There was one year that we decided to wake up early and go to the Black Friday sales. Should "Black Friday" be capitalized? Probably. Is it a national holiday now? Well, now that it's ON Thanksgiving I guess it's a de facto national holiday.
Anyways, at the time I didn't really know how Black Friday worked. I knew people went shopping and they were excited about it, but other than that. Although, this was probably like 10 or 12 years ago, maybe more, how old am I, and I think back then we weren't trampling each other to death for animatronic gerbils yet, so maybe it wasn't the big deal it is now. And we used to have Thanksgiving at our house every year, because my birthday is the week before and my sister and Dad's birthday is the week of Thanksgiving, so it was one big celebration. But mostly it was my birthday. And everyone would come over and we would have Thanksgiving dinner and ice cream cake and we would blow out the candles and then light them again for each child in our family so they each got to blow out the candles even if it wasn't their birthday. When you are a kid this is great for some reason, and you can't wait for it to be your turn to blow out the candles, but when you are an adult it seems to take forever. We also always had like three of four verses to "Happy Birthday." I guess we just liked to make birthdays last.
So, one year my aunt planned on going to Best Buy for the Black Friday sale, and her daughter (my cousin) was staying at our house because my cousins usually stayed over after Thankgsiving, such a good story I'm telling, and we decided we'd wake up and go as well, as an adventure. I don't know why waking up at 3am to stand in a cold, dark parking lot sounds like an adventure, but whatever. Kids those days.
We got there and after five minutes we were bored, so we walked over to White Castle to get hot cocoas, didn't want to stunt our growth with coffee, and when we got back to the line, which stretched all the way to the back of the parking lot, which sort of surprised me, I guess I didn't really expect that anyone else was crazy enough to do this let alone a line of people all the way to the back of the parking lot, and this was just one Best Buy, but when we got back an argument had broken out because somebody had cut in line. I don't even remember if it was true, because you are kind of at the back of the line and you don't know what is going on at the front of the line, you just kind of wait for the news to travel back to you and then when the person in front of you angrily explains that some ass cut in line you start to get mad too because damnit you have been waiting here, in the cold, for however many hours, and how dare someone cut in line, and you are really mad now that you think about it because you have only had 3 hours of sleep and WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS BEST BUY SALESPERSON?!? IT'S NOT FAIR!
So finally it is time to go in and everyone starts to get all excited but also nervous because there are so many people in front of you and what if they all want the shower radio that was advertised in the paper and Best Buy is all out of them by the time you get there? So anyways, 5am hits, or whatever comparatively normal time they used to open the doors in those days, and honestly, the best way to describe it is have you ever seen the holiday family film Jingle All the Way? It's very very good, just a quality film, probably a classic now and surely it won all the awards that year particularly for Sinbad. What ever happened to Sinbad? Probably just resting for a bit. We saw him at Disney World one time when I was little. But that's an introduction to another recipe.
So, in the film Jingle All the Way, which is about how Arnold Schwarzanegger is a bad father, which is what all the movies from the 90s were about, I want to play baseball, I have to take this important business call on my fancy new cell phone that was just invented, you never want to play baseball, two hours later the Dad realizes what he's been missing, hug, the end, anyways, this is the same movie, but in this movie the way Governor Terminator is going to prove to his son that he loves him is by buying him this superhero robot thing, but it turns out this superhero robot thing is the Tickle Me Elmo of 1994 in this movie's world, so of course he can't get it because they've been sold out forever and there is only a day before Christmas, so he goes on all of these wacky hijinx but also Sinbad wants the same robot thing for his kid and he's a mailman and they do a lot of things that would be very illegal in the real world, I think there is a bomb threat or something, I don't really remember, I saw this movie a long time ago, I just remember that I'm pretty sure that things all work out in the end and Christmas is saved.
But at one point in the movie a toy store gets like five of these robot superman things and something something people have ping pong balls and they rush into the store and they start fighting each other and it's pandemonium and there are ping pong balls everywhere.
