29 November 2011

a traditional turkey day with a bunch of hams - a holiday photo blog

Greeting from a couple of turkeys!  As we polish off the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers in the form of turkey ala king, potato pancakes, the best turkey clubs ever, turkey soup, bread pudding, etc etc etc... I'd like to give all my lovely readers a peek at the wonderfully wonderful Thanksgiving day I got to spend in New Jersey with my super amazing family.  I haven't had the chance to head down to Flemington for the holiday in a couple of years now and the last time I went, I ended up spending most of the day in the hospital because of a freak asthma attack.  Last year I made a giant feast for myself after watching the parade and crafting Sedaris-style stories for my eventual memoirs (maybe I'll title it 'Writing Recipes in Closets'.)  But this year, I returned to my homeland and celebrated with some of my nearest and dearest!

But before we get down to it, I'd like to send a shout out to my blogtographer, guest hostess with the mostess and T-day birthday girl, my lovely cousin, Nicole!

Thanks for the great shots, girl!

After an arduous, seemingly forever long journey from the bustling streets of Manhattan to the quiet and picturesque rural beauty of Flemington, NJ, I was about ready to crash.  Then I got to hanging out with my wacky cousins and it was decided that I, the twenty-eight year old kind of grown-up, would go to Thanksgiving Eve party in New Hope, PA with my twenty-one year old cousin and all her high school friends.  But since we both really like to dance to bad pop music, it kind of worked out perfectly.  So after a bit of food prep and a lot of catching up over lasagna with the Barbellas and Aunt Carolyn, me and my dance partner headed out to shake our grove thangs and burn enough calories to permit us to be complete gluttons the next day.

Thanksgiving day started like any other crisp November day, with Aunt Patty and Aunt Carolyn being early birds, me and Kelsey waking up super late because we were out partying the night before, and everyone else waking up super late because they're lazy bums.  We all put on our Thursday finest and awaited the arrival of all the cousins and aunts and uncles.  Uncle Rich was very eager to start frying up the bird, heavy duty man work -

this is man work!

Meanwhile, all the ladies gathered round the kitchen to indulge in some libations before we started prepping all the rest of the food.  Pear nectar, sparkling cider and bourbon?  Yes, please!

a long ways away from the Cuzzins Cafe

A few rounds later, we began to prep.  Many thanks to my assistant pastry chef, Mia.  Though she may be the youngest of the bunch, her expert whoopie pie icing skills may even surpass my own... then again maybe it was just because she didn't partake in any pre-prep cocktails.

Though ham isn't traditionally on anyone's Thanksgiving menu, we always have a few at our get together.  Like here, Kelsey and Alex hamming it up for the camera... and slicing up some of Lizzie B's famous homemade bread.  How many loaves did we go through this year, Mom?  I'm pretty sure that Alex and Kevin devoured at least one loaf between the two of them.

After all that slicing and icing, Kelsey and I needed another round of dancing.  Break it down now -

After dancing off all of the pre-feast black olives that I indulged in (Patty has to hold off as long as possible before she put them out on the table with the celery because all us kids gobble them up real fast and then complain that we're hungry when supper is still hours away; but I ate a few green olives, too, as I am an equal opportunity olive snacker,) it was time to set the tables.

Table settings were finalized just as the turkey thermometers popped.  Check out these beautiful birds - 

juicy brined
crispy fried

And like the vultures we are, everyone quickly swooped around the carvers and started to pick at the slices and skins and crispy bits.  By the way we dove in and started sneaking bits and bites you'd think we hadn't been fed since last Thanksgiving.  But the title of King Turkey Picker has to go to Anthony for his unabashed indulgence in the entire fried turkey carcass.  Congratulations Anthony!  And then you even went on to top yourself by shoveling approximately twelve servings of stuffing onto your plate - no wonder you couldn't even wake up to say goodbye.

the king

A few finishing touches to the table (no picking Daddy-o!) and we're ready to eat -

my homemade tangerine clove cranberry sauce vs. the kind from the can,
still in the shape of the can - which one do you think got gobbled up first?

yes, our butter is shaped like a turkey.  we love holidays in my family!

the whole gang ready for some gobble gobble time!

Watch me as I fill my plate with every bit of awesome deliciousness I can manage to pile on - fried turkey, brined turkey, mashed potatoes, caramelized sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts with pork belly and pecans, sauteed mushrooms, creamed corn, creamy pearl onions, carrots, sausage stuffing, turnips, cranberry sauce (the real kind, not the canned kind,) bread & butter, and loads of gravy!  And you better believe I went back for seconds -

We don't necessarily have a kids table and a grownup table in my family.  We just set up two huge tables and connect them though, it seems that all the cousins (most of us no longer kids,) congregate at one end while the Aunts and Uncles gather round the dining room half.  But there is one tiny table that the tiniest of tiny are made to sit at.  Yup, I'm referring to Tyler and Mia, the first offspring of my generation, Mike and Emma's adorable kids.  They weren't too pleased with this arrangement and when the announcement was made that my kid sister, Tricia and her fiance, Danny wouldn't arrive until about twenty minutes into supper, they jumped at the chance to grab those two extra seats at the big table.  With drumsticks raised in glory, Tyler and Mia joined the big kids, banishing Tricia and Danny to the itty bitty place settings.  At least we gave them normal sized plates!

VICTORY! or is it victurkey?

that's what you get for being late!
oh yeah, you also missed all the olives.

After a swift clean up and a brisk walk around the block to wake ourselves up, it was time to open the pie holes for a bit of dessert!  All the traditional sweets (including whipped cream and vanilla ice cream for those who like it a la mode) and a couple surprises -

pumpkin pie
apple pie
pecan pie
a twist on tradition -
pumpkin whoopie pies with a maple cream cheese icing
banana bread? really, kelsey?
this has no place with turkey day desserts!

And for our Thanksgiving baby?  A Carvel cake with a picture of a turkey.  Happy 19th birthday, Nicole!

make a wish...

and make it quick! we're all ready for dessert!

All in all, I'd say Thanksgiving was a wild success!  The food was all so delicious that I truly could not stop picking.  I'm pretty sure I ate more last Thursday than I have the entire rest of the month.  But it was so worth it and it was so wonderful to see everyone all together and have a great time and chat and laugh and just have fun!  Thank you Aunt Patty, Anthony, Kelsey, Nicole, Alex, Kevin, Aunt Carolyn,  Uncle Rich, Aunt Kim, Kelly, Aunt Donna, Mike, Emma, Tyler, Mia, Aunt Kathryn, Uncle Eddie Brown, Lizzie B, Daddy-o, & even the latecomers, Tricia and Danny!  I love you all and am so excited to do it all over again come Christmastime!  Until then, I'll be resting up and plotting new tasty treats to fatten you all up with! xoxo

girlfriend in a tryptophan coma

until next year...

Oh yeah, if you're interested in any of the recipes we whipped up just drop me a line.  I'd be happy to share them with all of you.  And please feel free to share your T-day stories and recipes!  I'd love to mix up our traditional holiday with a few twists from my lovely readers.


  1. Jillian, I loved it! Nicole did a great job with the pictures and you did a great job with the story. Love you!

  2. what a fantastic family tribute! it sure was fun!

  3. Looks like you guys had a wonderful Thanksgiving!! Very special family!!!

  4. I'm so jealous I wasn't there!...maybe one of these years ;)

  5. Wonderful story, wonderful food & wonderful family! Kathryn & Eddie