“Good Eats Roast Turkey”

So before Christmas comes a-knockin’ at my door, I desperately need to backtrack and tell you how my Thanksgiving turkey went.  A couple people have asked after reading “My (Secret) Conquest” post, but I need to explain more completely… and that’s because the answer, I realized, is not a simple, “Oh, it was wonderful!” or “Well, there were some problems.”  No, instead the answer is: Just like Thanksgiving meals, the turkey, too, is only better when loved ones help…

Better helping like when I asked James’ mom about her first turkey experiences…  We were in her kitchen, and Mary bent her arms in front of her, placed her fingers together (as if to imitate a crab), then rubbed the tips and started shivering, rolling her eyes.  She confessed she cannot stand to touch turkey skin, feeling the hard little bumps left behind from the feathers.  In fact, it disgusts her so much, she gets James’ dad to help.  Like her hero, Jim walks to the sink, takes the turkey out of its wrapping, rinses it, and places it on a rack.  I still smile, laugh out loud thinking about her story and her loathing for turkey skin… because I love this story.  I hope she’s not mad I’m sharing it with you all, but if you knew Jim and Mary like I’ve come to, you’ll see how they’ll do anything for each other and their family.  It doesn’t surprise me that Jim happily takes over this turkey-rubbing role… and that’s because he does so many things, just to make his wife happy.  For instance, he drives to Williamsburg on Black Friday and goes in store after store with Mary.  And he takes his wife to the movie theaters to see films like The Notebook, Pride and Prejudice, or Valentine’s Day… and the most wonderful thing about it all is that you can see how Mary recognizes this.  She’ll quietly nuzzle into his arm and whisper something in his ear, and they’ll giggle, look into each other’s — so in love after 29 years.

I told James one day I cannot tell which of his parents does more for the other, that it truly seems to be split down the middle.  Every weekend, Mary finds a place in the living room and watches sports games… multiple sports games… with Jim, cheering on his favorite teams and sporting red and navy… burgundy and gold… or orange and black colors.  She puts on multiple layers of clothing, gets out the jacket, gloves, boots all for a cold, early morning tailgate, then cold bleacher sit to watch games in person.  But you can tell it’s all worth it, that she gets recharged when Jim puts his arm around her, pulls her close and gives her a simple kiss.  It’s actions like this that also mean “helping” to me.  Mary wants Jim to have the best time doing what he enjoys, so she’ll help by getting excited when his team scores or angrily explain why calls are wrong if they go the other way; she’ll remember game facts along with practically every players’ name.  And Jim will bring home flowers for no reason, put girly movies on NetFlix, and spend hours in malls.  Both do this so they can help, participate in giving their significant other a good time.

Being honest — This was my favorite Thanksgiving.  Ever.  I normally am not a Thanksgiving fan — I never enjoyed turkey or stuffing or casseroles, and as far as “family time”, well I saw my family and relatives often so didn’t understand why we needed to set more time aside this one particular day.  …But the older I get, I understand the importance of this holiday.  The older I grow, I not only find I’m getting seconds of turkey and asking for casserole recipes, but I’m finding family is the one thing you can never replace, nor want to.  The time — right now — you have with your family is irreversible, unstoppable and each moment should be charished… because at one point, it will change — and you’ll only be able to look back at the time spent with your family.  I really understood that this Thanksgiving.  I’ve always had my family — whom I adore, but now, I have a second family… and getting that second family not only makes me so appreciative for my family and the time I have with them… but it also makes me feel special, honored to be getting — not “a” second family– but “this” second family I’ll have… These absolutely amazing people who didn’t even know me a few years before, but now accept me with open arms into their hearts.  It’s realizing things like this that make me want to spend so much time catching up with my family, and getting to know every detail about my new one.

So James’ and my Thanksgiving started when we went to his parents house Thanksgiving Day.  There, we helped — or tried to help — his mom prepare the Thanksgiving meal.  The turkey was already in the oven, and we had a few hours before the other sides needed to get started.  James’ brother was upstairs sleeping and his sister was gone, having traveled all the way to Connecticut with her newlywed husband for her second family’s Thanksgiving gathering.  That meant it was only Jim, Mary, James, and me.  We talked about so many things while the Macy’s Day Parade floats whooshed by on the TV screen  — about how, for the very first turkey Mary made, she forgot one of the bags inside the turkey holding its parts and cooked it, bag and all.  I laughed, telling her my grandma admitted to this also when she fixed a chicken one year.  We talked about the presidential race… if James and I wanted children… and mused when his sister, Lauren and Ryan would have theirs.  Once noon approached, Mary and I won against three boys and got to watch the dog show over football.  We both texted Lauren back and forth.  She loves the dog show too and was voting for her puppy’s bred — a Pomeranian — over Mary’s Yorkie and my Miniature Pinscher-Chihuahua.  …And while I was away from home for Thanksgiving, it didn’t feel like it at all.  There were so many traditions James’ family has done, that my family do too… so while my family, Lauren, Mary and I were all watching the dog show in different homes, we were all watching it together.

