Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving for Two - The Making Part 1

 I did it! I made a turkey! I was just gonna make a chicken, but I found a nice little midget turkey weighing in at 7.6 pounds and I decided to take the plunge. Plus, the man at the grocery store said "it's just like roasting a chicken." Thanks to the man at the grocery store for convincing me to try a turkey cause mine turned out damn good, despite it's little fall. More on that later. Let me start at the beginning...

{Finished Turkey - not the most photogenic sucker}

So I decided to tackle quite a lot for my first time cooking a full Thanksgiving meal. Luckily I was only cooking for two! I can't imagine making a huge meal for company. I'll need a few years to work my way up to that. To keep my sanity I turned to organization. I made an excel spreadsheet grocery list which was color coded by store and included columns for the three grocery stores I shop at listing their prices, which I found in their weekly flyers. I ended up going to two stores - Sprouts and Trader Joes. And to be honest I probably could have pulled it all off at Sprouts if I could have found stuffing. Although, Adam, much to his dislike, did have to make a run to Ralphs in the morning for condensed milk and lemons since both Sprouts and TJ's was out. So I guess technically I went to three grocery stores. Oh well. 

I set a timeline for my cooking and started on time (for once!) and cooked from 10am to 1pm. At 1:15pm the turkey went in and Adam, Penny, and I went for a 3 mile run. When we got back I checked on the turkey, basted it, and then showered and got to work on the finishing touches. That's when things went wrong. Turns out all the cooking and running made me tired and so I thought it would be a good idea to ROLL the turkey from the roasting rack into another pan that Adam was holding. The point of this, you might ask, was that I needed the drippings situated underneath the turkey for my gravy. In my haste to get the turkey into another pan and get it covered with foil, because I have an overwhelming fear of serving cold food, I didn't properly communicate to Adam my harebrained idea to roll the turkey. (Side note: turns out turkey doesn't get cold very fast, good to know.) This turned out badly. The turkey went rolling out of the pan, both pans were dropped, drippings went everywhere, I tried to catch the turkey - which turned in to me just flailing my arms and knocking over the pot of potatoes. From there ensued a scramble to get the turkey before the dog did, throwing of dish towels and cussing from me, soothing reassurance from Adam, and a rushed clean up. Luckily, I didn't loose all my drippings despite the fact that immediately after cleaning up from the Great Turkey Drop 2011, I then dropped the drippings pan AGAIN and lost about 60% more of the drippings, leaving me with a measly 1/4 cup to turn into gravy. I blame the flimsy Ikea roasting pan. 

I was upset for a good 10 minutes, but Adam kept reassuring me that I didn't ruin Thanksgiving. Which turned out to be true despite my protests that I did. Everything ended up coming together... well enough. Each dish had it's own minor flaws so my Thanksgiving meal didn't turn into the blogging recipe extravaganza that I had hoped to be able to share with you, but overall the meal was very tasty and I'm happy that I pulled it together by myself in my little kitchen.


The turkey was easier than I thought. Because I had such a small turkey, just under 8 pounds, I was able to brine it in my largest cooking pot. I put it in overnight and flipped it in the morning since the liquid didn't completely cover the turkey.

I've adjusted my recipe for amounts that will be sufficient for approximately a 15 pound bird.

Michelle's First Turkey Tips:

15 lb Turkey

Brine:
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoon's whole black peppercorns
1 lemon rind

- Fill large pot or bucket with water - mix in brine ingredients. Remove giblets from turkey, rinse and pat dry. Place turkey in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
- When ready to season your turkey, remove from brine and rinse. Pat dry.
- Allow for your turkey to be out of the fridge for about an hour to reach room temperature before putting in the oven.

Under Skin Seasoning Rub:
1/2 onion (save other half)
5 -6 cloves garlic
2 Tbls butter
1/2 Tbls salt
1 Teaspoon fresh thyme or sage
splash of chicken broth
olive oil

- Blend ingredients in food processor adding olive oil to achieve a paste.
- Separate turkey skin from the breast. Rub the paste underneath the skin.
- Rub the whole turkey with olive oil. Season liberally with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
- Stuff turkey with onion, 1 whole lemon rind (or squeezed lemon), sprigs of thyme. 
- Slice the remaining half onion and place in bottom of roasting pan. Add chicken broth to bottom of pan.
- Place turkey in pan on roasting rack. 

- Cook turkey according to your turkey's weight instructions.

Tips:
- I cooked my turkey at 350 degrees. The first hour I had the breast down. After the first hour I flipped the turkey to breast up and basted with the juices in pan and topped with pats of butter.
- When the breast skin started to look crispy I tented the bird with foil.
- Make sure you keep juices in the bottom of pan. Add chicken broth if it is looking dry.
- Baste often.

Onion Gravy:

- Drippings from pan
- 1/4 cup flour
- chicken broth
- 1/4 teaspoon corn starch
- pepper

- Place drippings with onions in sauce pan, pan, or you can use the roasting pan on your stovetop. 
- Add flour and whisk over medium heat.
- Add chicken broth to get desired amount. I used about 1 1/2 cups broth to 1/4 cup drippings.
- Season with fresh cracked pepper.
- Whisk over heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat.Whisk. Add corn starch for a thicker gravy.

Peace, love, turkey, and happiness!

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