Turkey for the uninitiated

Some of the nice people in my family have decided that they’ll spend this weekend in Vegas and go see Paul McCartney in Phoenix, while I get to stay here and take Grandma to her doctor appointment where they’ll probably tell her she needs a hip replacement. These people actually aren’t returning from the west until Thanksgiving Day around 4pm, and they have actually asked me if I wouldn’t mind, oh, cooking the Thanksgiving turkey.  So.  It’s a great honor, but seems like I’m getting the raw end of the deal (P.S., where’s my free trip).  And of course, this is a real winner for me because if I do fine, then everybody gets turkey as usual, but if I screw it up, I’m the Bad Son Who Ruined Thanksgiving.

Without further grumbling, here are the directions for cooking a turkey, courtesy my mom.

  1. On Monday buy the frozen turkey it takes two days for it to thaw in your refrigerator.When you buy the Turkey you will need also
    • Two loafs of bread
    • Four Apples
    • Four Cups of Walnuts
    • Two cups of Raisins
    • One stalk of Celery
    • Four Eggs
    • Sage
    • Parsley
  2. On Wednessday night about 5PM take all the bread and lay it out all over the counter to “dry”  about 8PM it will be sort of dry, flip it over on the other side for an hour or so
  3. Cut the bread in cubes, a seratted knife works better than a regular butcher knife
  4. Cut up the apples and sprinkle with Lemon Juice.. THey wont turn brown if you put lemon juice on them
  5. Wash and cut up the celery.  The slice in small pieces they dont have to be too small
  6. Put the celery, Raisins, Walnuts, all in a bowl
  7. Mix up four eggs with a fork  add the sage into it about two tablespoons you cant over season it
  8. Put the bread now dried out in a bigger bowl cover with saran wrap and leave it on the counter
  9. Put the celery, raisin, walnut egg thing in fridge with saran wrap and the eggs by themselves with saran wrap
  10. Look into the turkey.. the turkey people put many hidden things inside
    You should find a neck, small bag labeled or maybe not that say liver or gibblets, and often chucks of ice
  11. Take all the stuff out of the turkey body  run some warm NOT hot water make sure  you have all the chucks of ice out
  12. Get a clean garbage bag and stick the old turkey in there if he is messy and bloody from the water you can stick a clean hand towel under the garbage bag so he doesnt gunk up your fridge
  13. Read how many pounds he is, I usually get 25 so you have plenty of leftovers.  The sack will tell you how long to cook stuff verus unstuffed.  I think stuffed is 25 minuts a pound on the turkey sack, but I find the overcook it at that amount.
  14. Count back when you want him done based on the sack cooking directions
  15. When you are ready to cook him take half the dried bread and set it aside
  16. Drain the lemon juice off the apples, you dont need much lemon juice just a little to keep them from getting brown
  17. Dump the apples in the walnut/celery/raisin thing
  18. Restir the eggs, maybe add half a cup of water but not very much really
  19. Dump the apples/walnut celery egg thing into HALF OF THE BREAD, remember you set half aside that has nothing on it.
  20. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands
  21. Evaluate how it looks.. if it looks 50% bread and 50% other stuff dont add any more bread.. if it doesnt look 50-50 add some more bread, you may end up throwing out bread, dont worry it doesnt cost anything feed the bread to birds for thanksgiving
  22. Get the turkey out of the fridge  You wash his insides the night before so the bread doesnt get drowned in the water you might ahve to put in him to get rid of the ice buildup.
  23. Get some handfuls of the stuffing mixture and put inside his big cavity.. FIll it about 80% full.  Cookbooks will tell you less that it will expand but I have never found it to expand, it soaks up turkey jucies and gets smaller to me but that has been my experience.
  24. Rotate the bird to the neck side.  You can get maybe two cups of the stuffing in this side… The idea is to “puff it up” so he looks pretty
  25. Put him in the over at 325 I belive check the turkey bag.
  26. About half way through the estimated cooking time, check on him..  If he is getting two brown take a sheet of aluminium foil and make a “TENT” over him.. Dont secure the tent edges, leave them to flap in the air, if you seal them down it “Steams him” and makes him tough.
  27. Take the rest of the dressing stuff and put in a greased pan and hold onto it until the turkey is almost done.. If there is room cook the stuffing along with the turkey.
  28. If there isnt room in the oven then bring it with you and  you cook it when you put the turkey on the table.  This stuff cooks in about 30 minutes.

Updated for 2015: This recipe withstands the test of thyme, with people still looking it up and using it ten years later. But there’s something new that I do these days which isn’t in here. Before stuffing the turkey, soften 3/4 to 1 stick of butter, and mix it liberally with sage using your fingers. You should have a mostly pliable butter sludge. Also using your fingers, loosen up the skin from the meat… all over the bird, but particularly the breasts. It is possible to totally loosen all of the skin if you want to (but it’s not necessary). After you get the skin unpeeled, shove the butter under the skin. This is messy work and it is really going to freak you out if you don’t like touching meat. However, what I’ve realized is that the presence of the butter under the skin flavors the meat, and it serves as a moisture barrier to keep the meat from drying out. The fat blocks water from leaving the meat… and you will get an extremely tender bird. Do it!