Dinner at James’ family was wonderful.  Everyone — Mary, Jim, James, Lauren — know how to cook so amazingly.  I feel like most people would chose to go out to eat when they get together… but I’m the opposite.  Give me any second with them, and I’d gladly take a dinner at their house instead.  We had a deliciously moist turkey, sweet potatoes (which I helped make!  So happy I could lend a hand!), mouthwatering green bean casserole, stuffing and gravy, rolls and cranberry sauce to boot.  Oh, and the best was Mary’s homemade pecan pie…  To please everyone in her family, she had pumpkin pie for her boys… but for Jim and I, warm pecan pie topped with melting ice cream.  Yummm…

Gathered around the table: James’ grandma, dad, brother, me, and James… Thank you for sharing your pictures with me, Mary!
Helping Jim and Mary with the dishes!

After that, we were stuffed… and a stuffed stomach Thanksgiving Day means sleep… so I crawled into bed shortly after.

Fast forwarding through work on Black Friday, James and I found a second Thanksgiving meal in front of us — this one at my parent’s house.  As I told you in my post before this, I had (maybe too proudly) announced James and I were undertaking the turkey.  So the “eve before roasting” (as Alton says), we were to let the turkey marinate in a brine.  However, since James and I would be at his parents house all day Thursday, I had to recruit extra help.  Enter my parents.  So Wednesday afternoon, I went to their house to prepared the brine by combining a whopping gallon of vegetable broth, black peppercorns, allspice berries, candied ginger, salt, and sugar.

Our brine sitting over medium-high heat

After it came to a boil…

The boiling brown brine (gotta love alliteration!)

James poured the brine into a brining bag to be refrigerated…

Ever so luckily, we tracked down a brine bag… Thank you, Kroger!

and we left a note for my mom so she’d understand the easy steps left to do.

Note: Simply add a gallon of ice water and the turkey 12 hours before roasting. Remember to flip the turkey half way through brine time.

…I say easy because this task apparently was nothing but…

Our Thanksgiving Friday, James and I open the fridge to pull out our brined-soagged turkey… only to find it stuffed in this:

Rubbermaid Tote

a massive multi-gallon plastic storage container!  My mom and dad explained they searched the house high and low for something tall enough to hold a 16-pound turkey… something deep enough to keep the turkey covered in my now two-gallon brine… and something small enough to fit in the fridge.  And the absolutely only thing my family could find?  Not a large pot… not any other deep vessel… no, a fancy-schmancy plastic Rubbermaid container!  …Okay, so maybe I could have given them a heads-up that this may have been a hard task…  I should have guessed when I read Alton’s note saying, “Seal up the cooler and use as an ottoman.”  A cooler?  An ottoman?  Alton has a tendency to be sarcastic, but sarcasm was far from this application…  I believe now this was a true teacher’s tip to avoid tricky messes… like the one my poor parents got in.  They just wanted to impress me, show me they could handle my cherished Alton application and the beloved turkey I fought to undertake.  They really wanted to surprise me with their skills… which PS-took an hour to do… an hour to drop ice and a turkey into a bag and refrigerate.  An hour.  *Sigh*  Daddy and mama, if you’re reading this, you did a wonderful job.  I probably would have called you in a panic if I were the one fixing this turkey alone… but again readers, help.  They wanted to help me succeed.  They wanted me to prepare the best daggon turkey yet to be eaten in the Morris residence.  They wanted to help me because they love me.

Alas, after we had finished laughing at the sight of my poor, gigantic bird shoved in a storage bin…

Turkey… covered in brine… in a brine bag… in a storage container. Check!

next came time to rinse and dry our boy.  I was secretly so excited to touch the turkey.  I had never touched an uncooked turkey before and after hearing James’ mom’s horrors of turkey skin, I wanted to know what it was all about.  The truth: It was disgusting.  Disgusting not so much because of the skin or bumps, but disgusting because after a turkey relaxes in brine for 12 hours, the skin becomes very pliable and almost rips beneath your fingers… nasty.  Regardless, we picked him up (well, James picked him up… he was too heavy for me), rinsed and patted him dry.

