Monday, November 16, 2009
Let's Talk Turkey
I need advice. I'm hosting Thanksgiving in a week and I've got about twelve guests coming, two of whom are my parents and it'll be their first Thanksgiving dinner. Believe it or not I'm actually very excited at the prospect, I love Thanksgiving, it's one of my favourite American holidays. Any holiday based entirely around a large meal is alright by me. The problem is Thanksgiving doesn't love me back. Or more specifically, turkeys.
I've hosted Thanksgiving before, and I've cooked turkeys before. I had a dynamite Alton Brown turkey recipe from Bon Appetit magazine that has produced a very tasty turkey twice. I've now lost the recipe and can't seem to find it on the old interweb. I wasn't too phased, after all I've done it before, how hard could it be?
I decided to hedge my bets and cook a practice turkey. It went badly. I cooked another. Even worse. LK has admitted he 'doesn't know if he has another practice turkey in him', so the next turkey I cook will be on Thanksgiving. I'm hoping for third time's the charm, but luck favours the prepared, so here's what I did wrong, and if you have any advice I'm all ears. Specifically, where do you stick the thermometer and at what temperature do you pull the bird out?
Liberally spread with herbed butter both under the skin and above the breast. Blasted with heat for the first 20 minutes, then cooked upside down until the thigh thermometer read 175º.
Problems: The turkey turned out both rubbery/tough yet moist. WTF? As LK said "wow, you sure cooked the hell out of that turkey". Oh, and we also had the minor problem of me cooking the bird with the giblets still inside. In my defence I had taken out the neck thing, done a thorough cavity search (not that thorough it turns out) and concluded like a moron that this particular bird was giblet free. I discovered it wasn't when LK took a scalpel to the bird and produced a plastic bag full of entrails. Yum! I have a feeling that cooked plastic aside, this may have been a good cooking method except that it was a stringy old bird and that's why it was both tough and moist? Am I kidding myself?
After further googling I decided to stick the thermometer in the breast this time and not flip the bird. I even (oh and how stupid was this in hindsight) invited my in-laws over for some practice turkey. I confidently lubed the bird, removed all plastic (genius! this was going to be good!) roasted for 20 minutes, lowered the temperature then removed from the oven when the breast temp said 161º. Of course, this bird's thighs proved to be as red and raw as a North Yorkshire schoolchild forced to do a cross country run in sideways sleet. Now I love my in-laws, and that is why they are still alive. I do not deal well with frustration. *understatement* I was PISSED OFF and my air hostess smile was cracking under the pressure. Of course everyone was lovely, terrified but lovely. Oh my roast potatoes were simply marvelous! The carrots, a revelation! Such a shame we can't stay until the turkey claws its way back to room temperature. So sad to hear about Lucy having salmonella! Must dash!
OK, they weren't that cruel, they manfully ate their way through all the side dishes and then waited a further hour til the turkey re-emerged from the oven. They are family after all, and being family means you have to suffer through your daughter in laws 'cooking'.
Please don't let me kill my guests. In this horrid economy I need all the friends I can get. All I'm asking is for a recipe for the perfect turkey. How hard can it be?