Aby-a-Day – 23 November: “Who’s a pretty bird? WHO’S a pretty bird?” (Friday Fashion Flashback)

Facebook, in its infinite algorithmic wisdom, reminded me this morning of Jacoby’s invitation to be Cat of the Year at the famed Westchester Cat Show and the fashion show where Jake first wore his fabulous Turkey costume.

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Hard to believe that it’s been FIVE YEARS since then! So much has happened since then!

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Jake clearly thought he looked amazing in his festive outfit.

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The beautiful cat costume, made by Golden CouturePet, was only meant to be a loaner for the fashion show…

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…But it seemed to be custom-made for Jake. The minute he put it on, it was his. The creator agreed and gave it to Jake as a gift because it suited him so very well.

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Jake being named Cat of the Year was such an incredible honour.

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We will never forget it.

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And we have this sparkly confection of a costume to remember it by. Thank you, Westchester Feline Club!

Aby-a-Day- 22 November: Happy Thanksgiving, or, as we call it in Sweden, “Thursday”

Today is Thanksgiving back in the States, but we actually had our “Thanksgiving” dinner last Thursday.

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The reason for this is more utilitarian than anything else. Since last year, I have wanted to cook a goose. In Sweden, geese are traditionally cooked for St. Martin’s Day, celebrated on 10 November. I didn’t know this last year when I first saw whole geese in the shops last year…I wanted to get one for Christmas, but by the time I was ready to buy one, they were nowhere to be found! Because they are only available in early November.

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This year, I was on full alert for geese, checking all the stores for geese. And I found them at two stores. I snagged a better deal than the above for the one we had for our early Thanksgiving, but Björn (who works at the same mall that the supermarket I took that photo at is in) got a second one we froze for a third of the price. But for the first one, I wanted to cook it fresh, not frozen, and the use-by date was the 15th…so, we decided to have Thanksgiving a week early.

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I have cooked whole chickens, turkeys, pheasants and ducks, but never a goose. I followed my usual Chinese-style, boiling-water-to-tighten-the-skin trick, and I even found a kick-ass Asian-style roast goose recipe.

The thing to keep in mind, here, is that the goose weighed 5kg. Of our five cats, the one who weighs the closest to that is Alfred, who, the last time I weighed them all, came in at 4.7kg. Yep, that’s right…Freddy officially weighs more than Jacoby!

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None of the cats was the least bit intimidated by food that weighed more than they did.

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Freddy even tried to take a bite!

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Lorelai is our smallest cat – smaller even than Izaak! She only weighed 2.4kg the last time I weighed them. She was very impressed with the goose.

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Another trick I use when cooking birds is to start cooking it breast down (upside-down from the way people usually roast a turkey). This way, the juices run DOWN into the breast and keeps it moist. Then for the last hour, the bird is flipped over so the breast can brown. Goose cooks a lot faster than turkey, though, which I was not expecting. I’ll know better next time.

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Zak was very interested in the cooked goose.

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So was Jake.

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Cheeky bugger actually licked it!

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I don’t cook my birds with stuffing per se, but I do stuff the inside cavity with ginger, garlic, scallions, and, for this particular recipe, orange wedges. It adds flavour to the meat from the inside. I also boil them down with the carcass when I make stock, which makes for very tasty soups.

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The meat inside is so much richer and more flavourful than turkey…but overall, it seems there is less edible meat per kilo than a similar-sized turkey. All in all, an interesting exercise. I can’t wait to try it again!

Aby-a-Day – November 30: Dive right in (Minature Monday)

My Thanksgiving pheasant turned out so well…and was so small…that I decided to cook an actual turkey on Thanksgiving Saturday.

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I mean, pheasants are tasty and all, but as it happens…I really missed the leftovers (Note to self re: living in Sweden).

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While I was able to keep the real Jacoby away from the turkey, I wasn’t so fortunate when it came to MiniJake.

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He was all over my turkey! I’m pretty sure he drooled on it, too (ewwwww)!

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He was ready to eat any part of the turkey…

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…even the wings!

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But of course, his most favoured part was…

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…the great white expanse of the breast meat!

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Nom nom nom…

Aby-a-Day – November 27: Glorious Plumage (Friday Fashion Flashback)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since Jacoby and I went to the Westchester Cat Show!

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And the wonderful Thanksgiving turkey outfit that Jake wore at the Fashion Show has become a part of our Thanksgiving tradition.

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The beautiful cat costume, made by Golden CouturePet, seemed to be custom-made for Jake. The minute he put it on, it was his.

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Talk about owning a look!

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Jake is definitely runway material.

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Oh, and don’t think for a second that he doesn’t know it. He’s very self-aware.

