Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mixed Plate: You Can Be My Wingman on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is all about remembrance, family -- tradition. Which is exactly why we take this time honored holiday and take it completely off the rails with four gallons of peanut oil, thirty pounds of chicken wings, a whole ham, a turducken, multiple side dishes, and even a forgotten pumpkin cheesecake. The holiday of our Pilgrim forefathers may have come and gone, but leftover hot wings remains a constant.

Who needs a turkey when you've got a small child's weight in chicken wings? - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Refugee Thanksgiving is all about being nontraditional, since it's populated with all the people who Just Said No to facing family dysfunction and chaos, at least for a few more weeks until Christmas comes along. This was also an opportunity to carry out one of my hair-brained ideas, which was to have a Thanksgiving dinner of mostly chicken wings. Why? Because this is America, dammit, and we're all about enthusiasm and poorly conceived notions. Why thirty-freaking pounds of chicken wings? Because we were looking at a guest list of possibly a dozen, and I didn't realize good folks would bring a whole ham and turducken, along with the promised side dishes, and we basically wound up with an F-ton of food. Not that it's such a terrible thing, as Thanksgiving is a holiday that's all about food excess and chugging the Pepto after that third slice of pie.

It started out with traditional intentions... - Photos by Wasabi Prime
When hosting any big holiday meal, it's like disaster preparedness for the Zombie Apocalypse. Assume something will go wrong, so be prepared. For as much night-before Thanksgiving prepping people fret over, I say... the hell with all that. I made orange-cranberry sauce, pumpkin cheesecake, a sweet potato gratin and a cornbread stuffing days before Zero Dark Thirty Turkeyday. The goal should be to cook as little as possible the day-of, since you assume your oven will be occupied with a large bird, but in our case, our oven cooked some dishes earlier in the day and then became a big food warmer for all the batches of wings and side dishes waiting to be served. I knew the frying of many pounds of chicken wings would be an epic time consumer, as the Mister can fully attest to, as he was Frymaster Flash in the backyard with all the other dudes until the sun went down. And I was stuck in the kitchen draining the 10 freezer bags full of buttermilk-soaked chicken wings, then tossing them around in a paper bag full of seasoned flour in small batches. My arms got a chicken wing workout that day/evening, to be sure. I can see why people fry a single turkey for Thanksgiving because it's one large beast in a boiling pot of oil, not dozens of small batches of smaller bird parts. I won't say "never again" to a chicken wing feast, just not thirty pounds' worth.

There is no Dana, only Zuul. And Chicken Wings. - Photos by Wasabi Prime
It's a day meant for appreciation and I was thankful for a lot of things. I was thankful for friends who brought tasty side dishes, as well as alternative main courses, since the wings were coming out in small batches. And I was definitely thankful for Brock, as he was out there like a boss, frying up chicken parts until he could fry no more. It basically became Dudes In the Backyard and Girls in the Kitchen, which I think most parties wind up this way. Fellas with beer, circling a fire, or in this case, a vat of bubbling peanut oil; ladies in the kitchen, drinking wine and gossiping. All was right with the world.

Frymaster Flash, Mister Brock - Photos by Wasabi Prime
The chicken wings were properly dressed, as any holiday bird should be. There were plain wings, with the basic salt and pepper from the seasoned flour, and there were also buffalo wings and a sweet-chili Asian glaze. Buffalo wings are easy enough -- the handy dandy giant bottle of Frank's Hot Sauce simmered low with melted butter makes for an easy wing-saucing. The Asian chili glaze was a couple of cups of the sweet chili sauce you use on eggrolls, usually at the Asian grocery store in the Thai section of sauces. That, plus extra honey and melted butter equaled sweet-chili Asian chicken wings. Easy-peasy. And you don't need pounds of chicken to enjoy it.

