November 25, 2009

Homegrown Turkey Day

With all my talk about beef, I almost forgot that Turkey Day is nearly here! I'm hosting dinner for the first time ever this year and I'm incredibly excited about the opportunity to cook and entertain with the best seasonal meat and produce I can get my hands on in NYC.

I was initially stumped when it came to what sort of bird to cook. I knew I didn't want anything along the lines of a Butterball - I've read way too much about how they're raised and processed for that to be appealing (don't read Peter Singer's The Way We Eat if you don't want to know!) I found several farms on Long Island that raise heritage birds in small batches, but with all the other preparations on my T-day list, spending a whole day to go out to the farm didn't seem worth the trek. Plenty of online retailers were willing to overnight me a frozen organic bird for upwards of $100, but that seemed counter productive (raise the bird organically just to fly it across the country?) and way out of my budget anyhow.

Before I resigned myself to Whole Foods' or Trader Joe's best option, I posed the question to The Kitchn, one of my favorite food blogs. Multiple commenters suggested DiPaolo Turkey Farm, which sells turkey products year round at many of the city's farmers' markets. I was surprised I'd never noticed them before, but then again I've never been in the market for turkey! I was delighted to discover their birds have the whole package: free range, certified organic and locally produced on a family farm in New Jersey. But the best part of all - they're just $3 a pound and conveniently delivered to Union Square!! I picked mine up around 8 am this morning with enough time left to hop back on the train and drop it off before work.

I also purchased the optional end-of-season Thanksgiving share my CSA with Hearty Roots was offering, which provided me with more cabbage, turnips and celery root than I know what to do with (or have room for considering I also have a 13.5 lb. turkey to store!) But sadly, most of the Thanksgiving staples I was looking forward to - namely potatoes and onions - were nearly gone by the time Shaun and I got to the pick up point! Note to self that good veggies and avoiding a supplemental trip to the farmers' market are worth getting up early for next time around.

Checking out the Tompkins Square farmers' market on Sunday morning (a great option on Sundays considering Union Square is closed) to pick up the rest of my veggie lot did however give me a chance to pick up these lovely kabocha squashes for my first-ever pie:

Kabocha squash pie, you say?? Now before anyone goes Pumpkin Nazi on me, hear me out. I really didn't want to use canned pumpkin - nothing much against it, I was just really excited about all the fresh winter squashes I'd seen at the markets. But I've never cooked pumpkin before, and when one of these kabochas showed up in my CSA share over the summer, I found it surprisingly sweet and got really excited to cook with it again. It's really similar to pumpkin, plus my sister-in-law is making pumpkin cheesecake, so I thought the squash would be good for variety.

Speaking of canned goods, though, I'd never thought about how much processed food makes onto the average T-day table until I started planning one myself. Canned cranberry sauce, most white bread and rolls, and canned pie filling all contain high fructose corn syrup. Don't even get me started on canned cream of mushroom soup for green bean casserole! Now I'm not saying that I'm going completely Suzy-Homemaker-make-everything-from-scratch crazy, (I'm using frozen pie crusts!) but I did manage to find managed to find HFCS-free white bread (NOT an easy feat!) for my mom's stuffing recipe. It's not a fluffy as Wonder Bread, but I'm making it stale on purpose so how much could that matter?

Of course that's not to say I was able talk Shaun out of buying this HFCS-laden beast:

None of my arguments against it can really compete with nostalgia, so we're just going to have to have a cranberry sauce off: Ocean Spray versus my stove top version. Though for some reason, I don't feel like the odds are in my favor!

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