Today was my 8th Thanksgiving in America. Far out.
Today also marked my 4th or 5th turkey cooking. I synthesized the recipe from various websites as well as my own growing experience. Every year, everyone invariably tells me that the dinner was delicious but today was the first time that I was personally really happy with how the turkey turned out. Here's how I did it...
Step 1 - Brine the bird.
Something I'd heard about but never tried. Apparently, bringing the bird releases more juices and moistens the meat, avoiding the pitfalls of over cooking and enabling a nice, slow roast.
I prepared a solution of salt, brown sugar, ginger, pepper and spices, dissolved and boiled in about 2 gallons of water. It was a challenge to come up with a suitable receptacle in which to marinate the 17lb turkey in all this flavorful goodness. A water jug was too small, a bath tub was too big and our mop bucket was too gross. The eureka moment came when I realized that the vegetable crisper in the fridge was perfect:
1) It holds about 5 gallons of volume (liquid + avian),
2) It is readily refrigerated,
3) It is easy to remove and transport.
Step 2 - Stuff and butter
I fried 2 large onions, 2 apples and assorted spices and herbs until golden and aromatic. I mixed this with butter and breadcrumbs and mashed it into the bird's neck and body cavities, being careful not to over-stuff. Finally, I rubbed the outside of the bird with butter, propped it up on a few half limes and stuck it in the oven at 500degF
Step 3 - Golden tent
After 20 minutes of butter-burning, skin-browning roasting, I took the turkey camping. I wrapped it in foil to stop further browning and dropped the temp to 335F (the recipes I had read mostly said 325 but a few said 350, so I split the difference).
Step 4 - Fixins
With help from many friends, we prepared lashings of roast spuds, butternut squash puree, cranberry sauce, bruschetta, spinach-filo wraps, fresh-baked bread, and my mum's world-championship winning cheese cauliflower. I made gravy from the turkey drippings combined with turkey stock I'd made the day before from the giblets:
best. gravy . ever.
Step 5 - 4 hours later...
After much wine, appetizers and New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it was time to eat. I took off the foil tent to let the skin brown for 20 minutes more and then let bird sit for another 20 mins. Once our mouths were sufficiently drooling, I carved the clear-juiced but still moist turkey.
Quote of the meal: "Turkeys are bigger than chickens..."
Step 6 - Post-prandial paralysis.
Tryptophan coma combined with not one, not two, but three deserts (pumpkin pie, blueberry grunt and tiramisu) left most of us on the couch for the next few hours. 12-year old scotch, capitalist calculations and Wii Sports kept us alive but mostly I was just thankful for my functioning digestive system.
Step 7 - Turkey sandwiches.
I'd say we ate about 35% of the bird tonight. Who likes mayonnaise?
nom nom nom