Keep Calm and Have a Ham - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I think there should be a mandate, regardless of what you're making for a big holiday meal where it's buffet style and people may be coming and going at different times: Have a Ham. Thank heavens friends brought the divine swine. It's a meat that's as good warm as it is room temperature. No little bones to pick through and easy to slice. And it just tastes like the holidays. We only sawed through maybe a quarter of it, but it made for happy leftovers. And yes, you heard right, there was a turducken. Other friends generously brought this mystical chimera meat loaf of a duck, stuffed in a chicken, stuffed in a turkey. Typically it's one of those catalog order specialty items, and a lot of places express mail it pre-cooked for obvious health concerns. But Whole Foods was selling this beast-feast fresh and we had this whole pot of peanut oil saying, "Turducken, you complete me." The layers of meat are delicious together, that's without question. But frying a turducken proved tricky. It's like an event horizon made of meat. So dense, so compounded by the laws of science and duck fat, the outside gets crispety-crunchety, but the inside is like a tender core of r-a-w. Because food poisoning was not on the menu that night, we had to finish the turducken in the oven, wrapped in foil. Not a failed food experiment by any means, appetites were appeased and no one went to the hospital. Thanksgiving Win!

Thanksgiving is all about eating and NOT STOPPING. - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Sides, glorious sides. I think that's what I love best about Thanksgiving. We had a friend's famous stuffing made with wonderful Grand Central bread. Brussels sprouts were a champ, as we had two combinations with bacon, giving this once-despised vegetable more delicious street cred. Various snacks, cured meats and pickles were scattered around the tables, for those moments where you insist you can't have another bite... but maybe just one olive... and another slice of prosciutto...

Making the holidays merry with booze and inappropriate movies - Photos by Wasabi Prime
To make sure we didn't get too stuck on tradition, people gathered around the 21st Century fireplace, aka the television, and Brock put on a double feature of the holiday classics: Team America and Supertroopers. Because we are classy lads and lasses. Disturbing live-action raunchy puppets and the best cop farce since Police Academy -- this is how we roll. Although to be honest, I was hanging out in the kitchen getting my drank on with one of the many bottles of wine we had, and finally having a plate of food. I tend to eat last, because I can't bring myself to take a bite of anything until all the guests have been served and stuffed stupid with food. It's the only thing Martha Stewart would have approved of from this bacchanalian tradition abomination. It was too big of a gathering to all sit at the table, and I tend to prefer casual/lazy parties where people can sit where they like and there's multiple huddles of conversation all over the house.

No Dessert Left Behind (forgotten momentarily, perhaps) - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Another unheeded tradition was completely unintentional -- I didn't bring out the pumpkin cheesecake. Fail! Not that there wasn't dessert, as friends brought a wonderful eggnog bundt cake, which was the best way to have eggnog, like, ever. I'm not a big eggnog drinker, it's overwhelming, but flavoring a cake is brilliant. Eggnog is already a couple of cups' worth of flour away from being cake batter, so why not? Despite roasting pumpkins, making a gingersnap crust and blending the filling with a mixture of cream cheese and chevre, I don't think the meal suffered from one less landmass of calories, and the group was more of a meat-protein type of crowd. Not to say the cheesecake went to waste. There's something to be said for having such a lovely dessert as part of the Leftover Brigade.

Another Thanksgiving bites the dust... now, onwards and upwards, Christmas and New Years! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
We're still letting the dust settle from this Thanksgiving. While the poundage of chicken parts seem ridiculous, you'd be surprised how much a group can consume, plus plenty of leftovers to be taken home by guests. By this weekend, our own lion's share of leftovers will likely be gone, and I'll be back to cooking less epic meals. The light from the inside of our fridge will no longer be blotted out with food, things will return to normal and I'm sure I'll come up with another ridiculous idea for the next celebratory meal, because that's what the holidays are for.


  1. The wings look great, even if they turned out not so practical. We had an untraditional T-day as well, celebrating in Canada, where the T in T-day just stood for, um, Thursday. Nice pomegranate apron, btw. :)

  2. Ah, I am a fan of Supertroopers, too. Love the opening scene where they hide the stash.

  3. I know some serious Italians that eat an Italian pasta meal in addition to a complete turkey dinner, and I know a few vegetarians who make non traditional tofu entrees to go with the usuals sides, but holiday hot wings? --30 lbs! Forget the triptiphan, the prep for those wings would be enough to knock you out.
    Happy post T-Day!


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