Jeff Barnes, premier multi-instrumentalist musician and fireball
This past Thanksgiving there was a huge cast of characters at Rancho Winslow for the annual fete, but sadly the elder Mrs. Winslow was absent. Avalyn was feeling a bit under the weather and chose to not participate. We did have CBoy and Di Winslow, Granmaw Nancy Barnes, Jeff Barnes (the bravest of Combos, but without his better half, Gina), Havalah “Havie” Winslow and spawn: Violet, Connor, and Scarlet, Russell Evans, Lauren Varner, Miss Tasha of Memphis, Christian Broome, Deb Traore (and sadly, no Sib, who was off celebrating Thanksgiving with a bunch of his African buddies), Robert “Empty Leg” Abraham (who ate like a bird), Grover and Jill Swift, and me. Di was on point with her meal prep, not leaving me much to contribute, save for a sharp knife (courtesy of a sharpening job by custom knife wizard Travis Wiege). Robert also showed up with a sharpened carving set, and a sharpener for the Ranch. The reputation of the dullness of the cutlery at Rancho Winslow is legendary.
Libations were in plentiful supply (see a separate secondary post just on the liquids involved). Robert and I each brought some Spanish chorizo sausage to nosh on, and Nancy made her customary chile con queso, while Havie brought along an ample portion of her Mom’s recipe of Chex Mix.“ Chex mix was something my mother used to make during the holidays and I wanted to have her around. Same as the cheesecake. That was my mother’s mom’s best friend’s recipe. An old Italian recipe.”
Spanish chorizo sausage....yummm
I got there fashionably early and Di and I set to work on the roasted turkey and the ham. Di had a recipe she wanted to try using an apple cider and cider vinegar reduction with lots of butter and some thyme, so we stuffed the cavity with some onion, garlic, celery, thyme sprigs, and apple, while I got a turkey stock reducing for the gravy. Di threw together a bread stuffing with sausage, mushrooms, onion, celery, garlic, sage, egg, and turkey stock, while I threw together a roasting glaze for the bone-in ham of apricot, rum, roasted garlic, onion, and Dijon mustard. Some slashes on the outside, and the pork was in the oven. Christian showed up and assembled a tasty made-from-scratch green bean casserole with a mushroom cream sauce.
Top right, horsey sauce; lower right, baked ham; lower left, Grover's delish smoked turkey; top left, the roast turkey (note my carving job on the smoked turkey vs. Robert's carving job on the roast turkey....and he's a veterinarian!)
Gravy (R), and stuffing (L)
Christian's green bean casserole
Russell showed up with a big bowl of Russell’s Brussels, brussels sprouts caramelized with bacon, with sweet and sour crasins added, a delicious combo. It contrasted well with Di’s outstanding kale, shaved brussels, parsley, and scallion salad from the garden, dressed with lemon vinaigrette (a dish which is partly responsible for her and Chris’ remarkable weight loss of late). She also had a composed fruit salad of pineapple, strawberries, grapes, apple, and raspberries, AND a fantastic salad of spinach with pear, cranberries, and walnuts, with a ginger-sesame vinaigrette. Vegetable World continued with yams, baked and pureed with pecans, orange zest, and rum, and asparagus spears that I par-simmered, and then sautéed with lemon, butter, and garlic. We had reserved some of the turkey glaze reduction to add to the turkey stock and a little roux to make the gravy, and Di had whipped up a zippy horseradish sauce for the ham, and a cranberry and orange coulis relish for the bird. No Turkey Day meal would be complete without a dish of the requisite cranberry jello straight from the can, and the feast was rounded out with some surprisingly good par-baked yeast rolls with softened herbed butter.
Spinach and pear salad
Robert and I commenced to carving while Di and Jill oversaw the assembly of all of the dishes on the countertop buffet. I sliced the roast ham and then carved that magnificently tasty and moist smoked turkey that Grover had slaved over, while Roberto vivisected the yummy roast turkey. With all of the platters and bowls arranged, it was a groaning board of magnificent proportions, which we all attacked with gusto. Once we all had plates in front of us, the room went silent, except for the clanking of silverware, with near-constant grunts of approval, and satiated groans as waistlines rapidly expanded.
Di's kale salad, straight from the IAT Garden, the miracle weight-loss salad!
True, Robert somewhat disappointed with his subdued consumption, and Grover was a little on the grumpy side and off his usual Falstaffian game, but he had good reason. Grover and Jill own Johnny G’s Butcher Block in Manchaca (best butcher shop in Austin BTW), and not too far before the party, he had his palm severely cut with an errant deer bone. It was all bandaged up and had to hurt like hell. Plus, deer processing season is a huge strain on any butcher shop. It’s like Valentine’s Day for a florist or a restaurant, the first sunny warm day of spring for a plant nursery, or tax season for a CPA; highly beneficial, but a necessary evil of the business and enough to grumpify any butcher, even a normally jovial one.
My first of several plates
With a brief respite to let our meals settle a bit, it was time for dessert, featuring a yummy, moist pumpkin-pecan spice cake courtesy of Nancy, and a show-stopper of a cream cheese-style cheese cake from Havie, topped with cherries. With a slice of each and a sip or two of Grover’s silky Papa’s Pilar 24 Dark Rum to polish it off, I was nearly catatonic from the effects of a massive and stunningly delicious meal and accompanying wines. The whole crowd was glutinously zombiefied from the effects of the food and drink-a-thon, and copious compliments, thanks and congratulations were passed around for a feast well done. Rancho Winslow certainly lived up to its reputation of deliciously wretched excess, and the promise of Christmas prime rib is sneaking up on us very soon.
Nancy's pumpkin-pecan spice cake
Havie's mom's mom's cherry cheesecake
Mick Vann ©