• Thanksgiving.

    Each year nearly every single person in America celebrates this national holiday. Regardless of how it all started what remains is a day of friends and family. This often includes in-laws and friends of friends as well as those choice relatives who you can’t refuse, but can very nearly make a mess of everything.

    I’ve also had many near perfect Thanksgivings, and those you treasure. I like when everyone participates. One person makes the green bean casserole with the crispy onion chips on top. Your Aunt makes the cranberry dressing from scratch (that is way too tart, fyi.) The kids are running around chasing the cat. The grownups are trying to get a round of golf in because the chefs kicked them out of the kitchen.

    Cooking at Thanksgiving has always been a love of mine. Who am I kidding cooking in general has always entertained me,  but I’ve made a point in participating in the ritual of the holiday growing up and have since taken to hosting every year myself (but I’ll get to that later.) One year I wanted to try brine curing the turkey to keep it moist. There are so many schools of thought on how to keep the meat juicy.. barbecue in the rain or with a bottle of water that you spray under the lid periodically or placing a full can of beer on the grill (my personal favorites), brine curing for 24 hours, deep frying (always wanted to try this one), cooking breast down in the pan (which equals juicy breast meat, but the skin sticks to the pan.) Well anyway, I decided to brine cure my 23lb. turkey. The recipe called for 2 new unscented trash bags, a couple of gallons of water, spices, salt, sugar, etc.. I put the turkey in a bag and filled it with all of the above. I then lifted the bag to double up on the bag. Evidently you’re supposed to do that prior to filling because when I lifted the bag with the turkey, the turkey fell right out through the brand new hole in the bottom of the bag and a waterfall of brine cascaded like Niagra Falls over the kitchen counter and on to the floor. I just stood there watching the brine flow for what seemed like forever. It was after midnight when this happened and I wasn’t going to throw in the towel just yet, mop yes, towel no. So I re-did the brine bag the next day.

    My favorite error to date was when I used sweetened condensed milk instead of evaporated milk in the pumpkin pies. Oops. Pumpkin custard pie anyone?

    For many years my friends and I would try to find the perfect pairings of wine with the illustrious turkey. Cabernet Sauvignon had too much fruit, Malbec same story. Cabernet Franc was a nice match, but at the time the selections were poor. Merlot…nope, and then one day we came across Arthur Earl Nebbiolo and we loved it. The fruit was subdued, but the brightness and the tannins were there. It was somewhat earthy with a great balance, and the turkey loved it. Since then Nebbiolo has been my go to wine to pair with turkey. Many years down the road I found a nice sparkling rose Champagne or Cremant d’Alsace rose pairs nicely as well, and who doesn’t like bubbles on the holidays.

    Wine and Thanksgiving go hand in hand except for this year. Why do you ask? Well in part 2 I will discuss that and what Thanksgiving and Puerto Rico and Brazil have in common…

    -Jonathan Hood