considering 2013…thinking about going back to my roots and maybe NOT framing things on the Thanksgiving model next time…

Happy All-Hallows’ Giving, everyone. NOW the holiday season can TRULY begin!