Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey Follies

Cooking a turkey once a year is an almost surefire way to be a nervous turkey cook. Some families have turkey several times a year. We weren't one of them. We had turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas and then never again until the following Thanksgiving. And rarely did my mother fix the turkey. Growing up it was usually my aunt who fixed the turkey, dressing and gravy; the rest of us brought side dishes and desserts.

So, when I got married and started hosting my in-laws there was a steep learning curve. The first year I fixed a turkey I planned that dinner for weeks in advance and then made about 6 phone calls to my mother during the course of the day with questions. Where exactly do I put the thermometer? Does this get covered in foil? What about that? I learned a lot from that experience. I learned to prepare early, make lots of lists and time-lines and check them all twice.

One year I went through my usual routine. I didn't have as much to do that year as several family members were contributing side dishes. The turkey was bought well in advance. It was thawed in the refrigerator for several days before cooking. A few days early I checked the grocery list and bought any missing ingredients from my checklist. The day before Thanksgiving I gathered all the various equipment I would need: roasting pan, rack, cotton string, probe thermometer.

I started early that Thanksgiving day preparing the turkey. I unwrapped it, pulled out the neck and gizzard packet which I never use. Rinsed it thoroughly and patted it dry. I stuffed it with the appropriate aromatics and seasoned it well. Placed the thermometer just so and set it in the oven to roast for several hours.

Things were going along very well. The turkey was smelling really good. Our family started to arrive and we began to prepare the side dishes. I kept thinking the timer should be going off soon. I'd go check the thermometer to see how things were going.

"Gee it seems to be moving kind of slowly. I thought it should be further along by now. Hmm."

I'd wait a bit and check it again.

My sister commented, "So, when's the turkey going to be done?"

"I'm not sure. I really thought it would be done by now."

This conversation repeated 2 or 3 times. It wasn't a huge deal as we'd planned to eat early and none of us were in a big rush to go off somewhere else. Several stomachs began to grumble.

My husband, the non-cook, mosied into the kitchen and said,

"Sharon, Do you know this thermometer is set on Celsius?"

"Um... No. As a matter of fact I didn't! I didn't know you could set it for Celsius. How did that happen? How do I set it back?"

"There's a button on the bottom - C for Celsius; F for Farenheit."

"What's it say if you set it to Farenheit?"

"Umm. Yeah. It's done."

Many sighs of relief all across the house.

So, if your turkey isn't done when you think it should be, you might want to check the thermometer. It may not be the oven or the turkey. It may just be a tiny white button on the bottom of the thermometer that got flipped.

Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of Davidlat

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