Monday, September 20, 2010

Doing the Turkey Trot

Here’s how I prefer to cook:
  • Determine menu in advance; write checklist of dishes in the order they must be prepared.
  • Look up recipes; list any missing ingredients.
  • Shop for missing ingredients.
  • Set up all ingredients, cooking utensils, and recipe sources needed for meal.
  • Cook magnificently, checking off items on list as completed.
 Normally, though, I end up cooking like I did tonight:
  • Significant Other spots frozen turkey breast on sale and buys it.
  • Turkey breast thaws in fridge;  I play Scarlett: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
  • When tomorrow arrives, SO asks, “Can we have the turkey tonight?”  I say, “Sure,” having no idea what to do with it.
  • Mayhem ensues.

Part 1: The Prep

Committed to turkey breast, I immediately panic. My traditional turkey recipe is practically guaranteed to dry out a solitary breast.  Several hours before we usually eat I go to and find a possibility with good reviews, Turkey with Chardonnay and Herbs:

Although the original produces a kind of boned turkey roll, several reviewers cooked breast alone with good results.  Two of them said this required an hour of cooking time rather than the hour and forty-five minutes needed for an entire bird.  I think I have everything the recipe calls for.  However, I see the marinade should sit for an hour before it’s applied to the turkey.  I combine the olive oil and herbs, cutting the quantities in half because I’m only doing a breast.  Then I pull the onion and celery from the vegetable drawer.

Setback 1: I can’t find the carrots.

I grab a yam instead and start chopping, happy that I have about an hour to finish the prep work.

Setback 2: Barry hears me banging in the kitchen, and two hours before we usually eat yells, “How soon can we eat? I’m hungry now.

The real answer, of course, is how the hell do I know?, but I yell back, “The turkey takes about an hour,” turn the oven on to pre-heat, and speed up my chopping.

I spread the vegetables in the bottom of the roaster, set the turkey breast on top of them, and rub the breast with the herb-infused oil.  The oil hasn’t set for an hour, but the herbs have more or less dissolved into it; the turkey looks as if it’s been showered with tobacco expectorant.  I add the chicken stock to the pan.

Setback 3: We drank the chardonnay this weekend.

We have one bottle of chardonnay left, but it’s the expensive one I’ve been saving for a special occasion and I’m not going to waste it on a turkey.  I scan the wine rack, and remembering one reviewer’s suggestion that a sweeter wine worked as well if not better, pull out a bottle of pinot grigio flavored with pear.

Setback 4: While opening the wine, I spill part of it on the tile floor, where it’s immediately absorbed by the grout.

I decide to consider this a libation to the kitchen gods and hope they will keep me from slicing off a thumb during the carving process.  Fortunately I still have the three cups of wine needed for the bird, with about two tablespoons to spare.  I pour the three cups into the pan and chug the rest from the bottle.  On the advice of another reviewer I put aluminum foil over the turkey so I won’t have to baste it and slide it into the oven.  It is now an hour and forty-five minutes before we usually eat.

I go back to the vegetable drawer for salad fixings.  NOW I spot the carrots.  I hastily chop two and add them to the turkey pan.

Part 2: The Roasting

Setback 5: Forty-five minutes later, inflamed by the fumes of roasting turkey floating through the house, Barry is waiting to be fed.

I offer him a snack; he declines.  I point out that the tossed salad is ready and suggest he eat that while the turkey (and the rice on the stovetop) finish up.  He eats the salad and waits impatiently.  At last the timer goes off.  I dish up the rice and set it on the table.  Then I open the oven, remove the foil, insert the meat thermometer into the turkey, and...

Setback 6: The internal temperature is still so low it doesn’t even register on the thermometer.

Although the outer layers of the turkey breast had appeared adequately thawed, the interior must still have been frozen like the Antarctic.  In addition, due no doubt to the foil, the skin is still pallid and tobacco-stained.
I snatch the pan from the oven, carve off several slices, remove the disgusting skin, and microwave them for two minutes.  Meanwhile, I scoop out some of the vegetables – which are nicely cooked – turn up the oven temp, and put the remaining mess back in the oven where it remains for a total of two and a half hours before finally emerging as the brown and juicy thing of beauty it was meant to be.

Part 3: The Denoument
image of wild turkey
Setback 7:  “Where are the cranberries?”

That would be on the supermarket shelf where we left them. 

"The best way to thaw a frozen turkey? Blow in its ear." 
— Johnny Carson

No comments:

Post a Comment