Just Do It: My Turkey Anxiety

I admit it, I have Turkey Anxiety. I’ve never actually cooked a complete Thanksgiving meal, and in fact I very, very, very rarely cook at all. David handles most of the day to day stuff, although I have a few things that I make for the two of us. We never entertain, because the house is almost never company-ready. There’s too much stuff to put away and no place to put it, and yadda yadda.

But every now and then, I get the wild urge to make a turkey dinner around the holidays, with the side items that are my favorites that I haven’t had in more than a decade and a half.

Just Do It | Tackle the Turkey – The Moment Blog – NYTimes.com

Why all the turkey anxiety? One friend has never cooked a whole bird, and is still haunted by memories of her aunt’s dry turkey. Another says his oven was inconsistent, not to mention that it takes too long to cook. The third wants to focus on the sides, and the turkey takes up too much oven space.

By addressing each of their concerns, I was able to convince them that roasting a turkey is easy enough: Rinse bird, pat dry, massage with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and plop in the oven.

That sounds fairly simple, and I did have good success with the roasting pan and rack we bought a while back (we made roast chicken in it once). The gravy-making method sounds simple enough:

4. Prepare the gravy. Strain the juices through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids. Skim off the fat. It should measure 2 cups. (Add water as needed.) Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook over medium-low heat until brown and nutty smelling, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the strained juices, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced to the desired consistency (preferably until it lightly coats the back of a spoon). If it gets too thick, loosen with water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

Okay. Then that leaves the stuff that I hanker for that doesn’t seem to appear at my husband’s family Thanksgiving gatherings: green bean casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, and light, fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes. And then there’s the desserts, some of which I’ve made before and others I haven’t: Baba au Rhum, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and Stollen.

But the thought of actually “making a turkey?” Very fraught. We’ll see how I’m doing for time closer to the Christmas holidays.

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2 thoughts on “Just Do It: My Turkey Anxiety

  1. I don’t eat gravy, but my mother’s long-time trick for making good, smooth gravy is to take some of the juices and liquid, put ’em in a jar with the flour, and shake it up. With the lid on, of course. Then she pours it back in the pan through the strainer again, squishing it through. My great-grandmother taught her this, and while I can’t vouch for the gravy personally since I think gravy is yucky, everyone who eats it seems to be all NOM NOM NOM about it. So. 😉

  2. Two pieces of turkey advice:

    1. It is much faster and easier to roast a whole turkey breast, which still gives you all the turkey goodness.

    2. If you are oven roasting a turkey, take a clean white man’s cotton undershirt (any cotton cloth will do, but here’s usually an undershirt around that is ready for the rag bin). Soak shirt with melted bacon fat. Drape over turkey. The turkey will stay moist, and the shirt just pulls right off after roasting.

    As a bonus, the shirt can be squeezed or brushed around in some water to get out the fat and juices as a basis for (ta-daaah!) gravy.

    And a special bonus piece of advice:

    3. Dressing/stuffing does not have to actually be stuffed in the turkey. In fact, that’s less healthy (since that’s the part of the turkey that cooks the slowest). Make it up and put it in a casserole dish. Put the turkey wings (which nobody eats) over the top, to lend some juices to it while cooking. Cook in oven. Yummy dressing without having to spoon it out of the inside of the bird.

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