Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Weekend Report: Pre-Thanksgiving Turkey Shenanigans

Guess what? I made a turkey!

But before we get to that, let's back-track to the start of my weekend. On Friday night, my co-volunteer and I took our refugees to a Washington Wizzard's game.
The last basketball game I attended was in college. My track teammates and I had courtside seats and at one point my freshman friend, looking a bit confused, asked me, "I think I've seen high school kids play better than this?" Agreed. Back then BU wasn't that good.

Professional basketball, on the other hand, is quite a bit different. And my Congolese family loved all of it - from the jumbo-tron, to the flying advertisement blimps, to the 3-pointers.

Then early Saturday morning I did something a little bit crazy. Ran the Cranberry Crawl 5k! It was fun! 6x6 did not throw up and placed 11th, while I ran my way to 5th place (2nd in my age group), winning a loaf of cranberry bread. Woot!

And then the
real shenanigans began. I went to two grocery stores, getting my upper-body work in via lugging all the Pre-Thanksgiving necessities back home and into the fridge. (When I told the checker I was carrying the stuff home her penciled-on eyebrows raised in a Chyeah, good luck with that! sort of way.)

So here we go - let's talk turkey.

I contemplated my options (extensively - I'm pretty sure I spent a solid 20 minutes at Harris Teeter wondering what exactly to buy). Frozen? Fresh? Breast? Whole bird? I weighed the choices in my mind, and in my hands, and in and out of my basket. Gah! I've never done this before! And of course my mama was incommunicado. There was nothing for it but to make this decision on my own.

I opted for two turkey breasts. I reasoned that they'd be easier to cook and carve than a whole turkey, and two were necessary because I was expecting 20-ish people over on Sunday night.

When I got home I started my brine. Here's my inexact recipe.

Turkey Brine:
large pot of water
4 cubes of veggie boullion (or 4 cups of veggie broth)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup salt
1 teaspoon rosemary (I used dried)
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon thyme (again, dried)

Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off and remove from heat. You just want to make sure all the salt and sugar is dissolved. Let the brine cool completely, then pour it over your turkey until it's completely submerged. (Or you can do this in a bag.) Let it brine at least 24 hours, up to 3 days.

I also made Cranberry Sauce:

1 cup cranberries
1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon molasses

Bring it all to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce is thickened.

With the pot o'brine on the stove and the cranberry sauce simmering, I hauled my turkeys out of my backpack and contemplated them. Ok, deep breaths, here we go. I very carefully opened the packages, a look of pure disgust on my face. Ewwww ewwwww ewwwww! I whined as I emptied the juice out into my sink while my vegetarian friend looked on in horror. (What can I say, raw turkey juice is not my thing.)

And then I pulled the turkey breast out of the bag. WHAT!?!?! It wasn't a turkey breast at all. It had legs. And wings. It was a whole turkey. A. Whole. Turkey.

Ohmygosh-ohmygosh-ohmygosh! It's a whole bird! I bought a freaking whole turkey! On Accident! Crap! What am I going to do? Oh-no-oh-no-oh-no! What am I going to do!?!? Ewww ewwww ewwwww! (That last bit was in reference to the turkey neck that came out of the cavity of the bird. Shudder.)

Soooo, yeah. I bought one turkey breast (which
apparently is just a turkey without the wings and legs!). And one whole turkey. Ridiculous. But there was really only one thing I could do - cook them.

So I brined them both and hoped for the best.

At 3 o’clock on Sunday it was go-time. Time for a turkeylicious face-down, just me and the bird. I inhaled slowly, focused, and got my poultry on. I poured out the brine, dried my turkeys, slathered them with olive oil, said a little prayer, did a little turkey dance, and popped them into the 325* oven.
Welp - hope that works. I went for a lovely Rock Creek Park 7-mile run.
I took the turkeys out at 5 and covered them with foil. (Food Network tells me that you absolutely must let them sit for at least 30 minutes before carving.)

They sat while I stirred up some gravy (from a jar - I know, I cheated. But give me some credit -
2 turkeys!), heated the apple cider, and chopped veggies for my salad.

And then the guests started to arrive - bringing stuffing, sweet potatoes, squash feta muffins, croissants, salad, pumpkin pie, dips, appetizers, etc. etc. etc. (yup, there was
a lot of food!).
And then the moment of truth. I took a sharp knife and those prong-y things and cut into the turkey. I was afraid it would be dry. Or even worse, raw. But it wasn't at all. It was actually pretty darn fantastic. Maybe they were lying (if so bless their flattering hearts), but everyone said they loved it!

The party went really well. (Woot! Hosting really stresses me out, so I was extremely happy it all worked.) I am so thankful that I have such a wonderful friends-family here in DC, and that my refugees could experience their first Thanksgiving with us!
Happy Pre-Thanksgiving!