It's 2010, my 10th year in America, and the 9th anniversary of the biggest dinner party of the year. Each year, my American friends ask me for the story behind Canadian Thanksgiving. I tell them, "It's just like American Thanksgiving, except in Canada, we just call it 'Thanksgiving.' Kinda like how in China, they don't call it 'Chinese checkers,' it's just 'checkers.'"
And despite my smartassery, each year, the same people keep coming back for Canadian Thanksgiving. Each year, it grows. This year, we had 30 people RSVP. Had it occurred to me that, if we didn't have enough china for 30 people and if I believed that eating off Chinet destroyed the sanctity of a Thanksgiving feast, I shouldn't have invited 30+ people to dinner? Perhaps. But it was just a fleeting thought. After all, I now have a beast of a range, with 6 gas burners, 2 convection ovens, and a separate broiler tray. And if I rented china (elegant ivory, with gold rim) and wine glasses, I wouldn't have to wash it or worry about breaking my own bone china or stemware. Piece. Of. Cake.
Since the number of people in attendance each year has escalated, the comfort level never remains the same. Dinner for 20 would have been a piece of cake. I'm not sure how I noodled it out in my head than 30 would be the same as 20. Maybe it's because I opted to do two smaller birds this year, 18 lbs a piece, instead of one giant one. Certainly, the brawn required to cook a pair of 18 lb birds is much easier to muster up than the brawn required for a single 36 lb bird. A bird that size would be more than a quarter of my size. That's just ridiculous. I know my limits and I can no longer bench press my own body weight any more than I can bicep curl 36 lbs. Either way, I didn't anticipate that I'd be solely responsible for the bird(s) this year because of two simple words. 1) Deep, and 2) Fryer.
The thought of handling something combustible adjacent to our 120 year old wood frame house was so dangerous and manly that Mr. Rose accepted the task with great gusto, driving across all of God's green Denver/Aurora to find peanut oil ("It's out of season. Come back closer to real Thanksgiving," was what he heard time and time again), procuring a second tank of propane to fuel the burner, and using all his ingenious faculties to fashion some kind of insulating layer to protect the deep fryer from the cold, wet wind. I'm sorry to say I have no photographic documentation to share, but suffice it to say that the final setup included a patio umbrella, a roll of aluminum foil, and some moving boxes -- it looked akin to something I would have made as an 8 year old and called my make-believe spaceship. It rocked.
And it did the trick. I'd made a dry rub out of orange zest, chopped sage, salt and pepper, and spread it between the flesh and the skin of the birds and let it sit in the fridge over night. The next day, when the peanut oil was up to 375 degrees F, Mr. Rose put the birds into the basket, one at a time, and lowered it into the oil. About an hour later, the perfectly roasted birds were on the butcher block, cooling a bit, rejuicing themselves, and waiting to be carved.
Chinese Sticky Rice
2 cups sweet rice (also called glutinous rice -- you get it at the Asian grocers)
4 cups chicken stock
6-8 lap cheong sausages (pork sausages cured with soy sauce and booze -- while you're at the Asian grocer, pick some of these up as well)
1-1/2 bunches of scallions
1-1/2 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
Boil 2 cups of water. In a medium bowl, soak the mushrooms in the boiling water and cover the bowl with a dish to keep the heat in. While the mushrooms are soaking, quarter sausages lengthwise, then chop to 1/4" dice. Chop the scallions into 1/4" lengths. In a wok, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Stir in sweet rice till well-coated and hot, about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, stir, and drop the lid on the wok. Bring the stock to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes with lid on the wok. While that is simmering, dice the mushrooms, which should be tender by now. Add mushrooms, sausage, and scallions to the rice, stirring gently to mix well. Add soy and oyster sauce, stirring to incorporate sauces into all of the rice. Return lid and let simmer till the rice is tender.
This sticky rice was something my Shanghainese mom uses as stuffing/dressing inside the turkey at Canadian Thanksgiving. It is delicious out of the turkey as well, and the following morning, I like to fry little patties of them, and serve them with an egg over easy. Best breakfast this side of Shanghai.