Okay, maybe not ALBINO, but I have to say; in over twenty-five years of roasting, barbecuing, and deep frying turkeys, I have never had a Thanksgiving dinner turn out quite as off as this past one.
Last weekend Johnny and I picked up a nice 14.5 pound turkey. Yes, I know. There were only the two of us for dinner this year (by design) and we really didn’t NEED fourteen and a half pounds of turkey, but at thirty-nine cents per pound? Well, because BARGAIN! (And turkey soup, and sammies, and all the nummy leftovers a bird that size would give us…) So we brought the bird home and put him in the fridge to thaw because the timing was about perfect.
On Tuesday I was having a conversation with my friend Mel and we were talking about Thanksgiving dinner. She asked if I was brining the turkey. I told her I’d never brined a turkey in my life. She said it was easy, and told me how to do it. I told her I wasn’t sure I had anything large enough to put a bird of Tom’s caliber in to submerge him and then stuff in the fridge. She said she uses a cooler, and I have a cooler, and so I called home and gave Johnny a list of things to pick up at the store, because, by God! I was going to brine our bird!
That evening, armed with three pounds of Kosher salt, fresh rosemary and sage from the garden, some garlic cloves and water frozen in ziplock bags, I followed Mel’s directions, and double checked them with several online brining recipes and we seemed to be spot on.
Because we are trying to eat healthier this year, and because it was just the two of us, we had planned a very simple menu: turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes. Johnny isn’t big on pie, and I’m really funny about sweets these days because of the calories, and honestly? Pumpkin pie is good, but it isn’t one of those “can’t live without it” staples at our house.
So we fast-forward to Thanksgiving morning. I had read that I needed to rinse the crap out of the turkey…twice. Which I did, but then felt like maybe I should do it again, so I did. I also had some of those Reynolds roasting bags, because I have always had amazing turkeys come out of the oven when I’ve used those. So I had Johnny flour the bag while I was giving ol’ Tom a nice oil massage. Of course, I didn’t salt him, because I figured the brine would take care of that. And I stuffed ol’ Tom chock full of celery and onion and other goodies and was putting him in the bag when Johnny remembered the three huge sweet potatoes that he meant to put into the oven earlier that day to get them started. We were pretty sure that we didn’t have enough room in the oven for both Tom and the taters, but managed to get them on a cookie sheet and popped them both in the oven.
With those roasting bags, you kind of get to pop the turkey in the oven and forget about it for an hour or so until it’s time to make the dressing, so I did what I always do; I watched the rest of the Macy’s parade and started watching the dog show.
So, around one o’clock, I get back into the kitchen and start sautéing my previously chopped celery and onions while chopping up my giblets for the dressing. I can’t help myself, ever, when I have a turkey in the oven and have to peek so that I can pat myself on the back for the beautifully browning bird that I have produced. But not this year…oh, no. Even in the bag, the turkey still looked like this:
I know, right? So I thought, perhaps, that the brining might have altered how the bird browned, so with 30 minutes cooking time left (or so we thought), we took the bird out of the bag and popped him back in the oven. Poor Tom…he never really did brown up beautifully (or at all, really, except for that one 2 inch square)…but that’s ok…because…well, more about that, later.
I got the dressing all ready to go in the oven, and we pulled ol’ Albino Tom out of the oven, poured the drippings off into my nifty dripping fat separator-thingie that I use only once a year, and covered him up while the dressing baked and the sweet potatoes “finished.” (Yeah…right…whatever…Did I mention I have pulled off almost thirty years worth of ridiculously successful Thanksgiving meals? Well, if not? I have! No, really!)
I got the roux ready for the gravy while everything was finishing up and started adding the drippings from the turkey. Yes…I can hear those of you who may have brined their turkeys before…you’re all screaming, “NO! Don’t do it! STOP, Woman, STOP!!!”
Where were you on Thursday?
The gravy had a wonderful smooth consistency, it was a really pretty turkey gravy-color. I sampled a little off of the spoon while it was cooking. Obviously too little, because it seemed fine.
I researched brining. (See paragraph #4, above…) Nowhere did I see that you should never use the drippings from a brined bird for gravy. It should. It should be in HUGE letters on every brining site NOT TO DO THIS…I could have used ocean water in my gravy. And while I tasted a little as I went on, it didn’t seem that bad…So I covered EVERYTHING (that was ready) in that beautiful gravy. Yeah, the sweet potatoes were not ready…Not even close.
Because of the raw appearance of the skin on poor Tom, we actually kept the turkey in the oven thirty extra minutes to get the skin crisp, because that’s my favorite thing, but ewwwww….even the skin was too salty for human consumption, what little brown I got off of it. And the wings? OMG…my favorite part of the bird are the wings. They roasted in that salty dripping water and were almost inedible. Granted, I KNOW that the skin is very fattening, and probably should be avoided (my passion for crisp poultry skin is legendary in this house; I’ll tell you about the time I snuck the entire skin off a baked chicken while nobody was looking another time), so that problem was avoided.
So I scraped as much of the gravy off my dressing and turkey as I could, ate what I could and waited for the sweet potatoes…which came out of the oven shortly after I conked out for my traditional Thanksgiving post-meal nap.
So there you have it…I started cooking my own holiday meals at the age of 19, and I’m…well, I’m still a little bit under 50 now, and it’s taken me THIS long to completely hose a Thanksgiving dinner.
There is kind of an up-side, tho…Johnny and I now have a good laugh every time a turkey commercial comes on and it shows a nice brown turkey, and I look at him and say, “Well, THEY got a brown turkey this year!” and then we giggle, because if we can’t laugh at ourselves? What fun is that?
Until next time…
(Damn you, Target turkeys!!!!)