Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dishwasher's Revenge! Turkey Day at Rancho Winslow 2015

The Dishwasher Did NOT Abide!

This recent Thanksgiving I was fortunate enough to have been invited as a guest and prep cook for the annual Rancho Winslow Turkey Day feast. Diane had concocted an adventurous menu, and truth be told, most of the hardest work was done by the time I got there. Joolz was onboard and had been helping Di. The hardest part of my task was getting up way too early on a day off, in order to get to the HEB in Kyle right when they opened at 6am. As the appointed chef du gravy, I had to be certain I could get turkey parts for the gravy, and I had stupidly decided to do that on Thanksgiving morning. It was a pretty serious crowd for 6am on a holiday. Big bags under focused but bleary eyes, with tightly clutched shopping lists and absolutely no sense of humor. These were determined folks on a mission, and there were surprisingly more of them than I had thought there would have been. As I had hoped, HEB still had turkey wings and necks on hand, so I loaded up on those, along with the appropriate veggies for stock (celery, carrots, onion, and garlic), and made my getaway. 

Perky Turkey!

I had done my wine shopping the day before, using the online feature at Total Wine. It’s a godsend. Select everything online, pay for it then, and when you go to pick it up, you go to the customer service counter right inside the front door, give them your name, and they present you with a box of what you selected. No roaming endlessly up and down aisles, trying to read small print with antique eyes. It’s much easier to read ratings and descriptions on my computer screen, while sitting on my ass. Plus, you can also easily get there via the back way, from Westgate, and avoid the horrible traffic on Brodie Lane. 

Here’s what I selected, all of which received great reviews online, was all quite reasonably priced (in the neighborhood of $10 a bottle), and garnered hip hurrahs from the tipplers at Rancho Winslow.
Yalumba “Y” Viognier, 2014
Borsao  Campo de Borja 2014 (my cheap red of choice, a steal at $6 a bottle)
Klinker Brick Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel, 2012
Gascón Malbec, 2014
Mascota Vineyards La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013
Anna Codorníu Brut Rose Cava
Poema Brut Cava

I also grabbed CBoy a six pack of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale to amend his copious assortment of beers on ice. 

Our pal Robert “Empty Leg” Abraham brought a 2014 Meridian Chardonnay, which is his go-to white. Rob feels like Chardonnay has gotten the stinky end of the stick lately, passed over by the Sauv Blanc and Pinot Grigio crowd, so he feels obligated to represent. Havie and Raheem brought a 2013 No Curfew red, a 2013 Legend of the Vine Cabernet, and a 2014 Carson Ridge Paso Robles Cab. All of the wine was enjoyed by all. Not a stinker in the bunch.
There was a crew of 16 in attendance, anchored by C’Bpy and Princess Di, along with me, Joolz (AKA, the Master Baster), Robert (retired veterinarian and forensic turkey vivisectionist), Havie and her posse (spawn Violet, Conner, and Scarlet, along with Raheem, Nabil, Jamaal, Marie, and Lauren), and the walking wounded, Grover and Jill. You may remember G and J from previous posts. They live across the back fence from Rancho Winslow, and own Austin’s best little butcher shop, Johnny G’s Butcher Block. The medical mention referred to the fact that Grover had his left arm in an elaborate sling contraption encircling his whole body, to prevent him from moving his arm for the next three months. Somehow he managed to tear his bicep muscle from his chest wall while reaching for something on the floor, all while sitting in a chair! Jill was hobbled by a foot cast that rose to just below her knee. The poor dear managed to break her ankle while putting on a shoe. It’s sad when our elderly begin to crumble before our very eyes, especially during deer processing season (a critical and harrowing time for butchers).

