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kitchenI love my mother dearly.  She is a wonderful woman.  I have learned a lot from her.  I can make chili because of her tutelage.  But if you were to ask me the number of things in the kitchen I learned from my mom, I would say, “Taverns, chili, and how to get out-of-the-way.”

Gourmet chef, my mom is not; we never went hungry, and it was always edible, but “high” cooking, for some reason, skipped a generation in our family (sorry mom… 😕 ).

If you asked me the same of my grandma (mom’s mom), I would say, “Got a couple of hours?”  When I have a cooking question that the internet won’t tell me – or I know grandma knows better because grandma always know better – I give her a call.  Peanut Butter Rice Crispy Bars?  Grandma.  Turkey?  Grandma.  Fried chicken?  Grandma.  I learned a lot from her.

Gravy is one of those things that I never really picked up growing up, didn’t pick up as a young adult, and then agreed to make for a large group of people.

I want that to sink in.  I had never, in my…24, I think…years, made gravy, and I agreed to make it for around 30 people.  So I made the call, in a minor panic, to grandma to see how to make it.  She coached me through it, I made it, and I think people enjoyed it.

Still, to this day, I make it roughly the same way.  And it usually turns out pretty good.

Now for today’s topic: turkey dinner.  Or rather, about a third of a good turkey dinner.  I will say, though, that they parts that I make, I make good.

SmashedPotatoes1First, we start with potatoes for mashing.  The first mistake people make when making mashed potatoes is using russet potatoes.  The second mistake is not using golden potatoes.  Red work, and work better than russet, but golden potatoes are best for it.

Here, you see red potatoes because they are cheaper.  Covered with not enough water.  They turned out great, but not because I didn’t mess up.

SmashedPotatoes2The stuff to melt to add to the potatoes for whipping.  You will notice a complete lack of cheese here that you won’t in the recipe; come to find out, skim milk is much thinner than half and half.  Who knew?

SmashedPotatoes3Melted and (relatively) smooth.  You can add butter, milk, and cheese cold to hot potatoes for mashing and it will work, but adding them melted both allows for the cream cheese and doesn’t drop the temperature the potatoes, keeping them hotter, longer.

SmashedPotatoes4Hand-mixers and potatoes were designed for each other.  At least I think they were.  There isn’t a better method of mashing potatoes if you want creamy, smooth, and without much in terms of lumps.  It just works so well.

As for turkey, I won’t have much in terms of cooking advice other than this:

COOK IT SOMEWHERE SOUTH OF 325°!!!

Trust me on this.  It takes longer, it requires better planning, but it is so much better.  Period.

TurkeyNow, you won’t have the beautiful, browned, picturesque, Kodak-worthy turkey.  Instead, you will have moist, fall-apart, twice as delicious turkey that makes you forget that you ever had a beautiful turkey because its flavor pales in comparison.

Don’t do something dumb at this point and dump the drippings because that’s gravy:

GravyAlways, always, always dissolve your cornstarch in milk before adding to the drippings, and add slowly while very hot.  Also, if you have a roaster pan like this, making the gravy in the pan is super-easy and dirties one less pan.

Always, always a good decision.

So to the recipes:

Smashing Smashed Potatoes
3-5 lbs Potatoes, cubed (Yellow are best, followed by red)1 Cup Half/Half (milk will work)
1 Stick Butter
1/2 lb Cream Cheese
1 Cup Cheese (Cheddar and Parmesan are always good)
Garlic Salt/Garlic/Chives to taste

1. Boil potatoes in water until easily broken apart with fork.
2. While boiling, melt dairy products together.
3. Drain potatoes and return to pot (or other container for mashing)
4. Whip potatoes and dairy mixture together with hand mixer.

Gravy
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1-2 Tbsp. Milk or Half/Half
Drippings

1. Dissolve cornstarch in milk.
2. Bring drippings to bubbling over high heat.
3. Slowly whisk cornstarch mixture into drippings.
4. Boil for at least 1 minute.

I think my goal may be to honor grandparents with posts over the next few weeks.  I guess that means I’ll have to make a cheesecake.  Darn the luck!

To celebrating our elders, great memories, and learning from those who know.

– Robby

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