Thanksgiving Dinner 2019

I haven’t roasted a turkey in a few years, so I decided to do so for Thanksgiving this year. The past couple years, I’ve gone out for Thanksgiving dinner or bought smoked turkey breast from a BBQ joint in town. Since a lot of people seem to appreciate my food posts, I’m gonna share my menu with you here. And maybe some photos.

The Plan

Hummingbird cocktail, fancy presentation

Here’s what I’ve got planned for the menu for today. It’s an extremely small gathering, which is good because my dining room table only fits two.

  • hummingbird cocktails – St. Germain, champagne, and club soda
  • Mary’s free-range turkey, roasted the traditional way (though I did imagine sous-viding it at one point)
  • Brussels sprouts with pepitas – I’m planning to do something that blends this recipe with this recipe
  • rosemary turkey gravy – improvisational creation in the Instant Pot with turkey drippings, broth, fresh rosemary, Lebanese garlic paste, and pepper
  • corn bread muffins – this is Brooke’s contribution, a family tradition of hers
  • cranberry sauce – more on that in a second
  • cherry pie from Project Angel Heart’s “Pie in the Sky” project
  • special secret small dessert treat for people who don’t like cherry pie (in other words, Brooke)

About My Cranberry Sauce

OK, so let’s talk about cranberry sauce a bit. I often make a cranberry relish dish from fresh cranberries, ginger, apple, and sugar. It’s served uncooked and cool, and is tart and refreshing. I wrote up the recipe here a few years ago. Last year I made a huge batch of that to take to dinner at my cousin Megan’s house. But I had a lot of fresh cranberries left over that I didn’t use, so I froze them.

This year, about a week before Thanksgiving, I pulled those frozen cranberries out and thawed them. But I wasn’t convinced that they would make good relish since the freezing process made them a bit soft. So I decided to make cranberry sauce for the first time ever. And since I now have an Instant Pot, I just had to use that.

A couple days ago, I put those thawed cranberries into the Instant Pot, along with a little water, some sliced fresh ginger, an apple cut into segments, some cinnamon powder, a cinnamon stick, and some sugar. I pressure-cooked the whole thing for 3 minutes, and then let it sit for a while after that. Once the pressure was released enough to take off the lid, I fished out the non-cranberry chunks – the ginger, apple, and cinnamon stick. Then I stirred it all together, as it cooled.

The goop in the IP after pressure cooking
My first cranberry sauce, I think

I was surprised at how thick and gelatinous the sauce became once I started stirring. That’s normal, of course, but I’ve never made jam or preserves or anything like that, so it was new to me. Then it went into a container to cool and rest in the fridge until turkey day.

Cooking Photos

That brings us up to Thanksgiving day. I ended up spending several hours in the kitchen, even though the menu was pretty simple.

Here I am with my spoon and apron, invoking the spirit of Hup
Turkey roasting away

Both the turkey and the gravy took longer than I planned. I think I ran into problems with uneven temperature in my oven. And I could not get the flavor of the gravy just right.

Brussels sprouts cooking away in the Instant Pot in slow cooker mode
The finished bird, ready to be carved
Brooke and her plate of food
Here’s how my plate came out

I think my favorite parts of the whole meal were the cranberry sauce and the turkey. Now, lots of leftovers! I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

my first bun bo hue

Today in Denver it snowed a few inches and the high temperature was 28. So it’s perfect weather for some hot beef stew. For the first time in my life, I made Bun Bo Hue (or at least my imitation). If you don’t know, it’s a Vietnamese dish from Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. (Note: I’m spelling this the Anglicized way, because for some reason my blog site converts some Vietnamese characters to question marks. Here’s how it’s really spelled, in Vietnamese.)

I don’t have much experience making Vietnamese food, and I couldn’t get many of the ingredients in time to make a more authentic version, but I had a secret weapon that made all the difference.

Here is the secret ingredient. At this summer’s Dragon Boat Festival there was a little stand selling Vietnamese spice pastes, and so I bought this one. Combining that with a beef roast, bone broth, beef bouillon, and sliced white onion in the Instant Pot under pressure for a couple hours did the trick.

For garnishes, I had lime slices, cilantro, sliced red bell pepper, sambal oelek, green onions, and snow peas. I couldn’t find any bean sprouts since most supermarkets do not carry them any more due to contamination problems (E. coli, I think), and I didn’t have time to go to the Asian supermarket. So I thought snow peas would be close enough – crunchy and green. It worked.

It tasted even better than it looked.

I would definitely buy the spice paste again, if I ever see it. They were test marketing it in the US to see if enough people would buy it to make it worthwhile to put into supermarkets. And I have no idea how that went. But I sure enjoyed it, and have a bunch of delicious leftovers.

