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November 18, 2001
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Roasting Turkey Day

10:14 pm: It didn't last.

Today was drizzly rainy and snowed in tiny ice pricks of white that slowly covered the reluctant earth. So I cooked a lot today.

I started with a huge pot of oatmeal while I was cleaning up and preparing the turkey for roasting. The huge pot of oatmeal was a good six cups of water and three cups of oats, and I stirred it and covered it and it was done in about five minutes after it started bubbling. So it was pretty fast, still, especially compared to the steel cut oats. John had an enormous bowlful with lots of mixed nuts, along with his grapefruit. I had a rather smaller bowlful with a bit of brown sugar and raisins. Just normal raisins.

I have dried apricots, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, currents, white raisins, prunes, apples, and a medley that has stuff like peaches, pears, and other fruits of summer and fall. Thing is, though, that I wanted just raisins. I think it was the five dollar bowl of oatmeal with milk, brown sugar, and raisins that made a very deep impression upon my fragile mind while I was extremely sleep deprived at the convention. So I wanted just oatmeal with milk, brown sugar, and raisins and know that I probably paid about thirty cents for the whole thing, if that much.

It was a very satisfying breakfast.

John and Jet went out to brave the sunny morning while I wrestled with the turkey. They got the paper and Jet spread it out in all directions while I levered the turkey butt out of the front cavity (which seems a very wrong thing to do to a turkey, in an odd way), got the neck out as well. The back cavity had all the giblets and I gently got them out of there as well. They all went into a bowl for giblet gravy stock later, along with the tips of both wings. I've never cooked a turkey with edible wing tips, they always get to dried out and terrible, so I thought they'd be much more useful in a stock.

The turkey was then washed and dried, salted, peppered, and then massaged with canola oil and then popped into a roaring hot 425 degree oven, upside-down. Yeah. I had the breast down for the first half of the cooking. I found that it worked really well with chicken, and kept the breast really moist and actually shielded it from cooking too fast compared to the thighs and wings. So I just cooked it upside-down instead of basting it. Twenty minutes at 425 and I moved the temperature down to 350.

An hour later, I turned it around, just to keep it evenly exposed to the heat of the oven. An hour after that I put it right side up and let it go another hour. I stuck a thermometer in and it beeped. Oops. It was actually done. I didn't like the color of it, though, and wanted to be sure it was cooked all the way through, so I put it back for another half hour, and then took it out to let it rest.

In the meantime, we did Jet's laundry, our laundry, five week's worth of Jet pictures, and took care of a rather sad, upset and uncomfortable Jet. He had a mild fever, and felt pretty hot to me. He as also pretty fussy and kept coming to me or to John to be picked up, so we ended up holding him for most of the day because he was just so uncomfortable.

I think it was either his tooth coming through or yet another cold. I'm really hoping for the first. But he was a very sad little guy. He was so worn out that at 2 pm, while we were eating lunch, he fell asleep in his high chair. We put him gently into our bed with some covers, but he only stayed asleep for twenty minutes before something woke him up again.

I also managed to make the giblet stock, by browning all the set aside turkey pieces, adding onions and celery and bay leaves and peppercorns and then a bunch of water. The browning made a huge difference, and gave the stock a really nice scent and color, that, when it came time to make the gravy, really helped the color, texture and taste of the gravy.

I often think gravy was some cook's way of cleaning the roasting pan. With all the scraping and stirring, the roasting pan comes out shiny clean and it's just really nice. I always think it's going to bite me in the ass when I forget and put all the drippings in the pan along with the turkey fat because when I've stirred the flour in it doesn't cook the way it cooks when it's cooking in only fat. It gets doughy and I am so sure that that is going to give me gummy lumps; but it never does, and I don't quite know why. I mean the conventional wisdom of gravy making is that when one cooks the flour in fat, it coats all the proteins and stuff in fat, so they don't stick together. When there's water in the mix and a lot of stirring, gluten can gum up the works. So I should be getting terrifically lumpy gravy. Instead it seems to just work anyway, and I have no idea why.

The gravy turned out tasting really great, and it took long enough for me to roast a quarter yam on a cookie sheet, and it came out caramelized and delicious just plain. I was really happy with that. I love sweet potatoes, but I have always found it a pain to glaze 'em, and to just not have to was just really neat.

Pepperidge Farms corn bread stuffing and nuked French cut string beans finished off the little feast, and we ate while Jet was held in my arms, resting against my throat. He just lay against me, talking a little bit and complaining a little about how he felt, but just in quiet murmurs, and he seemed very content to just rest against me. He didn't grab at my food or anything, which is why I really thought he was sick. Poor kid.

John took him, afterwards, so I could finish my meal, and the two of them fell asleep in the rocking chair for a while. I cleaned up. I put all the other 19 pounds of turkey meat away, half in the fridge for noshing on for the next week, half in the freezer wrapped in plastic and foil and in a zip bag. All the skin and scraps and bones went out into the trash along with the carcass. I had the stock from the giblets for soup tomorrow if I want to make that, and a whole lot of chicken broth in cans and boxes if I wanted to do anything after that was gone.

I can now see why Flit has so much work to do just to make a bunch of turkey meat for the coming week. This is a lot of work and cleanup... but it was pretty comforting in some ways as the world outside turns white. The back porch is now covered. It'll all go away before Kathy gets here, I'm sure, but for the moment, it's nice to be home.

Eventually John and I traded, and I rocked Jet in my arms while he washed a bunch of the dishes. Jet woke up during the transfer, but he was still so zonked that he was very content to just sit in my lap, covered with a blanket, a towel as a head rest, a single toy, Genevieve's monkey, close at hand and the tin of caramel corn to bang on whenever he really did want to extend a hand to do that. Mostly he just sat there, drowsing, watching the TV and Sunday night football when he could open his eyes, otherwise he just rested against me, sometimes holding onto my hand, sometimes playing with the tin, and sometimes his tiny hands were just resting.

He went to bed pretty easily when it was time. We had to clean out his nose, which was stuffed, badly, and when that was done, he settled to nurse steadily while I watched portions of "Romancing The Bird" again. It's going to show again on Wednesday, and I may well watch it just to contemplate more interesting side dishes for Thursday.

After Jet got to sleep, it was peach pie, journal, and now I get to lay me down... Tomorrow's going to be a busy day.

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Copyright 2001 Liralen Li. All Rights Reserved.