Gobble Gobble Gobbler
1. Props: First of all, you need a chef’s hat of some sort, and you need it for three reasons:
A) People respect the hat and stay the hell out of your way. And if they don’t, you can say, “Chef, coming through” and people will respect the hat, lest their meal be ruined by their insouciance. Feel free to shout, “You’re going to RUIN the turkey” to anyone who does something you don’t like. You’ll be amazed at how much more meekly they take such proclamations when they come from one authorized by the hat.
B) The hat allows you to drink whatever you want, whenever you want without judgment—again, for whatever reason people cede their negative judgments about such petty offenses as “drinking the wine right out of the bottle” or sipping whiskey from a soup bowl because either they don’t notice or they assume it has some cooking function. Note that as soon as the hat comes off (or the turkey hits the floor should you, say, drop it) everybody turns into Judge Wopner, which is a solid reason for wearing the hat all day, including at dinner.
C) If the worst happens, and the turkey tastes like old leather, there’s consolation to be had in the fact that at least you got to boss everyone around all day. Which is fun.
2. Ingredients: Once the hat is on, you need:
- Giblets & Neck (from inside the turkey)
- Rub (Salt, Pepper, and all or some of the following (fresh is better than dried): Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Marjoram)
- Olive Oil & a stick of butter
- One Onion (quartered)
- Three stalks of celery and a carrot, if you want (chopped)
- A lemon or orange (chunked)
- String (optional)
- Bay Leaf
- Garlic (3 to 100 cloves)–chopped
- All or some of: Dry Sherry, Vermouth, or White Wine (ha—got that one!)
- A 12 pack of Hard Cider
3. Magic Juice (Basting Liquid)
Crack yourself open a cider. Go ahead and taste it to make sure it’s bubbly. If you finish that one (because, really, they’re so easy to drink), crack open another one. Taste as necessary. Get a medium sized sauce pan out. Consider drinking another cider. Grab the organs and neck and throw them on a chopping board or do so after drinking some courage. Set the liver aside. Take some whacks at the rest, gizzard, too, until they’re chopped and scrape them into the sauce pan. Add five cups of water. Toss in a bay leaf. Toss in the chopped garlic. Sprinkle it with some Paprika if you want. Throw whatever you want in there—seriously. It doesn’t really matter; it all adds to the magic. Make sure you dump some salt in there and then pour in some wine or sherry or whatever is handy. Drink some of that, too. Chef’s Prerogative. Turn the heat to medium and set a timer. You’re going to let that cook for about an hour. In the meantime, start working on the turkey.
4. Turkey Prep
Pull your thawed turkey out and clean that sucker in running water. Be sure to check the packaging for the poundage. It will be important later. Write it down somewhere. You might be too busy or too hammered later to remember, and if you don’t remember, you will RUIN the turkey. Prepare your rub by dumping a lot of salt, pepper, and herbs into a bowl. If you use fresh herbs, strip them off the stalks and chop them roughly, but be sure to save a few stalks for later. Mix that all together and then add a little more salt. You probably didn’t put in enough the first time. Pat your bird dry with paper towels or your mink coat or whatever you use for that and then gently push your hand under the skin, separating the skin from the meat. Once you’ve made some space in there, grab a handful of rub and rub it in there. Do this for as much of the bird as you can get your hand to without tearing the skin off. If you tear the skin, please note that two sentences above I said GENTLY! If anyone says anything about the torn skin, point to the hat and tell them that it’s for their own good and it’s a French technique and they probably wouldn’t understand so they should shut their pie hole and if they don’t….(say it with me) they’re going to RUIN the Turkey!! Rub the inside of the turkey down, too. Set the extra rub aside.
Once that is done, either stuff your turkey with your family’s ancient stuffing recipe or whatever OR, if you’re not going to stuff it, take a quarter or two of the onion, a chunk of the lemon (or orange), a couple of celery stalks, the carrot (or some of the above) and a few stalks of each of the herbs (make sure that sage gets in there) and stuff them into the chest cavity (from the leg end, goofy). Not too tight! It’s not a piñata. Make sure there’s room in there. Preheat the oven to 325.
Start melting a stick of butter. Take some chef’s string (or kite string, whatever, as long as it isn’t colored yarn) and truss the turkey so the wings are pulled into toward the chest and the legs are held somewhat tightly against the body and the cavity is somewhat closed up. I would tell you how to do it, but it will be much funnier for the rest of the family if you just try to figure it out. Tie a bow, tie a sailor’s knot, whatever you want. Once that sucker is good and snug and you’ve stopped laughing, take a couple of sheets of foil and cover the breast of the turkey. Two layers should do it. If anyone asks what you are doing, tell them to go watch the goldarn Lions game and stop trying to RUIN the turkey and if they want to be helpful to pour you another Bloody Mary. Once you’ve got the foil on (that’s right—I slipped in a reference to Slap Shot), take the melted butter and brush it on the parts of the bird that are not the covered breast. Add some salt to your rub (told you). Once she’s all buttered up, sprinkle it with the remaining rub, and set aside the butter and rub for #7. Set it onto the rack in your roasting pan. Place the roasting pan (with the turkey) in the oven. Do not cover. Plan on cooking that sucker for about 12 minutes per pound if it is unstuffed (12-15 minutes per pound if you stuffed it with dressing). Make sure someone else checks your math. Act like you’re doing them a favor by including them in the process. Celebrate with a drink when they “get it right.” Maybe a tasty cider. Speaking of cider…turn your attention now to the magic juice.
5. Magic Juice
About an hour or so after you start cooking the magic juice, toss in the liver and dump in half to ¾ of a bottle/can of cider. Drink the rest. Write yourself a note to check it in 30 minutes or so. When the liver is pink, take it out and your magic juice is ready to go. Keep it cooking, and keep dumping in cider (about every 45 minutes or so) until the turkey is done.
Once the Magic Juice is ready, take a big ol’ baster, open up the oven and squirt some of that magic stuff on the bird. Once you’ve wetted that sucker up, pour another cider in the pan, replacing the liquid you squirted out, drink the rest, and look at the clock so you’ll know when to come back and do it again (about 45 minutes I said, remember? Pay ATTENTION!).
7. Almost Finished
When you have an hour to go, remove the foil, give it one last basting all over, and then brush the breast with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle it with rub. Try to do your work inside the oven if you can, but if you can’t, don’t let anyone look at it. Stab them in the eye if they try to. It will look wrong and pasty and terrible. You will ruin their appetite and trust in the hat if you allow them to see the turkey in that state. If they try to look, set something on fire and do your work while they are putting out the flames. Seriously.
Around the time you think it should be done, pull it out, slap anyone who reaches for it and shove a thermometer into the thigh. Try not to hit bone and be sure you don’t poke through to the middle. It should read in the 160 to 180 range. If it’s at 175 or higher, it’s done. Check it in a couple of places. Be sure. You don’t want to kill anyone (but you don’t want to overcook it either). This is the most pressure packed moment of your day. Have a drink to relax and then check it again. Cook more if necessary. If it’s done, then pick up a very sharp knife and stab anyone who reaches for it before it is done resting. Allow it to rest at least 30 minutes. 45 is preferable. It’ll still be hot when you cut it, but it’ll be a lot juicier than it would if you cut it right away. Let it rest, dammit.
9. Carve Away
You know what to do from there, and if you don’t, watch this video sometime before picking up the carving tools.
(With apologies to the leaf-eaters and teetotalers out there–please feel free to substitute as required.)