The end.

mile high composting and voting

Since this past spring, I’ve been working to arrange composting at my condominium complex. And this week it starts to pay off.

Denver Compost Collective is an organization that collects food waste from apartment dwellers and takes it to their large scale composting facility. Then they give the resulting “black gold” to a local urban farm/food charity. The city has been encouraging composting the past few years, but if you don’t have a big garden, it’s tough to do. So this group fills that gap.

Here is me with my new bucket. I’ll fill it up throughout the week with food scraps (no meat or dairy) and then put it in my building’s parking garage for DCC to pick up Monday morning. They weigh each bucket, dump it into a bigger container on their truck, rinse the bucket out, and put it back in the garage.

In other news, I voted today. The ballot and issues were so easy this time I decided to do it while enjoying some quasi-legal recreational drugs. It’s great to live in Denver.

Saturday, maybe Casa Bonita. Seriously.

electric scooters are the Segways of 2019

A friend and former employee of mine bought one of the early Segway Personal Transporters back in 2002. Remember those? I got to ride it one time and thought it was fun. He used it to commute several miles daily, at least in the summer. The inventor, Dean Kamen, said they were going to change the world, and he started to do some urban design prototyping of the wider sidewalks that he thought all major cities would need to support the massive amount of Segway traffic, once they replace cars.

But they didn’t. The product was expensive. People laughed at the idea of riding around in the city standing upright on an electric wheeled contraption. Sales were nowhere near what Segway hoped, and they eventually sold the company to the Chinese. People kept driving.

Fast forward almost 20 years. Now, there’s someone on an electric scooter on every block in Denver, usually several of them. What one generation thought was stupid the next generation thinks is a great way to get around. Of course, the price has come down by a factor of 20, and you can now rent one with your smartphone for a dollar rather than plunking down several grand to buy your own. Maybe that’s the differentiator.

muffin tin omelets

When I have time, some weekends I make muffin tin omelets, also sometimes called no-crust quiche. It makes it easy for me to have a high protein, low carb breakfast throughout the week. In the past, I’ve used a fairly shallow muffin tin. But that makes muffin tin omelets that aren’t quite enough to satisfy me, while eating two of them is too much food for breakfast. So I decided I needed a larger size muffin tin. Last time I visited my parents, I learned Mom had a spare! So I took it home with me.

Like my old one, the new tin holds 6 muffins, but each one is much deeper. Today, I finally had time to make some muffin tin omelets again. If you’ve never made these, you should try it sometime. You can find a ton of recipes online, so I’m not going to give you all the details, but here is the general idea.

I usually grease the muffin tin with coconut oil, since I don’t ever have shortening (or lard). Supposedly it’s better for you than vegetable oil or butter.

Today, the things I put in were:

  • some leftover BBQ brisket, chopped
  • one red bell pepper, chopped and sauteed in the fat from the brisket
  • one roma tomato I got from the farmer’s market two weeks ago and realized I better use before it’s too late
  • cheddar/jack cheese blend
  • 9 eggs – so each omelet is 1.5 eggs
  • some milk – don’t ask me how much, I don’t measure stuff, that’s not how I cook
  • salt, black pepper, umami pepper

What, you don’t know about umami pepper? I found this thing on a “if we can’t sell it, we’re just going to throw it out” rack at Safeway a couple years ago and it was the most wonderful discovery.

Then I baked it until it looked good to me. That turned out to be 30 minutes at 350 degrees. And here is the result:

muffin tin omelets

They sure look good, but I already ate lunch, so I’ll save these for later.

I had a bit of trouble getting them out of the muffin tin, maybe I need to coat the pan with something greasier next time. Or cook them inside of muffin cups.

Big Swifty, fusion, and the full circle

From 1988 to 1992, nearing the end of his life, Frank Zappa released a series of CDs made from live recordings of his bands from the 70s and 80s. He had compiled a huge library of recordings, and scoured them for the best, most significant performances of much of his catalog of rock and jazz music.

One of these recordings was an instrumental track called “Big Swifty”. The studio version of this took up the entire front side of the “Waka/Jawaka” album from 1972, and featured Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Soul Music Hall of Fame member George Duke on keyboards. But I was drawn to the live recording of the piece that was released on “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 1“.

