It's taken a day and a half, but I think I've recovered from the trauma. I did things to a turkey on Sunday and Monday that have left me feeling so dirty
Holy hell, that bird was big. When I ordered it from our local butcher I said, "I need to feed 10. How big a turkey do you think I need?" Fatal mistake. I now realise that that was almost as stupid as saying to a hairdresser, "Oh, I don't mind. Do whatever you think will suit me".
"Well," said Mrs Butcher, obviously rubbing her hands with glee, "someone wanted a turkey to feed 20 the other day, and we said they should get a size 8, so I think a size 5 would do you. That should be about four or five kilos."
"Fine," I said cheerily. "Slaughter it gently for me, then, and I'll collect it on Pissmas Eve."
Remember that episode of Mr Bean where he ends up with a turkey the size of an ostrich stuck on his head? Here, refresh your memory if you don't:
My turkey may have been slightly smaller, but not much. And thank Ford, it didn't end up anywhere near my head.
We hauled the thing home, using a small trailer that we were forced to rent from the butcher. (Nice side business, you bastards.) I tried putting it in various places: the kitchen floor (it fitted there, but that wasn't a great idea from a hygiene point of view); the sink (it covered the whole draining board and part of the bench); and the fridge (I had to remove all of the tall condiments from the second shelf to fit it in). I finally settled it on the couch to watch the midday movie and then did what any girl with a huge turkey and no idea what to do with it would do. I rang my mother.
"Hmm," Mama Cap said. "How big is it?"
"Mind-bogglingly huge. And oh, bugger it, I think it's still partially frozen."
A rather boring argument ensued about why I hadn't secured a fresh turkey. (In my defence, I thought that's what I was getting. Silly me.) The outcome of said argument was that Mama Cap was not going to be happy until I had stuck my hand up the turkey to find out just how frozen it was.
"Oh God, do I have to?" I whined, thinking of Adrian Mole's mother soaked in alcoholic tears as she tried to thaw a turkey in the bath on Christmas morning.
Naturally, I ended up sticking my hand up the turkey. It went past the wrist. I felt so dirty ~shudder~
After consulting several recipe books and Mama Cap, I decided to go with the cooking time suggested in The Cook's Companion. I'm not sure why, since most of Stephanie Alexander's recipes crash and burn in spectacular fashion when I try them. No, of couse it's not my fault! I have a theory that she's left out one crucial step in every recipe just so people will say, "Gosh, obviously I'm just not as good as Stephanie. One more proof of my inadequacy, I guess. Let's get pizza." (I believe she also has shares in Domino's.)
Needless to say, the turkey did thaw and I found myself awake stupidly early on Pissmas Morning, faced with a big bowl of mushroom and bacon stuffing and an even bigger bloody fowl.
"Remove the giblets and the neck," Stephanie instructed. Oh Ford. The neck was bad. It reminded me strongly of John Bobbitt and had been tucked away in a spot that no neck should ever be tucked. The giblets were worse and removing them involved a lot of manual digging. At 8am, this is not good.
"Wash the turkey, inside and out, and dry it thoroughly." Beejezus, do you know how hard this is with a turkey the size of a small child? Its wings and legs flopped all over the place every time I moved it and its goosey-looking skin was making me feel queasy. There was also the issue of the pinkish, watery blood-puddle it had left on the plate.
Once the damned thing had had its bath, been patted dry with a fluffy towel and been wrestled into a baking dish, I still had to stuff it. "Just lie back and think of England," I told it with a pat on its wing. I tried not to look as I piled in lemon wedges, garlic cloves and buckets and buckets of stuffing.
But the horror still wasn't over. Now the damned thing wanted a massage. It wanted to be rubbed all over with lemon and then plastered with butter. I opted for extra virgin olive oil, herbs and spices instead (just call me Mrs Sanders) but the effect was the same. I don't know why, but massaging poultry makes me feel grubby. It's not as though I've lit candles and some ylang ylang incense and put on a Barry White CD. I haven't poured the thing a glass of champagne and told it how attractive it looks in that roasting pan. Nevertheless, it feels Wrong.
Do you have any idea how long it takes to roast a turkey that big? Four hours. I understand that in the US, people like to deep fry turkeys. Whole. I can't even begin to imagine why anyone would deep fry a whole turkey. When I first heard about the practice, I (a) thought of Jake Blues asking for four whole fried chickens and (b) assumed it would be like KFC except with bigger drumsticks.
Apparently people get cooking pots the size of rubbish bins and propane burners that can also be used for funny-car racing and they get together with their friends and neighbours to buy the four gazillion litres of oil that is required to fully cover a turkey. And then they still have to worry about the whole thing catching fire and incinerating them or their houses. C'mon, people, it's only turkey! You can get turkey at the deli counter any day of the year! But I guess this was the country that invented deep-fried Coke. 'Nuff said. (Sorry, Jedimerc.)
In the end, my turkey wasn't bad. The memory of the trauma is still there, though, every time I open the fridge. Pissmas dinner was at my sister's, but she forced us to take the leftover turkey home. Well, the readily-identifiable bits, anyway. Every time I open the fridge, there are the wings and the browned nubs of the leg bones, pressed up against a plastic freezer bag. It's not unlike Laura Palmer, really, except that she wasn't baked with mushroom and bacon stuffing and lovingly basted with cooking juices.
Christ, what would I have been like if I'd actually had to chop the thing's head off and pluck it? Sorry, that was rhetorical. I'd be a vegetarian. In fact, Chinese greens are looking pretty good for the next week or so...
Labels: christmas, cooking, holidays