I have to say, Di outdid herself this year, and every single thing I tasted (and I tasted it all), was mind-numbingly delicious. For noshes, there was a tray of vegetable crudité, accompanied by chipotle raspberry dip, smoked Gouda dip, and spinach-artichoke dip. The crunchy red bell peppers from the nursery’s garden were as sweet as candy. Lauren brought two wonderful trays of composed fruit salad. The guest of honor at this groaning board was an 18 pound female turkey with herbs and lemon inserted under the skin, and a cavity stuffed with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and herbs. Her breast adornments were not only fetching, but quite perky! The resulting meat was meltingly tender and very moist.  She was accompanied by a glazed ham, served with horseradish sauce. 

Princess Di and Perky Turkey

Cooked Perky

The Death Spiral of Ham!

I took a big pot full of turkey necks and wings, flavored with carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and herbs, and reduced it down for hours. I was going to thicken it with some roux made from duck fat and flour, but Havie and Raheem sounded the gluten panic alarm, so I was forced to use a slurry of cornstarch instead. Still, it was excellent gravy, even without the duck fat roux. That same reduced turkey broth moistened the dressing, made with bread cubes, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, sage, and mushrooms. We could have used another pan, or even two. I could have eaten another whole pan all by myself. It was that good. Di made her mom Nancy’s fresh cranberry relish with orange zest, and we also had the ubiquitous cranberry jelly which slowly and noisily slurps out of the can.




Relish World

Havie brought a casserole of Japanese sweet potatoes and yams with coconut milk, which was a huge hit. Di marinated some Brussels sprouts in olive oil and orange Balsamic vinaigrette and roasted those. She also did fresh-blanched green beans tossed with butter and roasted red onion sections, garnished with blue cheese. There was cinnamon and cardamom infused apple sauce, and a lovely spinach and pear salad with purple onions, toasted walnuts, and a cranberry-ginger vinaigrette. We had Sister Schubert’s yummy whole grain yeast rolls hot from the oven slathered with whipped butter. There was strong brewed iced tea and an urn of lemonade, and the aforementioned shitloads of good wine and beer. We’re talking seriously good food here, folks.

Spinach Salad

Brussels Sprouts

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Green Beans with Roasted Onions and Blue Cheese


The crew all waddled in later for pies which were baked by Marie (with Havie’s help?). Scrumptious pumpkin, apple, pecan, and lemon meringue. Nabil cranked out a big bowl of fresh whipped cream for the punkin pies. I was in pie heaven. As if that wasn’t enough, Nancy had sent over a pan of smores bars, which folks couldn’t stop eating. 

We all went into food comas and watched UT get the snot beat out of them by Texas Tech, while Lauren and Jamaal gracefully rode herd on the dirties, loading up the dishwasher and hand-washing the bigger pots and pans. Unfortunately, the dishwasher decided to commit suicide in protest, forcing C’Boy and Di to get up at the buttcrack of dawn the next day, to go off in search of a new dishwasher amongst the frenzied herds of ravaging Black Friday shoppers.

I wish I could provide a happy ending, but the next day, the brand new dishwasher’s water pump didn’t work, which caused the dirty dishes to get enameled with baked-on food particles. Joolz didn’t know that the under sink plumbing was discombobulated from C’Boy trying to figure out why the water didn’t come on in the new dishwasher, so she dumped the residue from the turkey stock bones into the sink, which immediately ran through and coated the bottom shelf under the sink, before running out all over the kitchen floor. And, with the kitchen sink water and drain disconnected, Joolz, Di, and C’Boy ended up having to hand wash all of the food-enameled dishes by hand, using the little bar sink on the kitchen island. A Herculean task that lasted hours. Hopefully the new dishwasher has been installed by now; they were hoping it would be finished by Tuesday (today).

Post-dinner Sisyphean maladies aside, it was a spectacular feast, held among dear friends. There were no divisive political arguments, and nobody got too drunk or made as ass out of themselves. There was plenty of food (except for the dressing, dagnabbit) and every single nibble was delicious. We are all truly

No glue guns died in the course of this post.....

Mick Vann ©