I won it as a Thanksgiving prize in a random drawing at work. It was called a “Willie Bird” – one of those free range turkeys that are so popular. Egad, my good man, all that extra freedom didn’t seem to do this Willie any good at the end of his day.
Well, I was visiting friends for Thanksgiving and they already had a bird. This was an 11 pounder. There’s only one of me. What would I do with him? I didn’t tell anyone I had never cooked a turkey before. I tried to give him away, but everybody already had their birds.
Miraculously, he fit in the apartment fridge freezer. I could always cook him for Christmas. Come Christmas, I was still sick as a dog with that flu. I barely had enough energy to make it to the kitchen, let alone cook a bird. I think I had chicken soup for Christmas dinner and went right back to bed.
Friends at work prompted me. They chatted me up. If Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity could roam the surface of the Red Planet for three years, Alex should be able to cook a turkey. Move it from the freezer to the fridge 3 days before you’re ready to cook it. Here, take this extra box of stuffing home. Buy an onion and some celery.
I read up on it in the cookbook. For an 11 pounder you want 325 degrees for 3-1/2 to 4-1/4 hours, with an internal temp of 185 when done. I made the stuffing but skipped the chopped celery. I washed the bird and removed all the stuff from the stuffing cavity. I didn’t know there was stuff up front too, but, no harm. I rubbed the bird down with olive oil and put the stuffing in the cavity, but didn’t pack it (the book says it expands, and it does). I had some aluminum nails (for potatoes) that I used to stitch up the cavity.
No roasting potatoes and carrots for the bottom of the pan. Good lord man, the bird alone is more than I can eat!
And the picture says it all. It roasted for four hours and went a little over 185 degrees. There was ample juice for gravy and I justed added pepper and flour and a lot of stirring. The bird sliced wonderfully. I served with a small side of leftover pasta. Outstanding meal!
I couldn’t say whether the free range bird is superior to the ordinary plumped kind, but that’s just because I don’t have a first-hand basis for comparison. Bob used to cook all the birds, and on the plate they all seem the same to me – tender, moist, delicious. I could have basted mine one more time. I think the olive oil browns without burnng better than the butter mixes I remember from days old. I did baste twice, just using the ample juices in the bottom of the pan.
Of course there’s the cleanup, the storage and such. Tomorrow I’ll slice up the 90% that’s left. Turkey dinner and turkey sandwiches for days and days! Good thing I REALLY like turkey!
I thought of Bob often as I cooked, and you know, it wasn’t sad – it was fun. I was doing what he used to love to do. When I finally carved up my Willie, I took the photo because Bob isn’t here to to bear witness – Alex actually cooked a turkey! I had a good laugh about that. And once, I thought I heard him laughing too. A Christmas Turkey on January 13th is certainly worth a smile or two. Especially when cooked by yours truly.
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