Monday, November 30, 2009

my first turkey: part two.

Not the drool-inducing photograph I was going for, but regardless of the somewhat mediocre outcome, I must document my first Thanksgiving turkey.

After getting lost in the completely over-saturated internet recipe world, I was really feeling the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen anxiety. There are so many opinions about how to best prep your bird (wet brines, dry rubs, aromatics, injectors) and how to cook it (roasting in a bag or out, grilling, deep frying), I was ready to throw the dang bird out with the brine.

What's a first-time turkey cooker to do?

I sifted through recipes, articles, and blogs and finally decided to try the suggestion to Judy bird my Willie bird. I had planned on using a brine, but never got around to cleaning out my bucket. Besides, who can really fit a bucket into their fridge when it is already bursting with feast fixings, pie prep, and perfectly paired craft beers?

Unfortunately, as a result of my second-guessing I started a day too late. On Tuesday, I hastily made a fragrant rub of kosher salt (3 1/2 tablespoons for my 17 1/2 pound bird), lemon zest, and fresh thyme. The turkey was then coated, bagged, and shoved back in the fridge. Since I didn't have the recommended 72 hours for the rub, I cut out the drying time and just took the turkey out of the bag on Thursday morning, drying it as much as possible I could with paper towels. After a second rub of brown sugar and more thyme, I crossed my fingers and shoved it in the oven. 400 for 30 minutes, then down to 325.

I don't know if the rub affected the cooking time, but it cooked far faster than anticipated. The temperature read at 180 after 2 hours. Overdone. But not tragic. With major help from the ladies (and thanks to the man for keeping my wine glass full), the turkey was tucked into a foil tent while the sides were finished and "dinner" was on the table at 1.

The turkey wasn't half bad. The skin was crisp and flavorful even though the meat was touch dry, and a dollop of homemade cranberry-orange sauce covers many mistakes. I won't digress too far into my dietary restrictions, but a huge perk of holiday hosting is that I am able to indulge my inner control freak and prepare dishes that I can eat. For the first time in who knows how long, I had a colorful, well-balanced Thanksgiving dinner; feasting on turkey, cranberries, brown rice and raisin couscous, a yummy salad topped with my birthday pomegranates, and apple crisp for dessert.

I know, all that really matters was the time with family. Everyone was happily well-fed, no one died, there were leftovers for days, and the plumbing in our building didn't cause our loft to be covered in hot pink sludge until much later that evening.

And I did not have a nervous breakdown.

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