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…