Oanh Nguyen is a self-proclaimed “nerd” who, with her partner Dang Vu created and run Rau Om as artisans specializing in rare and forgotten delicacies. The two would be revered as “King and Queen” of the food nerds if given the opportunity. I had the pleasure of joining Oanh in her rented kitchen space on a Monday evening, where we pressed blocks of tofu for a special dish. In honor of Oanh and Dang’s passions for food and science, their story is written with the scientific method in mind.
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Have you ever had a dish so good that the taste, texture, and smell lingers deep in your senses and settles in your mind? Have you had a dish so complex, so unique, that it teased, then nagged at your memory…for three years?
What (most of) Thanksgiving looked like, starting from the cranberry sauce working my way clockwise:
1. Jellied Cranberry Sauce
I bought fresh cranberries to make sauce this year. My family wanted jellied. Tradition won. That’s fine, threw the cranberries around the turkey.
2. The Turkey
Dry-brined for two days, air-dried for one. Roasted per Alton Brown’s methods. I’ve been in charge of the turkey one other time, and it worked great. This time around, not so much. After 3 hours of roasting the thighs were still bleeding pink when pricked. Could’ve been because our oven runs cooler, could’ve been because I left the giblet bag inside…
3. Lemon Verbena and Thyme
Hit up California Avenue Farmer’s Market in Palo Alto the weekend before Thanksgiving to meet the lovely Oanh of Rau Om. While we spoke, I sent my partner to find sage for the turkey. Poor guy, it was near closing and every vendor laughed and shook their heads when he asked. That’s OK, we picked up some great lemon verbena from Happy Boy Farms. First but definitely not the last time I use this herb. Paired with thyme from our friend Donald at Yummy Tummy Farms, I didn’t miss the sage. Turkey was seasoned well down to the bone.
4. Candied Ginger
Like lemon verbena, I was uninitiated. Now I’m in love. I diced the candied ginger and threw it onto the top of the Pumpkin Cheesecake we had for dessert, along with coarsely chopped gingerbread cookies and pecans. Next time I’ll add it into the actual cheesecake batter.
5. Candied Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
Inspired by another Alton Brown recipe, except I added more chipotle pepper and sauce for heat, and then put it under the broiler with mini marshmallows. Would love to make this again for a summer BBQ.
6. Seafood Paella…
Not really paella at all, actually. I always fail at making seafood paella and accidentally always succeed at making seafood risotto, which I hear is harder. So HA.
7. Dried Peas
Another new ingredient for me. I’ve worked with dried black beans, lentils, and chickpeas, but never peas. Picked them up, along with turmeric and paprika at a small Indian grocer, along with a samosa snack [insert heart here] and was in and out in 10 minutes while everyone was packing the local grocery chain like cattle the night before Thanksgiving.
8. Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Splash of Bourbon
Of all the things that were on the table, I was most excited for my mom’s pancit, and dessert. It was good, key ingredients were definitely the gingersnap cookies and candied ginger. I don’t know what it would’ve tasted like without bourbon, so I can’t compare.
Not pictured: my mom’s amazing pancit, the cheddar jalapeno cornbread stuffing I made that would’ve been great had I not partially burnt it, vegetable lumpia, and oldie but goodie green beans.
There’s been very high winds in Northern California these past few days, people are panicking. Their plants are being knocked over, chairs tipped onto their sides… counseling centers will be offering their services to those in need.
Jerk moment over. There have been a few cases where trees have fallen onto homes, but thankfully no serious injuries have been reported. Compact tractors drove around scooping up the leaves. It was a funny chase scene to watch: leaves skittering across the streets in front of a tractor.
The night after Thanksgiving a couple of friends and I were in my backyard. It was dark, and very, very quiet. The trees that line the sidewalk outside my home (the ones pictured above) would drop a leaf on occasion. It was a strange, slightly surreal experience, just sitting there in the dark, no wind, and to hear a single leaf detach and fall to the pavement below, on occasion catching amongst other leaves.
Anyway, I manage to catch a few shots of the gorgeous trees before they’ve become bare. I had more, but my memory card is being funky. These are some of the best, showcasing deep, vibrant shades of red, orange, gold, and even some green. Aren’t they beautiful?
Just a little warning: This post is about how turkeys end up on our tables. I chose not to include any crazy pictures. But the writing may be graphic. It is honest, it is my experience, and I encourage you to read on.
We are used to seeing turkeys in a few different ways:
as fully feathered, breathing, blinking, gobble-gobble sound making creatures:
or (hopefully) roasted to golden perfection and dished up with the usual suspects
And if you’ve been in a supermarket, they’re nicely packaged, sometimes with a nice little picture of a farm stuck onto the form-fitting plastic. I recently, unexpectedly, experienced turkeys in a way that gave me something else to be thankful for.
On a beautiful Friday morning before Thanksgiving I set out to Pampero Longhorn Ranch in Sunol, CA with the intent to interview the farmers there, take some pictures of animals, y’know, what I’m s’posed to do.
Well nothing in my life goes as planned (cliche, I know), and all of a sudden I found myself forearm-deep in the cavity of a freshly-slaughtered turkey scraping its ribs for lung tissue (not so cliche).