Thankful for Another Feast

My family and I cook for Thanksgiving every year. It used to be that we would feast with my extended family, aunts, uncles and cousins, but then the family got too big and it became more complicated when cousins got married and had to split time with in-laws. Nevertheless, my immediate family continues to get together and we continue to cook, but our dinners have evolved into a less Thanksgiving-like menu. In the past couple of years, we’ve given up on the turkey and embraced beef. None of us really like turkey… no matter how we prepared it or where we bought it, it always tasted dry, bland or boring.

Pdho joined my family for dinner, and like the rest of us, he is not a fan of turkey either. So we decided to have grilled steak and lobster, seafood stuffing, sautéed mushrooms, stir-fried green beans, and a mixed salad. I know it really doesn’t sound like a Thanksgiving meal aside from the stuffing, but Thanksgiving for my family is really more about being together and eating well. So we want to eat what we like, and that doesn’t include most of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. That’s just how we roll…

So the cooking usually starts with some major prep particularly for the seafood stuffing. My mom, my sister-in-law, and Pdho were helping with the mise en place, while my brother walked back and forth in between football plays on TV to comment, poke fun and repeat how he’ll just grill whatever we give him. My sister was working so she didn’t come home until later. Woe is the life of a resident, but at least she came down in time to pick on the food right before we sat down for dinner.

The seafood stuffing comes from a recipe that my uncle gave us, and it usually tastes good so that’s why we’ve kept it. However, the hardest part of the dish is something I struggle with every year, maintaining the right amount of moisture. This year was no different. I think this year, we added too many oysters (like 10 jars) so the liquid from the oysters seeps into the stuffing and just makes the stuffing too wet. This year, it felt more like an oyster dish with stuffing which is the opposite from other  years where my brother constantly complains about how the oysters shrink into oblivion.

My brother is King of the BBQ. It’s a toss up whether he decides to season the steaks, but this year that responsibility fell to my Mom. Despite the fact that we had a charcoal grill until this year, he has always done a pretty good job with controlling the heat and grilling the meat well. This year we decided to put the lobster on the barby with the steak. My mom seasoned the steaks with some salt, pepper, rosemary and olive oil, and my brother added some salt and melted butter onto the lobsters. My brother isn’t one to do things by himself, so once my sister-in-law was done helping us in the kitchen, she went out and helped my brother with the grill.

After I put the stuffing into the oven, Pdho and I started making the green beans and mushrooms. We blanched the green beans initially and then tossed them into the wok with some shallots, garlic and even added some fish sauce in the end. We couldn’t help it. We knew it was going to taste better that way even though it was going to end up tasting more Asian than American. Unlike traditional Asian cooking techniques, Pdho refused to use chopsticks to stir up the beans and insisted on tossing with this flip of the wrist technique. Obviously, this ended with more than a few green beans on the ground. Hehe! In the end, we had quite a feast. Most of the food turned out okay. I was a little bit disappointed in my stuffing. I’m starting to think that next year, we forget about all the oysters and just use more shrimp. Personally, I prefer shrimp more anyways. It would resolve the problems with the moisture. At least the steak and lobster were good. I think most of us were satisfied with the protein. The sautéed mushrooms ended up being a little too small, so they lacked the surface area to hold any taste or flavor. It was my fault though, because I don’t think I directed my sous chef appropriately and his mean knife skills went a little hog wild on slicing the crimini and shitake mushrooms.

Here are a few pictures of the finished product. Admittedly, we won’t being winning any points on presentation, but taste comes first… Hehe!

Nevertheless, the meal went relatively well all things considered. More than anything, Thanksgiving represents the one meal out of the entire year where my entire family willingly lends a hand and participates in the overall preparation and cooking of the meal. It’s actually really fun and represents the specialness of the day quite appropriately for my family.


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