Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roasting a Turkey: Are you game?

Cooking a whole turkey seems like a daunting task to me. I mean, it's like a whole animal! Where does one begin when taking on such a project??? I have somehow managed to avoid having to cook the main bird at Thanksgiving and Christmas for all 28 years of my life by eagerly volunteering to bring other dishes:
"I'll bring the cranberry sauce!"
"Oh, you want greenbean casserole instead of plain ol' green beans this year?--Got you covered!"
"I make a delightful 7-layer salad that's to DIE for."

I guess I assumed the day would never come when I actually had to cook the turkey myself! Well, my sweet, precious husband told me as we were riding down the road one day, "Baby, Mama wants you to cook the turkey this year for Thanksgiving." Excuse me? Come again? She wants me to do what???? "Sure, darling. I've never cooked a turkey before, but it can't be that hard." This is when I really wish I knew some Lamaze breathing techniques. [Ok, Andie. Take some deep breaths. Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out...] It wouldn't be so bad if my mother-in-law weren't a master in the kitchen. I mean, you can just walk in her kitchen an five"L.B."s set up camp on your thighs. Oh, precious Lord, take my hand and guide me...and make it quick and painless while you're at it--oh, and don't let me use any "fowl" language during this whole shenanigan. Amen.

So...I tell my sister my news about being given the honor of cooking the turkey. She laughs as if I'm doomed. I secretly fear she might be right. She tells me Butterball turkeys are on sale at Winn Dixie for .99/lb. You know what this girl decides to do? Buy two of those suckers. I gotta practice before the big day. I only wanted a small bird--I'm thinking like 8-10 lbs--since meat-wise we'll also have two hams, a smoked turkey breast, and chicken and dressing on turkey day. Well, I probably should've taken a buggy to the frozen foods section, because i ended up with two 15 pounders, and 30 pounds of poultry gets a little heavy and slippery when you have to tote them from the back wall of the grocery store all the way to the "20 items or less" checkout lane. I only dropped one of them. Oopsie.

Ain't she purty??

Next, I have to figure out what to do with the frozen fowl. How long does it take to thaw? How will I season it? To brine or not to brine? I wonder if my mama will let me borrow her roaster? I wonder if my mama will cook this bird for me???? May Day! May Day! Meltdown in progress!!! Can't we all just take a swig of Wild Turkey, give thanks and call it a day?

Kirby sent me a Better Homes and Garden link entitled "Foolproof Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes". A. I'm a fool, and B. I need a turkey recipe. Pretty sure she read my mind! So I have to decide: do I want to glaze it? No. Fry it? No. Infuse it? Not ready for that. Smoke it? No. Rub it? Not on a week night. Brine it? Yes. Roast it? Bingo! I think i can do this...I think. Oh shoot. According to BHG, there are still 5 more "mouthwatering" ways to cook a turkey, and "Butter Under Skin" is one of those ways. I mean, how does one choose which route to take?

I decided to take into consideration all of the ideas, thoughts, and practices that my family and friends have used--in addition to what I've researched online to come up with "the perfect turkey"-- if I'm lucky :)

The perfect turkey recipe:
turkey (ya think?)
1 med. apple
1 small-med onion
3 stalks celery
1 stick butter or margarine works fine, too

For brining:
3/4 box Morton sea salt
1 bag ice

The night before I cooked our bird, I cleaned the turkey and brined it the way my daddy does it:
Step 1: Pray (Ok, I added that step but I need all the help I can get.)
Step 2: Open the turkey--preferably over the sink because a lot of "stuff" came out.
Step 3: Pull out the two bags of organs. It tells you this on the Butterball instructions. What it doesn't tell you is that finding both bags is like trying to find the prize egg at the Miller family Easter egg hunt--get ready to dig, baby! The first bag was easy: find the biggest opening and dig! I found the second bag on the other side of the turkey in the part where the skin looks like a turtle-neck.

I found the prize!

Step 4: Rinse and pat dry...and take a swig of wine--you KNOW you've earned it after being elbow deep in a bird carcass.
Step 5: Generously rub the outside and inside with salt.

Salting the bird.

Step 6: Transport turkey into cooler. Don't drop it! It's a slippery booger!!
Step 7: Add ice to cover turkey--and about a gallon of water. Soak overnight.

Thanks to Anna, the turkey got an icy brine!

I followed the instructions on the turkey for cooking temperature and time. I took all the information I gathered from various sources (Daddy, Mother-in-law, internet, friends, enemies, co-workers, friends of friends, friends' pets, anyone who looked like they could cook, etc.) and chose the best of all they said to prepare what I think turned out to be a pretty delicious bird, if I do say so myself :)

To prepare the turkey:
Step 1:
Remove from brine, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.
Step 2: Stuff with one apple, an onion, celery, and about 3T. butter.
Step 3: Rub outside with butter. I found it a little tricky to get the butter to stick, so i wound up just globbing some on all over the turkey and separated the skin from the meat and stuck some inside too.
Step 4: Place the extra-slippery bird into a roaster. I placed it in upside down because, while doing research, I learned the fat from the dark meat runs down into the white meat and keeps it juicy. (It doesn't make for a pretty bird when it's finished, but who really cares? You're gonna hack into it anyway!),
Step 5: Cover it and bake according to the directions on the package for the size of the turkey.

I think it's important to note that the Butterball package said to cook until the internal temp reached 180 degrees--which mine never reached (causing a mild-to-moderate panic attack). However, I was watching FoodNetwork the other day and it said that your turkey is fully cooked when the temp in the leg is 165 degrees.

Perfectly tanned, breast-down turkey.

The three of us and our hungry men gathered for dinner to test out my very first turkey. The results were FAR better than I was expecting. I give it four and a half gold stars. *BLING* It was very juicy and tender. One of the best roasted turkeys I've ever eaten. Of course, I'll let the girls put their two cents in, too, because I may be biased--I did come to love my turkey-lurkey. LURVE.

So, I feel like I've accomplished something. I faced my fears and produced an edible turkey. Thanks to everybody who gave me advice on how to cook a turkey--I succeeded! Now, when I wake up Thanksgiving morning to cook the star bird for the Miller family Thanksgiving, I can focus on being thankful for all the blessings I have instead of fah-reaking out! Can I still have a shot of Wild Turkey?

What the others have to say:
"This turkey was truly one of the best! The dark meat is usually my favorite because it is the tastiest, but honestly the white meat on this particular bird was outstandingly tender and juicy. No joke. I would recommend taking the Food Network internal temperature advice,because I think that's what made this bird nowhere near the dry and tasteless turkey we have all grown accustomed to. yummy!" --Anna

"One great bird! My advice is to try and cook the bird the day of the eat-a-bration. It is worth getting up a little early for; a warm, fresh bird makes this dish! Save the cold bird for leftovers!" --Kirby


  1. I enjoyed reading this...your sense of humor really shines through! I say, have the shot of Wild Turkey, and later on, have one for me and Anna too! ;)

  2. My brother said he was gonna try it your way this year!! He'll substitute Jack Daniels for Wild Turkey though.