gobble, gobble, gone: perfectly roasted turkey

November 20th, 2011

Turkey Wish Bone

 gobble, gobble, gone: perfectly roasted turkey

There are several occupational hazards to being a chef. One hazard is the repetitive slumping over counters and stovetops which sometimes sends me to the chiropractor, as it did again this week. Looking at my crooked frame, he asked me what I did to get myself in this mess. “I am a chef,” I replied. “That is funny,” he said, “I was just going to say that it smells like Thanksgiving in here.” Just then I got a whiff of my own hair which smelled like . . .  well, roasted turkey. Occupational hazard number two: smelling like the food you are cooking.

The turkey smell made me think of the first time I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey. I was in college, wanting to demonstrate my culinary and domestic enthusiasm for my boyfriend and his parents.  I am paraphrasing, but I believe it was Thomas Edison who said that that he had not failed but he “found 10,000 ways that [wouldn’t] work.”  That Thanksgiving produced many turkey discoveries.

My first discovery was that purchasing a 22 pound turkey for 6 people is just too much turkey.  My second discovery was that it takes a long time for a 22 pound turkey to thaw. I could not get it brined in time for the planned meal, nor could I defrost it fast enough. This massive, flightless poultry-iceburg was too large for my tiny apartment kitchen sink and I was forced to defrost it under cold, running water in the bathtub (of course I left it in plastic wrapping but the whole thing, image and all, was just wrong). However, this turkey’s Calgon moment was not the last of the trouble this bird would cause me for when it was time to pull it from the oven, the heavy bird tipped in the roasting pan, the pan fell forward, the turkey landed on the open oven door and turkey sucs, the grease, and the roasting liquid gushed all over the oven, the oven door, and the kitchen floor. Major mishap for me but manna from Heaven for my Yorkshire terrier who jumped in the lake of turkey juice lapping it up, and then ran throughout the apartment tracking her greasy paws on the 80’s white (white!) carpet, and bouncing on the furniture to allude capture. 

It was a culinary and housekeeping disaster: apartment a greasy mess; gravy nonexistent; dog vomiting from the rich turkey sucs; and overcooked, mushy or dry side dishes (as my attention was focused on salvaging the turkey and cleaning up the mess). I laugh about it now and I also know that I am not alone. Everyone has a turkey gone bad story. Overcooked. Undercooked. Turkey frozen in the middle. Turkey on fire. After over twenty years of practice, culinary school, and teaching others, I have discovered many ways that do not work and things that do. Making sure your Thanksgiving turkey turns out just right was the inspiration for this week’s simple pleasure: perfectly roasted turkey.

Read the rest of this entry »