Friday, November 27, 2009

Me and The Turkey

I had never been more conscious of my bladder as I was on Tuesday at the corner of 77th and Broadway. Heck, I didn’t even realize that I had to pee until I walked out of the Fairway Market at 74th and Broadway while cradling a 17 pound turkey pressed against my midsection. How do these women who carry around babies and toddlers all day do it? I went about 5 blocks before I started saying silent prayers to miss the green light to cross each street (complete polar opposite behavior of my typical self) just so I could rest the double-bagged bird at my feet for a merciful moment before hoisting it up again and heaving breathlessly as I pressed onward. I really should start working out.

In addition to scolding myself for being so out of shape, and being in awe of mothers who tow their kids around the city (also in awe of mothers who push these huge babies out in the first place), I wondered if there was anywhere along my remaining 10-block journey that I could pop in for a quick restroom pit stop. Am I really comfortable with the idea of leaving a 17 pound turkey with the baristas at Starbucks just because I couldn’t make it 10 measly blocks? Am I really that weak? No, no, I can do this. One block at a time. Big exhale.

I finally made it all the way home to 89th and took care of business. After some rearranging in the fridge, I slid the big guy inside and collapsed on the couch for a good 45 minutes.

On Wednesday I called my mom to ask her opinion on brining. Brining is essentially soaking your bird in a saltwater bath for moisture and flavor. I brined my bird last year but I wasn’t sure if it made a difference. How do you know when to brine or not to brine? She said if you have a really fresh bird you don’t need to brine. My stepfather Ernie’s solution was much simpler: always brine. So brine I did. Also per his advice, I followed the recipe in The Joy of Cooking, which, for overnight brining, called for 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water. I stuck my bird in a bucket with the brining water, and tucked him goodnight in the fridge.

On Thursday morning, The Turkey (I never did decide on a name for him this year) was ready to take his place on the giant roasting pan throne. I left a stick of butter out at room temperature covered it in white wine. I took out the neck and stuffed him with onion, carrots, celery, sage and thyme. I was just getting ready to give him the butter-wine spa pack treatment, when I realized I needed to tuck the wings under. I pushed, I pulled, I tried forcing unspeakable positions upon The Turkey. I could not, for the life of me, get the wings under. Do I really call my mom again? No, no, you can figure this out. Try it again. Push. Pull. Unspeakable. Dammit. Where’s my phone? Oh hi Ernie, you can help me with this. Are there any tricks to tucking the wings under? Try tying them? Ah yes, of course! Thanks gotta go!

I’ll try to describe the scene: me, wrestling with a large (approximately 1/7 my size) bird carcass trying to get him breast-side down so I can force his little turkey arms backwards to tie behind his back. I always feel a bit insensitive when I stuff a bird body cavity with vegetables, but yanking that string as hard as I could around those little bird elbows was utterly guilt-inducing. The real problem here is that at this point, I’ve had a couple of days to bond with The Turkey. I had to keep reminding myself that a.) It’s just a turkey, not my pet, and he’s already dead, and b.) I’m planning on doing much, much worse by cooking and eating his flesh.

After that unpleasantness, I rolled him back over and began the all-over butter massage, under the skin and over the skin. With the oven preheated to 425, I tied the legs (much easier than the elbows) and let him get brown for about 20 minutes before basting him and turning down the heat to 325. I spent the next several hours basting, tenting the breasts with foil, basting, taking his temperature, basting, temperature, basting, temperature, basting, and so on.

The breasts are done at 160 degrees. The thighs are done at 170 degrees. When it was all over, and the time came to eat The Turkey, after all that we’d been through together; the end result was amazing. The turkey was delicious. I don’t know if it was all the basting, the butter massage, the brining, or the bonding we did as I held him close on the way home from the market, but everyone loved The Turkey.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good God, what a gorgeous Turkey!
Love, Mom