Pass the bourbon


This Thursday, Thanksgiving Day here the U.S., we couldn’t scrounge up a turkey leg or pumpkin pie if we wanted to.

My son’s in Thailand.  My sister and BIL are rubbing elbows with Liz & Phil in London.  My brother is in Vietnam becoming a host for a family of intestinal parasites.  They fondly remember him from his last visit.  And my niece, her family & my SIL leave on Wednesday for America’s original Nirvana  – Disney World.

Okay – to be fair, we’re leaving Dodge too.  Thanksgiving Day will see us winging our way to the land of würst and schnitzel and HUGE beers.   Ach du lieber – we’re headed to Germany!   Paris is at the end of the trip…

But our family loves, loves, loves Thanksgiving dinner.  It’s our favorite meal of the whole entire year.  I was sad at the thought of having to miss it this year.

We lived at least a four hour drive from any family for nearly 30 years. After our younger son was born, we decided that Thanksgiving was going to be OUR holiday with OUR traditions.  We were going to stay home. Family was invited to join us every year, but nobody ever showed up.  No surprise there.

So we’ve fixed Thanksgiving dinner every year at whatever random house we were living in since 1984.  Yikes – that’s a lot of turkeys!

For the most of those years, my hub and I each knew our roles in the kitchen and executed them flawlessly.  But  – oh no – a few years ago, AGMA decide that we should try to change some things up to “enchance” our Thanksgiving palate.  I’m a rabble rouser.

My husband liked our TDay dinner just the way it was, thank you very much.  He gave me the stink eye.

This introduced an  element of conflict to our previously seamless kitchen ballet.  Actually, several elements.  One year I cooked the stuffing & gravy on our Big Green Egg.  I loved it, but it got a thumbs down from the hub and younger son.  Another year, I bought a ricer to use to make the mashed potatoes.  That got two thumbs up.

The biggest conflict though, has been how to cook the bird.   We always cooked it in one of those big turkey cooking bags that looks like it could fit a  flock or gaggle or whatever of turkeys.  And it always turned out good

But it was never great.

So I started experimenting with both wet and dry brining.  And cooking the hapless flightless foul in a roasting pan.  With no cooking bag.  Double stink eye.  But not using a cooking bag lets the turkey fat and other junk that drips out sort of crust onto the roasting pan.  This semi-burned gunk makes the foundation of some killer gravy when you deglaze it with a good bourbon.  Plus a little extra bourbon’s a nice de-stresser for the cook.  I’m just sayin’…

The hub eats my experiments without saying much.  But he been using copious amounts of gravy these past few years.   I think he secretly likes the “get the cook drunk” gravy.  But each year he asks if I bought the turkey bags yet.

*sigh*  Change is never easy.

To placate him, we cooked the turkey in a bag last year.  It was just meh.

Which brings me to 2015.

Since we’re all going to be gone, I declared we were having Thanksgiving dinner at my house nearly 2 weeks early.  My sister and BIL couldn’t join us, but our son was thrilled.  Favorite dinner, remember?

But he was busy all that day getting ready for Thailand and my hub had a golf date. So, this year, the Thanksgiving dinner fixin’ was all me.  Lil’ ol’ AGMA.  By myself.

No worries right?  I’ve been part of a duo making Thanksgiving dinner for so many years, I can make it with my eyes closed.  And one hand tied behind my back.   AGMA is nothing if not cluelessly and delusionally confident.

My critical error was not buying a turkey with a pop-up “timer”.  For those who don’t know, the folks in the turkey processing plant shove this temperature gauge up the turkey’s butt.   And when you roast this desecrated foul in your oven, the temperature button pops up to signal turkey is done.  It’s totally a no brainer.

Okay – so maybe the pop-up thingy is actually jammed in the breast and not the butt.   I used the butt thing for dramatic effect.  Plus I like the word butt.

So with no built-in pop-up, I figured I’d use my trusty food thermometer to tell when the gobbler was done.

Again, critical error.

Turns out my little girl turkey (she was a mere, petite 9 lbs) was only mostly done.  This became clear when I started taking the stuffing out. What was that red juice there at the bottom of the cavity?

When the truth dawned on me, I kind of freaked out.  The dark meat was not done and the stuffing was full of uncooked red turkey juice.  Ick. Dinner was supposed to be in 20 minutes. I looked longingly at the bourbon bottle.

But AGMA’s resilient.  And resourceful.  I did the only thing I could do…

I have to interject right here that I’m hesitant to use my microwave oven these days.  I don’t trust it and rarely use it.  I’m not entirely sure that doesn’t alter the food cooked in it in a harmful way.  But those concerns totally evaporated like Donald Trump’s Hispanic support when I saw that red juice…

I nuked the crap out of the stuffing and my tiny turkey. Die bacterial pathogens, die!

And wouldn’t you know it – dinner was great.  My riced mashed potatoes were awesome.  My homemade cranberry sauce, perfect.  The stuffing was yummbly.  My dry brined tiny turkey was moist and tender with no red juice coming out of it.  No red juice is a good thing.

