Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The turkey has landed

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.

No.

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...

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17 Comments:

At 9:27 pm, December 27, 2006, Blogger nick cetacean said...

Turkeys are extremely ugly birds. The breast meat is OK because its white and looks the same as a (large) chicken. But the wings freak me out.

Whereas chicken wings are a delight to bold, turkey wings are enormous mutant pimpled things that I would no sooner put in my mouth than jam in my eye (or anywhere else).

 
At 10:54 pm, December 27, 2006, Blogger meva said...

Turkey is overrated, I reckon. Massaging turkey should be a criminal act. And deep fried turkey is an abomination against the ford.

I'll stick with a Pissmas lobster.

I hope you're recovered in time for New Year! My liver is really struggling.

 
At 5:25 am, December 28, 2006, Blogger jedimerc said...

Wasn't the deep-fried coke on a episode of the Simpsons? I, for one, have never deep fried a turkey... fried chicken all the time, but never turkey :)

 
At 2:03 pm, December 28, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Nick, ooh yeah. I don't usually bother with turkey, even the breast meat. The things we do for our families, eh?

Meva, if only my sister weren't a seafood-hater, we would have gone down that track long ago. We have prawns for dinner, but it's always a roasted something at lunch. Perhaps a SPAM lamb next year... As for the liver, it's evil and must be punished ;)

Jedimerc, sorry, mate - didn't mean to suggest you would do anything as freaky as deep frying a turkey. I was just casting nasturtiums at your country. As for the deep-fried coke, it became a reality a few months ago in your own home state. Look.

 
At 4:28 pm, December 28, 2006, Blogger Ariel said...

Thanks for the explanatory link, RC - I was wondering how the hell one would deep fry Coke. Now I know.

I'm impressed by all the effort (yours, not the Coke frier). I just ate other people's roasted creations!

And off the thread, but still on your page - Jeremiah was a bullfrog, not Jethro. And what a great book you're reading. Middlesex, his next book, is also brilliant.

 
At 5:05 pm, December 28, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Ariel, it's amazing what people will fry. And use Coke for. Do you know that in the US it's also used as a marinade for roast meat? ~shudder~

Re Jethro, yeah, I did know it was Jeremiah - I was just having a go. Fancy doing that to a child, though! I suppose one can hope that he was named after the Dickens character and not the band, even though the likelihood is slim.

I'm really enjoying the way Geoffrey Eugenides plays with words. It's a real treat. I have Middlesex on one of my overflowing bookshelves, but haven't got to it yet. It's one of those that I filed away for future reference :)

 
At 5:12 pm, December 28, 2006, Anonymous ashleigh said...

Oh dear, I've got tears running down my face. Mr Bean rides again!

I found some smoked turkey wings for sale in the central market a few weeks ago. They were not bad - apart from the endy bits which had a pretty tough skin on them. A single wing made a meal. Damn big birds.

 
At 8:30 pm, December 28, 2006, Blogger MadameBoffin said...

Red I applaud your fortitude when faced with this gargantuan and wholly unappreciated task. The things we do at Christmas, eh? :)

 
At 10:46 pm, December 28, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Ashleigh, I binned the wings and drumsticks this afternoon. Neither of us could bring ourselves to touch them, despite the massage and loving basting, etc. ~shudder~

Boff, you're right. If I had my way, I'd be serving mojitos and a nice antipasto platter! In fact, I may just do that next year - Pissmas is at MY place >:)

 
At 12:57 pm, December 29, 2006, Blogger jedimerc said...

I must have missed the article (and crazily enough the State Fair is in my home city), but I haven't attended the Fair since I was knee high to a grasshopper :)

Man, my arteries hardened reading that article...

 
At 1:55 pm, December 29, 2006, Blogger Scorpy said...

That was soooo funny...you are very brave to undertake such a mammoth task and at times it must have felt like you were cooking said mammoth LOL

 
At 2:33 pm, December 29, 2006, Blogger Rach said...

wow

fisting a turkey is way worse than getting a dusty fondue set and feeling un-loved.

next year you can come over to my house, and we'll have deep fried lean-cuisine.

 
At 3:52 pm, December 29, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Jedi, if deep-fried stuff is anything to go by, state fairs must be like royal shows in Australia. I'd been craving a dagwood dog (a battered, deep-fried hotdog on a stick), but when I had one at the show this year, it was just revolting.

Scorpy, you know, it might have been easier cooking a mammoth. At least their tusks make convenient handles ;)

Rach, it's a date. I'll bring the Havana Club and the limes. By the way, I got a fondue set the year before last from one of my Outlaws. It's at the back of the pantry, still in the packaging.

Oh, and sorry Ariel - I meant "Jeffrey". Pissmas brain fry got me there. :P

 
At 5:08 pm, December 29, 2006, Blogger Ariel said...

Meh - Pissmas got to me, too - correcting a pisstake ... (shakes head at self)

And I HAD heard about the marinade, if not the deep frying (two shudders)

I had Middlesex on my 'to be read' shelf for a year. And when I finally opened it to read, there was a handwritten note from the publishing person who kindly sent me the reading copy I requested, asking me to let her know what I thought of it. Oops!

 
At 8:20 pm, December 29, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

That's all right, Ariel - you can be forgiven. It was probably on the unintelligble side of subtle. And after my Geoffrey/Jeffrey gaffe, you could certainly be forgiven!

Ooh dear. That's never good when you find a note like that, is it? I made friends with the PR of a publishing house last year and she threw me about half a dozen books, most of which I still haven't read. (Looks shifty, tiptoes away...) But then I also have four books and a six CD set on my "to review" pile at the moment. I suppose that's what holidays are for.

 
At 12:07 pm, January 01, 2007, Blogger Ms Smack said...

-shudder-

 
At 5:26 pm, January 05, 2008, Blogger Lisa said...

Stephanie Alexander's recipes SUCK!! They're RUBBISH!! They never work, she takes stupid shortcuts, and she doesn't explain things properly.

Take, for instance, a recipe for "La Tropezienne" that I got off cuisine.com.au and tried to make today. Half of the directions were repetitious (for instance, put the cake on a rack and then tip it out onto a rack) or missing (you were somehow supposed to magically proof the dough a second time without knocking it back - ??). The end result was shithouse after all that work and, in case you can't tell, I'm VERY CROSS.

 

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