Our world is so different right now. If it were not for the phone calls and face times with my family, I’d lose sight of who I still am, who we still are.
This year, the holidays will be like a distant friend is visiting. Embracing the unfamiliar with welcoming arms is how I intend to enjoy the traditions. Knowing fully we are all in this together, this morning it occurred to me it is possible there will be young ones preparing the turkey feast without the help of parents, grandmas or aunts and uncles who lend their experience in the kitchen. If you’re like my family, we all share in the responsibilities, each one bringing either a covered dish or an extra protein choice like ham to compliment the famous basted and seasoned turkey.
My son will be doing his own turkey this year, and I have compiled a very quick, “set it and forget it” recipe for him to follow. As I talk to him, guide him, share with him my secrets, I’ll include all of you. This, right here, right now, is what I live for. For me, when I share the recipes we’ve all enjoyed year after year, I’m really passing the baton, the legacy to my babies. It’s just another love note that I’ve written year after year to anyone who has gathered at my table as we broke bread with all the smiling faces. You’re my family, too.
The turkey. The first time I made a turkey, I didn’t really examine or consider all the possible outcomes of a “bird gone wrong.” I woke up at 5 a.m. and buttered and salted the thing. Covered it and put it in a 350-degree oven. I was completely unlearned, as it was still frozen despite having let it sit out overnight. Traditionally, in our home we eat around noon, so that meant all the fixin’s had to be done as well. And that made it difficult when I needed to bake the stuffing or the pie since the turkey occupied that space. I checked that bird a thousand times. Trust me, if a watched pot never boils, a watched turkey never cooks. That was my first Thanksgiving and even though the sentiment was sincere, the outcome was rough.
Since that time, I’ve perfected this event. The recipe for the turkey is so simple it really is a “no recipe” recipe. I’m so happy to reveal that it’s foolproof and the turkey is always delicious, juicy and it falls off the bone every time. And the best part, you will free up the oven for the rest of your Thanksgiving story — the side dishes.
A big turkey is not necessary. Bigger is not always better. Purchase a 10-13-pound bird and buy two if you’re feeding an army. If you can get a fresh turkey, which only means it’s not frozen, get that. If you’re getting a frozen turkey, get one at least three days beforehand in order to thaw it in your refrigerator.
The night before Thanksgiving
Prep: Pull the giblets out of the cavity of the turkey (I once cooked them — plastic and all — by mistake).
There’s also a neck piece in the other end. Pull that out.
I use a metal throw-away pan. I place the turkey in that, breast side up. I sprinkle it with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. I take a stick of butter cut into cubes and place them all over the turkey. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil. Place in a 250-degree oven and bake for 12-14 hours. The last 1/2 hour, I pull the foil off and brown the turkey. That’s it. Save the turkey drippings for the most delicious gravy you’ll want to make. Now your oven is free to bake the stuffing, rolls and endless pies and cookies.