And the source of the all the conflict – the gravy?  It was sublimely superb. It’s the burnt crusties and the bourbon you know.  And a happy cook.

I’m just sad it’s over.  I don’t have anything to look forward to on Thursday.  Oh wait , that’s right – I’m going to Germany…



26 thoughts on “Pass the bourbon

  1. Great and entertaining post. We will be having Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant in NYC. I will NOT be ordering turkey. But–since I am craving a turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich, I will be cooking a turkey breast in the crock pot tomorrow (keeps the dry meat moist). I’ve made a bread dressing which I will bake tomorrow and I”ve made cranberry sauce. I’ll do a brioche and Wednesday evening after picking my daughter up at the airport, we will go home, eat the sandwiches and watch cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies! Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I use one of those bags, but was thinking maybe I’d just roast it in a pan like all the recipes tell you to. Maybe I should reconsider. I like the bourbon idea, but I always put it in my pumpkin pie. Have a great trip! Wish I was tagging along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Irene! I’ve never thought of bourbon in pumpkin pie… I bet it gives it a nice little snap!

      So what did you decide to do – bag or pan? Again, I think I would have been okay with the pan if I’d had a pop-up. Hope you had a great one!


    • Thanks much! We are having a great time! Only snow in Füssen (which was !) but we saw snow on our way from Innsbruck to Liechtenstein. And of course up in the mountains which were beautiful. Today in Baden Baden it’s been quite mild – I only wore a fleece and felt comfortable. And the rain stopped – yeah!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Too bad the Canadian Thanksgiving has passed already. I could have used your recipe;-)

    Have a good trip in Germany! If you visit Berlin, take an hoir to see the “Topography of Terror” Museum. I visited it last summer and it left an indelible memory. The Germans make sure they will not forget the atrocities committed by Hitler. It is powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No Berlin on this trip, but I very much want to come back to Germany soon. Not sure why it took so long, but the last time we were in Germany prior to this was in 1981. What a huge mistake! Now I have a whole list of cities I want to visit. 🙂

      So when is the Canadian Thanksgiving and what is your “traditional” dinner? Do you do turkey? Maybe that’s a dumb question since you liked my gravy idea… Duh.


  4. Thanksgiving happens at my house at different times of the year. One of my favorite things is to buy an extra frozen bird now, and make a feast in the middle of summer. As a fan of gravy, I never thought about adding the bourbon…brilliant.

    Thanks for a great post, and enjoy your travels, AGMA. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I laughed out loud about the butt! I am a pan-roaster myself, because of the gravy! No-one (meaning the IL’s who I have over for Thanksgiving dinner) uses gravy, but I love it, so I make it that way. Not with bourbon, but all those dark crusty bits make a yummy gravy. This year, my big thing is I will be doing all the sides. The SILs who usually bring side dishes are going to their other sides, meaning more for me to cook, even though a smaller crowd. But the size of the crowd never matters at Thanksgiving as you still need the 3 veggies, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the rolls, the stuffing and the gravy. I hope I don’t sound stressed as I think forward to Thursday in my kitchen! I’ll think of you winging off to Germany. Me with wine, you with beer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll drink to that! But your IL’s seriously don’t use gravy?? What’s up with that? To me, the best part of dinner is putting the gravy on the turkey, dressing & mashed potatoes (only sparing the cranberry sauce!)

      You dinner sounds smashing and HUGE!! Can we come over there next year? I’ll bring the rolls…

      And you are right – the size of the crowd is irrelevant to the amount of effort. I cooked for three this year and it was as much work as cooking for eight. What’s up with that?


  6. We don’t have a turkey dish for our Canadian Thanksgiving. Some of my siblings occasionally have.

    Instead it has been a seafood dish, bison, venison or elk dish. Bison is lean and cooks pretty fast.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I heard that the folks in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.usually have fresh dungeness crab for Thanksgiving ,but because of big algae bloom, they weren’t safe to eat. I’ve never had bison steak but I love bison burgers. And I had elk when I was in Colorado recently and it was quite good. I honestly get a bit bored with having the same thing year after year, but the hub is so resistant… I guess it’s good to let him have his way now and then… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! We went to Strausborg today – my first time – and it was absolutely charming!! I’d love to come back and spend more time there and in Innsbruck, Austria which we loved as well. The Christmas Markets in Strausborg are lovely and there is so much good food – oh my aching tummy!


      • Sounds wonderful! Do enjoy that time of year. Once in a lifetime. 🙂 As you may know, Strausborg / Alsace region has been part of German and vice versa. Puff pastry in southern France has southern German equivalent.

        It was interesting to see French version of sauerkraut. Southern German cuisine is lighter because of the French influence over the centuries compared to northern Germany. But maybe you know that already.

        I understand that Austria is more muted in its general cuisine, and architecture doesn’t have widespread baroque ornateness in big way compared to Germany or France.

        Liked by 1 person

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