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November 27, 2005: Always room for more

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Ever since we hosted Thanksgiving three years ago, Richard's been wanting to try barbecuing a turkey on his grill. I wasn't willing to let him try it on the year we were hosting, figuring it might not be wise to experiment with the turkey when one is supposed to feed 17 people with it. And over the years we've talked about getting a small turkey and trying it out, but we've never managed to get it together enough to do it til now.

Yesterday while I was off braving the (surprisingly uncrowded) malls with my older sister Richard headed off to the Co-op in Davis and picked out a 20 pound free range turkey, which was just about the smallest bird they had left. It was, however, quite frozen, so we weren't able to grill it yesterday, as had been the original plan. As it turned out, that was just as well, since we managed to grill it up today and have a surprise dinner guest to share it with.

Richard had put the bird in the fridge yesterday to thaw, but it was still pretty frozen by this morning. So switched to the sink-full-of-water method of thawing, which meant by the time we got back home after lunch, it was finally ready to go. We'd pretty much just walked in the door when the doorbell rang, and who should be on the doorstep but Richard's best friend. He chatted with us while we frantically rummaged through drawers looking for 9-volt batteries in order to swap out the dead ones in the two smoke alarms which had started to beep in a truly lovely manner (luckily neither of the dead ones were located in the most inconvenient smoke alarm, which requires the use of our tallest ladder, and a lot of swearing), and he chatted with us while Richard got the coals started, and I pondered the fact that it would be far more fun to make a dinner for three people instead of just two, and it didn't take much coercing at all to convince him to stay a few more hours to share in the barbequed turkey experiment. And this meant I had a marvelous excuse for whipping out a few recipes I'd been wanting to try, so I zipped off to the store and loaded up on sweet potatoes and russets and apples and butter and cream and while Richard occasionally poked at the turkey and he and his friend chattered about school and writing and kids and everything else, I stirred together an apple walnut cake. We discovered just how little counter space we really have in our kitchen, because when there are three people in there - one peeling various forms of potatoes and one chopping up said potatoes and the third huddling in the corner where all the baking supplies live stirring up cake and biscuits and the topping for the sweet potatoes, it got a little crowded.

Somehow we managed to time everything perfectly, despite having no idea just how long the turkey might take, and despite the sweet potatoes taking twice as long to cook as the recipe claimed, and despite me having to recalculate the cooking time for the biscuits because I had to toss them in with other stuff which cooked at lower temperatures. Richard tossed the turkey giblets into a pan with a large mound of butter and when they were cooked I chopped them up into tiny pieces and spread them all over two plates and then lured the cats upstairs with promises of treats so we could eat in peace.

The barbequed turkey turned out marvelously, and the rest of the meal was pretty darn good too. I cheated on the gravy and just bought a few cans of pre-made stuff because I didn't feel like trying to remember how to make my own (it was enough I remembered what to do with the potatoes, since I think this was possibly the second time I've ever made mashed potatoes in my life), and we all agreed that in hind sight we should have considered also making some kind of stuffing, but there was more than enough food on the table as it was, especially for only three people, and lots of it left over, even after we'd all done our best to stuff ourselves silly.

The apple cake recipe called for a homemade caramel sauce as well, so I stirred that up, after stuffing a stack of plastic containers at our friend and insisting he fill them up with as much of the leftovers as he wanted, since we figured starving college students should always get first crack at homemade food. And then we sat down to small slivers of the cake, drizzled with the caramel sauce and served with scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and ooh, it was good but so incredibly dense that I knew larger pieces would just make us all explode. I put half the remaining cake on a plate for him to take with him because he has roommates to feed it to and there was no way Richard and I would be able to plow through the rest of it by ourselves before it started to go funny (it is quite possibly one of the heaviest cakes I have ever had, but so very good that I am definitely saving this recipe for the next time I have to make something for a potluck or some other gathering where there will be a lot of people). And then we sent our friend back off to San Francisco, loaded down with boxes of leftovers that I am not sure even made a dent in the remaining pile of food, and now Richard and I have both collapsed wearily into our chairs in front of our computers and I am curious to see if I will be able to stay awake long enough to make it through Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy because I am so, so full, and somehow a huge turkey feast spent with one of our very dear friends seems to be the perfect way to end the Thanksgiving week.

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