Canadian Thanksgiving is looming over my family and I am in a panic. I am a turkey impaired cook.
I've made several attempts to cook a turkey and I've never succeeded beyond edible.
My history is not promising.
My first attempt to cook turkey was initiated as a ploy to create a homy meal for my (then) boyfriend and a bunch of friends. We were at university and in my naivete' I thought a turkey supper was just the thing to have us all feel at home.
It would be a breeze.
After all, what did my parents do? They woke up at some ungodly hour, stuffed a turkey and shoved it in the oven for endless hours.....
My boyfriend bought the turkey. We unwrapped it, shoved in the oven and left. For hours... just like Mom.
When we returned there was an eerie turkey skeleton in the oven surrounded by chunks of stringy meat. All the meat had fallen off the carcass in a desperate attempt to escape the heat of the oven. There wasn't even juice for gravy. My room mate saved the day and scavenged some bouillion cubes to make desperately needed chicken/beef gravy. Without grease for our gullet that turkey lodged in our throats.
I'm not one to shy away from a challenge and I realized that I didn't have the knowledge to tackle turkey. My next attempt was with my mother at hand. I was a newlywed in a new apartment and I offered to host Thanksgiving. This didn't seem too ambitious since my mother was with me and she would be guiding my every attempt. We prepped and stuffed the turkey and put it in the oven. Smug was how I felt. Nothing could go wrong.
Soon the smell of turkey was wafting through the apartment. Ahh, bliss.
Soon after that, the smell of burnt turkey was wafting through the apartment. We rushed to the oven and snatched the burnt/raw turkey out of the oven's maw. After some desperate consultation and problem solving we lowered the oven temperature by 100 degrees and shoved the half and half bird back into the oven. We crossed our fingers. That night, we scraped off the edible turkey portions and discarded the carbon at the bottom of the pan.
The oven was calibrated 90 degrees too hot.
For years afterward, I foisted myself on various relatives for my turkey fix and I practiced on chicken.
Until I had children.
Once again I invited family to a Thanksgiving feast. I asked someone to put the turkey in the oven while I was out of the apartment. Could they put a little salt on the turkey? Salt created a lovely crisp skin for chicken and it would be my crowning glory to have a crisp lovely brown skin on my turkey. Brilliant idea I thought.
Handfuls of salt were generously applied to the turkey.
The result was another mummified turkey. There were no OXO cubes to save me and we were in desperate straits... That year we resorted to buttering the meat in order to swallow it.
What followed were years of so-so turkey suppers at my place and really great ones everywhere else.
I'm nothing if not persistent. Stubborn even.
I invited friends over for a Monday Thanksgiving brunch. I would cook the turkey the day before and lay the slices on platters for the buffet. All of my attention was focused on cooking the perfect turkey on Sunday... and I did it! The turkey was perfect. Juicy, tender. It was absolutely lovely. Sunday night my family had a few measley turkey scraps because I saved the prime pieces for my platters.
I was so proud. Every once and a while I would peek under the foil to gaze upon my turkey platter perfection. This felt just great.
Monday morning dawned and I sighed in pleasant anticipation. One last peek at the platter before my guests arrived in 45 minutes. What's this? There were silver speckles all over the turkey. The foil was pitted and had disintegrated over the slices.
I had polished some silver the day before and a bit of polish must have gotten on the wet counter. The foil sheets I had laid out for the platters must have had touched the water.
One. Entire. Turkey. In the garbage.
This Thanksgiving weekend my family is hoping to eat chicken.