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Of course, the very best thing about the Westchester show was the fact that Jake was named Cat of the Year…that’s just such an amazing honour, I still haven’t quite gotten over it.

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Sadly, The Westchester Cat Club lost their usual venue this year and had to hold the show in August this year instead of the usual November. This was their 40th year…I hope the tradition continues!

Aby-a-Day – November 26: The bird is the word

This year for Thanksgiving, I wanted to try something different, so I cooked a Pheasant instead of the usual Turkey.

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Over the years, I have developed a marvelous and awesome technique for cooking birds of various species. It involves several secrets. The first secret is: Pour boiling water over the bird’s skin. It tightens it up and seals the meat. And do it at least a night before you cook the bird. My second secret is: Even if you aren’t planning to eat it, season the skin. The flavour leaks into the meat. These two I learned from a Chinese duck recipe.

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The third secret is to stuff the bird with onions and garlic cloves. This also flavours the meat – it makes a huge difference! The fourth secret is, start the oven at 500°F (260°C) and then put the bird in and immediately lower it to 325°F (163°C) for the actual baking. It sears the skin. And when you put the the bird into the oven, start out with the breast down, not up (natural, as if the bird was alive posture as opposed to the typical “Thanksgiving turkey” position). The juices will drip down into the breast meat while cooking instead of out into the pan. Trust me…yes, it can be a huge pain to flip the damn bird over halfway through, but it’s worth it.

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And the fifth secret is…Bacon!!! While the bird is cooking breast down, trim the fat off some good bacon, marinate it in maple syrup and garlic (plus any spices you’re in the mood for) and let it sit at room temperature (I recommend the microwave, aka the “cat proof food safe”).

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Of course, one person can do this all alone…but it’s always nice to have some help.

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Jacoby is very helpful!

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I think he’s trying to grab a fork for me here…

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Jake carefully examined the pheasant at the halfway point.

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He also supervised me while I applied the bacon.

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Once all the bacon was placed over the breast, the bird went back into the oven.

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Jake was so excited!

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He sat down next to the oven to wait and enjoy the wonderful smells.

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“Is it ready yet??”

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I think he started to get a little impatient.

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Here’s the pheasant about halfway through the breast-up cooking. I’m also baking the neck with it…this is an old and long-standing tradition of mine. When I was a kid, my mom would always cook the turkey neck and that would be my Thanksgiving preview snack. I always look forward to the neck when I cook a bird.

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“I love you, food-to-be.”

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I’m not sure what Jake’s more annoyed at: Tessie photobombing him, or Tessie stealing his bit of the pheasant neck!

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And here is the finished bird! The bacon was absolutely amazing – this was the first time I’d tried this – and the pheasant turned out wonderfully. This method will also work on a turkey or a chicken, and it should work on a duck…but bacon on a duck may be a little too much fat.

I was documenting my Thanksgiving meal for Björn because we couldn’t celebrate together this year…and it occurred to me that you might want to try my methods out with your Abys! Happy holidays!

Aby-a-Day – November 27: Turkey time!

People associate cooking the turkey with Thursday, but in truth the process starts much earlier. I usually start with a frozen turkey on Saturday or Sunday, but this year, because of the World Show, I bought a fresh turkey on Monday to save myself the thawing time.

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The actual turkey preparation starts on Tuesday, if it’s a frozen turkey…but I had a cartoon to do, and no time to work on the turkey – so again, it was a good thing that I got a fresh one this year. I couldn’t start getting it ready until last night.

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Fresh turkeys are also much more interesting than those frozen solid birds anyway. Just ask Angel.

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Of course, Tessie wanted to help, too.

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Angel wasn’t thrilled with that. She wanted to be my only sous chef.

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Since they were so interested in what I was doing, I let them have some of the gizzards – the heart, specifically, since it’s all muscle meat. Tessie thought it was awesome.

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Surprisingly, Angel was less than thrilled with the raw turkey heart…and Angel loves raw meat.

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She looked at me like I’d tried to feed her poison, and then she looked at Tessie like she couldn’t believe Tessie was actually eating it.

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Then she walked away…still not believing Tessie was actually eating that heart meat.

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Apparently, it was so bad, Angel had to wash her paws to get rid of the stench.

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Of course, the big show happens all day today, when the turkey goes in the oven at 11:30am and roasts for five or so hours.

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Jacoby dressed for the occasion in his turkey outfit from the Westchester Cat Show fashion show last year.

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Because you have to dress up when you’re supervising the turkey cooking.

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You have to admire Abyssinians. What other animal would look at a piece of meat that weighs twice what they do and think, “I could totally eat that.”

Aby-a-Day – November 26: Wordless Wednesday (20lb turkey, 10lb Aby)

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