Next up, preparing the ingredients to stuff the bird with: An apple, onion, and cinnamon stick.

Stuffing ingredients in a small amount of water go into the microwave to soften
Finished heatin’ up!

Next, combining everything…

Prepare to be stuffed, turkey!

which means rosemary, sage, and my microwaved ingredients go into the turkey’s cavity, then the bird gets coated in olive oil.

Stuffed and coated!

Now it was ready for the oven!  Alton says the turkey should cook for 30 minutes at a high 500 degrees… then cook for about two and a half hours more on 350 degrees… which ensures the outside of the turkey is crispy and delectable, while the inside is moist and delicious!

Into the oven you go!

After this it was a waiting game… which is funny because I have a friend whose in eighth grade named Emily, and she sent me the sweetest Facebook message.  She said, “About Thanksgiving, everyone thinks the turkey is hard to bake but it’s really easy!  It just takes forever in the oven!  I’m sure yours will be just perfect.”  How adorable is that?  And know what — Emily, if you’re reading this, you are 100% right.  The hardest part is probably waiting for the thing to cook!

How to kill time?  Catchin’ up with my family…

My little sister cuddling and kissing her Italian Greyhound puppy
Trista and Penny Mae
Without a doubt, my better half and love of my life

And I just have to include these next shots…  My sister’s fiancé, Nick, was playing with my camera and captured the puppies playing.  While I in no way encourage dog fighting (remember, I seriously consider joining PETA daily and have an absolute loathing for the Philadelphia Eagles solely because they allowed and wanted Michael Vick to join the team), I told my mom I can imagine this is what people who go to dogfights do — Encourage the puppies to “get” one another… however, again, my puppies love each other.  They are sisters (although my mom is hell bent and determined to call them cousins because that’s what they would be “legally”…).  So while some of their facial features may not be the most, well, pleasant, just keep in mind we treat each dog like a princess and would never tolerate one hurting another.  …They just like to play bite (or as I say “open-mouth drool”) on each other… and run and roll together.

And the rompin’ begins!
Yes… The demented black and tan pup is mine… *Sigh*
Cora, my parents puppy, always gives in to Paris and flops on her back… although here it looks like she’s putting up more of a “fight”!
Whew! Now that all the horsin’ around’s done, the bffs can relax together!

Time’s up!  Now James and I had to check on our turkey… and make sure the meat is 155 degrees… and (drum roll)…

“Good Eats Roast Turkey”

It was perfect!  I mean, truly, I could not have wished it to be better.  I was (and still am) elated, in total disbelief, and ever so humbled… because I “my” turkey wouldn’t have been nearly as perfect without my parents help, James’ support, and Alton’s guidance.

Cutting my beloved bird up! First off, the thighs…
Next, the breasts
Please note: My knife skills are improving! Check out that perfectly sliced off breast!
I learned turkey is best if you remove the breast and then slice against the grain of the meat. This creates shorter fibers and therefore, the turkey is more tender!
Can’t forget my beautiful drumsticks and wings!

The verdict?  Well, judging by my gushing (but trying oh so hard not to over gush), 115% wonderful.  Alton’s application called for the perfect turkey pairings — allspice berries, apples, cinnamon, rosemary, sage… and even ginger (despite the fact that ginger is one flavor that makes me absolutely nauseous just to smell).  Alton, I know I’ve said it before, but I wish you read my blog… just once.  Not that you need little ‘ole me saying this, but you’re such an amazing cook and teacher.  So again, with Alton instructing me what to do and my family by my side, this turkey made it in the successful Morris Family Book.  Truth be told, in years to come, we’ll probably forget my great turkey trials… but you know what?  I’m okay with that.  To have succeeded, even if it’s known for just this day, is more than enough for me.

After cutting the turkey, I brought it to the table, like a proud baker showing off a wedding cake that’s being featured in a magazine.  I served everyone — My daddy, mama, sister and her fiancé, my love, and my grandma… and we all talked some more… about the delicious turkey, our wonderful Thanksgiving dinner… and all I could think is how thankful I am — for everyone surrounding me that moment and those the day before that made this Thanksgiving the most cherished of all.

One thought on “Help

  1. I love reading these, you’re the BEST writer, I feel like I’m right there with you 🙂 If only I could taste the turkey…

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