Sometime in the late 1990s, I was obsessed with that recording of that piece of music, in particular the middle improv section. You see, every time they played this track, the band improvised for several minutes in the middle. So no two recordings of it sound the same. The music in that section sounded unlike anything I was familiar with at the time, so I took the CD to work and played that track for a coworker of mine who was a bass guitarist and teacher with a serious background in jazz. “Where can I find other music that sounds like this?” I asked him. He listened to the recording once, maybe twice, and gave his answer, which was something like this:

“Yeah, that’s early- to mid-1970s fusion. Go listen to Weather Report and Herbie Hancock from that period.” So I did. At the time, I had never heard either except for Hancock’s weird track from the 80s called “Rockit” that they played on MTV. I started buying up Weather Report and Herbie Hancock albums, and grew a library of and appreciation for a whole new genre of music I’d never heard.

A few years later, I sold my turntable and gave away all my records, as part of what I call “the great downsizing of 2011”. But then I bought another better turntable (American made) in 2016, and rebuilt a small record collection. One of the first vinyl albums I bought? Herbie Hancock!

You still with me? Here’s where the story gets even better.

Now it turns out that in addition to making audio recordings of a ton of his live shows throughout the 70s and 80s, Zappa also filmed some of them. One film project was a set of shows his band did at the Roxy Theatre in 1973. The Roxy had just opened in the fall of 1973 and was the hot thing in West Hollywood. Tons of cool bands were playing there, and Zappa was booked to play on December 8, 9, and 10. The film crew filmed all of them on 16mm color film and made audio recordings (of course).

Unfortunately, there were some technical problems with the film reels they shot, preventing them from being synchronized to the audio correctly. And so the video was written off as a loss.

The audio recordings slowly made their way public over the course of the next 41 years. In 1974, Zappa released some of the recordings from the Roxy shows on the album “Roxy & Elsewhere“. But these recordings had overdubs of some parts. In 1988, some more recordings of those shows were released on “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 1” as I mentioned before. Those probably also had some edits and overdubs. In 2014, the album “Roxy by Proxy” was released that had original recordings of some of the other tracks from those performances, without any overdubs.

And then, in 2015, something wonderful happened. The technology of audio and video editing had advanced enough that they were able to go back to those 1973 film reels and repair them so they could be synchronized correctly with the audio recordings, which led to “Roxy – The Movie” being released. It’s a Blu-ray video from those shows, accompanied by a CD of the audio of those same recordings (without overdubs).

As of yesterday, I knew almost none of this. But then I found the video on Amazon Prime Video. So I decided to spend my Saturday night watching this 46 year old live performance, which I was pleased to discover included “Big Swifty”.

Can you guess what else I learned? The performance that’s in “Roxy – The Movie” is the exact same one that I heard 20 years ago on the live compilation CD from 1988. Now I can see all these amazing things I’ve only been able to hear for the past 20 years…

  • Ruth Underwood’s mind-blowing mallet work
  • the incredibly tightness of one of Zappa’s greatest bands at the height of their abilities
  • George Duke and the rest of the band finding the groove instantly and staying in it for the duration
  • Frank’s wildly unpredictable guitar solo that somehow just works

Thanks for bearing with my long gushing blog article.

If you want to hear the recording of this specific performance I’ve been talking about, it’s here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAe3_O3vZzQ

And if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch the movie right here: https://www.amazon.com/Frank-Zappa-Live-at-Roxy/dp/B07JMX2Q7Q

 

 

Alien double header

The local art cinema is playing “Alien” as the midnight movie this Friday and Saturday night. That gave me the idea of how to spend my Independence Day evening. I’m now watching a double header – “Alien” (Ridley Scott) and “Aliens” (James Cameron).

I’d forgotten how many big name actors there were in the first one – Sir Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton – along with Sigourney Weaver.

Well, it looks like I chose well since I think the Denver fireworks display is likely to be canceled. We are under a severe thunderstorm warning with lots of wind and rain, and had a tornado watch a little bit ago. It’s a good night to stay inside and watch movies.

visit me more securely now

I just finished upgrading all my websites so they use HTTPS, and automatically redirect people to the https:// URL. So now when you come visit Todd Bradley’s Galaxy, your browsing experience will be more secure. Here are my sites that have been securified:

Speaking of security, are you using Firefox (or Tor) yet? You should. Here’s why:

https://www.expressvpn.com/blog/best-browsers-for-privacy

firefox

MacBook Pro battery recall

Earlier this week I learned about a recall of MacBook Pro computers from 2015. So I went here to read more:

https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall

And I learned that my personal laptop is part of the recall! I wonder if they were going to proactively contact me, since Apple know that computer belongs to me and where to find me. Regardless, I contacted them and am now taking it in to the Apple Store next Tuesday for warranty service to have the battery replaced.

It is supposed to take 1 to 2 weeks, but I guess that’s better than having the battery explode while I’m using it.