I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. It went by waaay too fast, didn’t it?
So this year, I decided to make Thanksgiving dinner (like pretty much the whole enchilada). And as hard as it may be to believe, I have never once made a Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve made side dishes here and there, but never went all the way. When I started working in the professional kitchen, it was my time to take a break away from the kitchen on Thanksgiving. And before that, I guess I just never really had to or wanted to. As horrible as my mom’s cooking is, she was the one that always prepared Thanksgiving dinner.
I’ve cooked chicken and duck plenty of times. And I figured that turkey isn’t much different, other than the size. But it was kind of a daunting task. I worried greatly about f*cking it up. What if I underseason or overseason it? What if I overcook it? I mean it can’t be that much different than preparing, seasoning, and cooking anything else I’ve ever made, but still…just the fact that I have never did anything with a turkey made me wonder if it was going to turn out okay. I mean…I knew that it would be edible, but I worried that I would f*ck it up by not making it good. I researched different recipes trying to decide which method I should use. I really wanted to try deep frying it. But it was going to be a great hassle to do at home.
I started the dry brining process on Monday to be cooked on Thursday. I am usually good with salting when it is for seasoning. But since I have never salted a huge bird for dry brining purposes (of course the salting was not purely for brining purposes but for seasoning as well), apprehensions lingered.
My personal favorites were the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin pie. I had a little mishap with the pumpkin pie and spilled a little (around the pie crust and in the oven), but it was still good. Notice a bit of the filling baked around the edges of the crust? lol but the rest of the crust (that was untouched by the spill) was flakey and buttery how I love it.
As for the turkey, I was nervous all the way through the entire process from the time I started salting it until days later when it finally came out of the oven. I was really counting on Michael Symon’s dry brine/cheesecloth/no-baste method. Although his method is made to skip the basting step, I still basted anyway. What’s there to lose, right?
Oh and I didn’t have a rack high enough for my turkey roasting pan, so I had to improvise and use some of the mirepoix for that extra elevation to ensure a crapload of turkey drippings for the gravy.
After letting the bird sit for a bit, I pulled out a small piece from the drumstick. Okay…so it was a little bit salty….a tad on the salty side but still edible. I wasn’t too thrilled with my results, but at least I learned something and finally made a turkey. Everyone else seemed to like it though.
After the first unsuccessful attempt that year, I don’t think my mom ever made another turkey again until years later. I remember having some tasty turkey at church (I thought it was super tasty at the time after eating my mom’s). And we found out that they had ordered it from Ralph’s or Vons….or was it Luckys. Anyways, after enjoying the meal at church, we started ordering our Thanksgiving dinner from one of them grocery stores too. That had become a tradition for the next few years.
Anyhoo…after she left, my mom started making the turkey again lol. By then, she had done some research and the turkeys got at least edible. And as the years went by, the turkeys got better and she has been making them each Thanksgiving ever since. I still don’t really like her turkeys though.
I began looking up simple recipes and started learning here and there. Sometimes my dishes came out good. Other times, it was a fail. But I learned enough to cook myself my own meals at home so that I wouldn’t need to go out each time I was hungry. After a while, I found an inner joy in cooking. I continued experimenting with whatever food I felt like eating at the time. I made it the way I wanted, the way I liked it. Cooking gradually became a hobby over time. Years and years later, I wanted to take the hobby a step further and learn how to cook at a more advanced level (but still had no interest in cooking professionally)…and that is when I enrolled in that joke of a culinary school. And the rest is herstory.