That is surely not the easiest way to explain how it was at Best Buy at all, but I remember thinking, after we got in the door, that it was exactly like that movie, without the ping pong balls. The second the doors opened people ran like crazy, flooding every aisle of the store in seconds and grabbing everything in their path. They could not even have been looking at what they were picking up - if it was a bin full of boxes or a pyramid of stuff in an aisle they just threw it into their carts. I had two things on my list - a few CDs, which were like imagine you had to buy this shiny disk and stick it into your iPod to play music, you had to drive to a store to get music, and a CD player, which was like the iPod that needed the disks, or I guess now you put the iPod in the stereo, so imagine you have the disks you put in the iPod and then you put the iPod in the stereo but there is no, oh nevermind, it was complicated system for listening to music we were burdened with in those days, and I planned on getting the CD player and then looking around at CDs. Hahahaha. Luckily the CD player was off in a corner somewhere so people didn't really notice it and my little cousin was able to shimmy down through the legs of the crowd, pop up and grab a CD player, and then shimmy her way back. Perusing the CDs was out of the question - you either shoveled things into your cart while constantly moving or got trampled.
And then, about 10 or 15 minutes after the doors had opened, the store was perfectly still - everyone was at the registers, waiting to check out. And we waited, and waited, and waited. We swapped stories, I managed to get back into the aisles and check out a few CDs, we kept waiting. At one point, adrenaline still coursing through their veins, a fistfight broke out over a television or something. My aunt reached over everyone, grabbed my cousin by the scruff of her puffy coat and lifted her over the carts to keep her close. The police came and broke it up. This is the point when a movie would start playing, "It's the most wonderful time of the year..." because look how ironic.
We finally checked out, I got my CD player and CDs, and then we moved on to the mall, which was a breeze in comparison. All shopping since then has been a breeze in comparison, so I guess in that way I am thankful for Black Friday (that's what I'm going to say I'm thankful for at the Thanksgiving table this year no I'm not we don't do that). And that CD player was pretty great. It played some good tunes, probably. And, although I haven't woken early for Black Friday shopping since, I'm still kind of proud to say I did it, at least once. I survived Black Friday. It WAS an adventure.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, speaking of rock and ROLL, one thing you may want to make on Thanksgiving is some rolls, because that is a classic dish and people will be mad if you don't. You might want to try new things, but people will be like, where are the rolls, where is the turkey, of course, and stuffing, and cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie, and really by the time you make all that there is no time for anything else so you might as well make the classics, like these rolls.
I'm not going to go into the history behind these rolls. I'm taking Survey of the History of Food right now and that's enough history for me and if you really want to learn about it there is all kinds of stuff on the internet. The main thing is, they are very soft, they were invented at the Omni Parker Hotel here in Boston and they are ridiculously delicious. There you go. This recipe is a bit different in that you don't preheat the oven. I stick these rolls into the cold oven and turn the heat on and they kind of get a final proof, which makes them so light and fluffy. It works for me every time. I also add the butter at the end, after they come out. I know some recipes have you pour melted butter over the tops before you bake them, but I think they rise better if you hold off.
Oh gosh these are good. The best rolls? The best rolls. Here you go!
parker house rolls
adapted from gourmet magazine
+ 3 tablespoons warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)
+ 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
+ 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
+ 1 stick unsalted butter
+ 1 cup skim milk
+ 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
+ 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Stir together the 3 tablespoons warm water, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast in a small bowl. Let stand for about 10-15 minutes, or until foamy. (If the mixture does not foam, your yeast is dead. So sad. But you can just start over with new yeast).
Melt 6 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in a small saucepan. Add the cup of skim milk and heat until just warmed.
In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups of the all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspons of kosher salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture and butter/milk mixture to the well and stir until combined. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour to the bowl and stir until just combined into a shaggy ball.
Butter a large bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it is somewhat smooth and elastic yet still sticky. Form the dough into a ball and place it into the bowl, turning once to coat with butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a very warm place, for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Butter a 10-inch round baking pan.
Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces and roll into balls. Arrange the dough balls evenly in the pan, with space around each, and let rise in a warm place for 45-60 additional minutes, or until doubled in size again.
When ready, place the pan in the oven and turn the heat to 375 degrees. Notice you are not preheating the oven. Bake for about 25-35 minutes, or until the tops are a light golden color. When they are ready, remove from the oven and immediately rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over the tops of the rolls, letting the butter melt over them. Let cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.
makes 20 rolls