Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cook vs Turkey.....

Mr. Butterball before

......and the cook won? Yes.

There are many ways to cook a turkey. Do you start with a fresh or frozen bird? Some people swear by submerging them in vats of hot oil and frying them while other people skewer them before placing them on the grill. Still others opt for the oven roasted method but that begs the question of to brine or not brine. Do you season and baste the bird by squeezing herbs and oils between the skin and meat or cook it au natural. And what about the dressing; is it cooked inside of the bird or out? Everyone has their own idea of what is correct. A couple of years ago a friend introduced me to the idea of cooking the bird in its frozen state. She swore that it  came out juicier this way and saved you the hassle of trying to figure out how to safely defrost it first. I was intrigued but skeptical and each time I went to cook a turkey I contemplated this method then (turkied out) and fell back on the method that I was most comfortable with--roasting an unbrined yet heavily seasoned bird in the oven with its cavity filled with sliced apples and citrus. After all, what would happen if it didn't cook properly and I had a table full of guests expecting turkey.

But then I found myself in Belgium with a single small refrigerator. My only options for a turkey were the frozen ones from the grocery store and with my small refrigerator I simply didn't have a place where I could safely thaw the bird. So I took the plunge, crossed my fingers and stuck my fully frozen bird in the oven six hours before my guests were set to arrive. And I waited (while eliciting reassuring emails from my friend). And I waited because my bird was slightly larger than the bird described in the "recipe" I was following.

But sure enough, shortly before my full fledged panic began to kick in the bird started to thaw and turn brown. By the time I had to wrestle the still partially frozen neck and organs out of the cavity it was actually beginning to smell like a turkey. The afore mentioned removal process, however, was not pretty. Picture two people, one set of oven mitts, tongs and an oven hot roasting pan perched over a small sink. It was hot, messy and slightly work that had me longing to be able to put the turkey in the oven and forget about it. But a cook has to do what a cook has to do, right? And because I am a glutton for punishment, I took this opportunity to fill the now empty cavity with homemade dressing.. Again this wasn't an easy task since I was dealing with a bird that was simultaneously frozen and burning to the touch. Ouch.

A few hours later, however, when I removed the fully cooked turkey from the oven I thought I had success. Due to the afore mentioned wrestling match the fully cooked bird wasn't as pretty as I had hoped but we carved it before it went on the table so no one was the wiser. The result? The meat was cooked, the bird was juicy and our guests raved about its taste. Given my current circumstances I'd use this cooking method again. But give me a larger kitchen with a larger refrigerator, I'd go back to my usual method.

In the end, however, I got my belated Thanksgiving dinner so now it is time to tackle Christmas. There will not be turkey on the menu this time around.

Mr. Butterball, the cooked version

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