Since Kenny's mother and my future mother-in-law was laid up with a ruptured disc in her back, I thought I would try to tackle my first Thanksgiving meal (since Kenny loves his Turkey Day leftovers and I love him). I kept telling myself, "I can do this! I can do this!" Of course, per my style, I stressed over all that could go wrong and even had a nightmare I dropped the turkey on the floor. Let me just say, I think I bit off more than I could chew. However, I learned many valuable lessons. And as my mom and Granny said, "It's a rite of passage."
Lesson 1: Don't allow your fiance to pick out the bird. It will be the second largest one he can find and one I can't carry. (He picked out a 23lb turkey. At least it wasn't the 38lb turkey he found first!)
Lesson 2: If I can pick it up and dance with it, it's the bird for us! The smaller the better!
Lesson 3: Do as much prep work as possible.
Lesson 5: Drink wine.
Lesson 6: Make sure you have the oven on bake, not broil (the skin will burn before the turkey is cooked—if this does happen, make sure to put a tinfoil tent over it ASAP).
Lesson 7: Drink wine.
Lesson 8: Get a bigger kitchen and oven. Or just buy a bird that is in ratio to the kitchen/oven size. Note to self: register for a large roasting pan.
Lesson 9: Date the gravy. Be patient. Don't add so much flour that it becomes a paste.
Lesson 10: Did I say drink wine? If not, drink wine!
There are some things that are necessary to do ahead of time, like the brine. Yes, I brined the turkey and yes, I'm probably crazy.
4 cups kosher salt (grocery store was out of kosher salt, so I used sea salt)
5 cups granulated sugar
2 large onions, cut into 1" chunks
2 leeks (including green portion), cut into 1" chunks
2 carrots, cut into 1" chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into 1" chunks
1 garlic head, halved but not peeled
3 bay leaves
2 1/2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 teaspoons whole allspice
8 cups water (or however much fits in your largest pot—it does fill up fast with the ingredients so make sure and leave room—I had to dump a little water out as I went when I realized it would overflow if I kept adding things).
Directions: Place all ingredients in the pot of water. Stir and combine and let boil. Remove from heat and let cool completely (over night) before putting the turkey in the brine. I bought an oven bag, put the turkey in (with the help of Kenny) breast side down, poured the brine over the turkey and filled the rest up with water to cover the turkey. [Note: make sure you take out the neck and giblets before you do all this.]
I also made a spiced butter rub for the turkey. (Sorry, no picture.)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt (or in my case, regular salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Directions: Combine ingredients and rub all over turkey. You can use all of it, even if it seems like a lot of butter. It's supposed to make a fine crusty skin. Since I accidentally had my oven on broil for the first 30 minutes, my poor skin burned.
I was so frazzled making the rest of the sides, I did not take a picture before Kenny started carving it. Luckily, no one was poisoned, I did not drop the turkey on the floor, and everyone was well satisfied. In fact, I felt rather accomplished after I was all done. Here is a turkey roasting guide that I used to help me know how much time I needed: Turked Cooking Time Guide.
Here is the stuffing recipe I used: good ol' herb stuffing.
Thankfully, after we filled our bellies, Kenny and I traveled over to the Strand family Thanksgiving dinner and got our fill of laughter, joy, and drinks galore!