in what may be the coldest thanksgiving in boston on record, my father called me in the morning to give me a ride even though i originally planned on taking the bicycle to their house. he came a bit after 10am. the streets were mostly empty of cars; pedestrian traffic seemed to be higher, with people out for a stroll, walking pets, or jogging. we stopped at the cafe to take all the thanksgiving food to belmont, including the turkey still brining in solution. my father poured out the liquids before we loaded the bucket into the car.
around 1:40pm i drove to the cafe after we couldn't finding the turkey roasting pan anywhere in the house. i went to the cafe to continue the search, but also to bring back some additional ingredients (scallions, frying oil, spring roll sauce) as well as my 2nd aunt who was at the cafe making a thanksgiving dish. i searched everywhere but couldn't find it.
back in belmont with my 2nd aunt (like last thanksgiving, my 2nd uncle opted not to come, but instead my aunt will bring him some leftovers), we ended up using a heavy-duty aluminum foil roasting pan which sat on a large baking sheet (in case the foil leaked, but also easier to remove from the oven once finished roasting). we ended up putting the turkey in the oven at 2:50pm. given that this was a convection oven and the 20.5 lbs. turkey was unstuffed, it would taking approximately 2-1/2 to 3 hours to roast. i set the timer at 2-1/2 hours. schedule-wise, guests will be arriving around 5pm, the turkey hopefully roasted by 5:30pm, then eating said turkey by 6pm.
this year i decided not to baste the turkey, instead leaving it in the oven. basting doesn't improve the flavor but gives the turkey a better color. basting can also be dangerous (i've been burned before) and opening and closing the oven door so many times can lengthen the roasting time. instead, i applied some cooking oil all over the turkey before it went into the oven.
once the turkey was roasting in the oven it was time to prepare all the other dishes. while my father kneaded and rolled out the flat bread, my mother and aunt were making the side dishes. my sister came around 4pm with hailey, with her own little dishes. even though we only told her to make 1-2 things, she ended up making more than that.
we'd already put out a lot of side dishes on the dining table but realized that once guests started arriving, they'd begin eating. so instead we left just the appetizers, and hid the other dishes in the sunroom, which by that point was starting to become a large refrigerator. this way guests would only have access to the appetizers, and then afterwards we'd introduce the other dishes.
since my sister was still busy preparing the food, my father left close to 5pm to pick up my sister's godmother and our two guests from the cafe. this year we invited li and his wife who just arrived in boston on tuesday (her first time in the US). she's here for a month doing astrophysics research as well. li will return to china for good at the end of january. what we didn't know (but i guessed) was they already had a thanksgiving meal at the arlington home of one of li's professors. they had it american style, in slices served with gravy. his professor also weren't in the food business like my parents, so i'd like to think the better thanksgiving was with us.
my aunt and uncle arrived around 5pm as well, bringing with them grilled jumbo shrimps, which we served as one of the appetizers, besides roasted hazelnuts, crab dip with rice crackers, salmon on table wafers, cheese plate, and of course the traditional fried spring rolls. there were also drinks, including the sangria my sister made. as for beers, we had two kind this year: harpoon dunkin' donuts porter and samuel adams cherry wheat. i tried both, and both tasted awful: the porter was like dark beer mixed with bitter coffee, while the cherry wheat tasted like like beer but with a synthetic cough-syrupy flavored cherry.
li of course knew most of us (except for my aunt and uncle), but we were all strangers to his wife. i was glad to see she wasn't afraid to try some of the different foods, including the cheese and sangria (maybe because she's spent some years in europe).
we took the turkey out of the oven at 5:30pm, after exactly 2-12/2 hours of roasting. the imbedded turkey thermometer even popped open, which normally doesn't happen. it wasn't particularly golden brown, which made me think i should've basted it after all. i'll baste again next year, even if it does mean a longer roast time.
separately out the appetizers from the main course is definitely the way to go. it allows people to slowly ease their way into the eating, and gives people time to sit down and chat. it also extends the overall thanksgiving meal, as normally people arrive and begin eating and leave soon afterwards, but this is a more relaxed way to spend thanksgiving, everyone has time to sit down and eat a bit, before the 2nd course begins.
my father started carving the turkey at 6pm, while we cleared the table and moved back all the dishes we hid in the sunroom, as well as some additional dishes. people laughed at me for my oversized turkey roll ups, so large in fact that i couldn't roll it up and had to eat it mexican taco style.
after we finished with the turkey, the table was lightly cleared in preparation for dessert. my father brought out his plum wine for people to sample. 2 months of fermenting in the basement, it looked and smelled like it'd be delicious. but when we tried it, there was hardly any sugar left, all fermented into alcohol instead.
dessert included: sweet warm red bean soup with taro-filled glutinous rice balls; my traditional thanksgiving flan; and a bunch of pastries my sister created, including chestnut whipped cream and sponge cakes. my aunt must've read that i was thinking about making some coconut flan because she asked if this was it, but that was just an idea i was toying with. some hot was also served. during that time my 2nd aunt and my sister's godmother helped my mother wash the stacks of dishes.
during dessert my sister forced everyone to play some stupid game where you had to create a figurine using randomly selected lego pieces. i thought it was gimmicky, would've preferred a more traditional thanksgiving where everyone just sat around and chatted instead of debating the merit of some lego statue. i of course didn't participate, just sat and waited for it to end.
my father gave everyone a ride back to the cafe, while my aunt and uncle volunteered to take my 2nd aunt back home to north cambridge. it was only after li left did we realize they brought some fruit for us (a cantaloupe and a pomelo) along with a can of loose tea his wife brought from china. had we known we would've tried some of that tea during dessert. i ended up getting a ride from my sister who left at 9:30pm.