Friday, January 11, 2013

turkey day

this is totally late . . or seriously early.   we're going to go with early.
every year, my family gathers at my grandmother's house for each holiday.   it is a huge feast!   lots of people and lots of laughing.   i grew up helping out in the kitchen.   my grandma taught me how to prep and stuff "the bird".   my papa taught me how to sew it up and carve it when it was done.   i can't tell you how much i loved being there with my family.   even though i spent every Christmas and thanksgiving in the kitchen with them, i was terrified to do it on my own.   the first year we were in germany, no turkeys for us.   ok, there were other circumstances in play as well, but whatever.

   this last Christmas, a friend gave us a turkey.    i called my grandmother and decided i could take a stab at it.   i didn't do all the trimming like she always does.   no yams with mini mallows, no table full of everything on earth.   but we managed some stuffed celery, preiselberry sauce (which is close to cranberry sauce), mashed taters, gravy, and jello of course.   the main thing i was afraid of doing, of course, was the stuffing.   my grandmother makes awesome stuffing.   i love it!   we eat half of it before it's cooked.   yeah, yeah, raw eggs, my mom and i and uncle can't keep out  of it.   i discovered that it super easy and totally doable.   here we go -
take out that neck and innards from the bird.   throw the neck in a medium -small pot with a quart or so of water.   add some salt and pepper, and cut in some celery and carrots and onions.  let it just boil for a while. there is celery to stuff with cream cheese or peanut butter, jello to get mixed with your fruit cocktail, a variety of things to busy yourself while your neck boils.
chop up some more celery and onions.   get out your sage and poultry seasoning.   
now, dump your dry bread cubes in your nice big bowl.   
add just enough juice from your boiling neck to wet the outside of your bread.   you don't want it to soak and get soggy.   a nice hard bread cube is best so it doesn't fall apart.   just add a bit at a time and fold it in.  don't stir your stuffing.   just bring the bottom up, just fold it in.   
once you have your stuffing just damp on the outside, add the veggies that have been soaking and boiling with it.   no reason to let them go to waste.
keep gently folding, no stirring.
add your salt and pepper, sage and poultry season to taste.  add some more veggies, just because i like lots of veggies.  
lastly, add an egg or two.  my grandmother uses two eggs for a huge tupperware bowl.   so i used only one egg.   whip it up and fold it in a little at a time.   it just helps to hold it together.  
now, you can stuff your bird and bake it in there and bake the rest for a half hour, 45 min in a covered dish.
bird prep time!
your bird needs to have some salt inside.  just dump some in your hand and rub it all over inside.   both ends, whee!
stuff that stuffing in there.  you can pack it a bit but not really tight.   pull the skin together and stitch it up.   pull the tail up and stitch it in with the skin as well.   it depends on how well or not the bird was butchered as to what you have to work with.   
tie up the legs, the drum sticks.   then stitch through the ends of the wings and pull them up together nice and tight over the breast of your beautiful dinner.
now, just butter it all up.  extra butter on the stitches and knees, and all the places you might see a bird getting sun burned.   
 my grandmother has a big beautiful roaster with a seriously handy rack.   i, however, do not.   i have a nice little covered clay roaster but it needs to be off of the bottom.   i happen to be used to not having what i need , necessity is the mother of invention and all that.   so i just used forks.   4 forks.  2 with tines together at one end and 2 facing the opposite direction.   worked out great.  
i used the clay top to my roaster.   it got brown fine, but would have been too brown by the time it was done if it had been bigger.  i just had one close to 10 pounds.   my grandmother does a 28+ pounder.   she  covers it with foil til the last 15 minutes - half hour or so.   you can always cover it back up if it isn't done yet but brown enough.   ya know, just tuck it back under it's umbrella before it gets a sunburn.   make sure you baste it often to keep it moist.  i don't have  baster either.   that really stunk!   so i used a tablespoon instead. it worked.

our first turkey away from home, my first attempt at it alone, turned out great!   my grandmother's isn't perfect every time.  who can pull that off?!   but i am really encouraged by the first results.   nothing fancy, but this is home to me so our family loved it!