Please Pass the Gravy, or: Please Mum, I Know it’s Thanksgiving, But Not Another Turkey!

Cranberry Relish? Can eat it all year.

I know, I know. What I’m about to say is un-American. Sacrilegious. Blasphemy in its definitive form. But I can’t pretend any longer: I hate turkey.

Cranberry relish? Can eat it all year, goes particularly well with pork. Mashed potatoes? God’s food. But turkey? If it’s not semi-synthetic and deli-sliced on my sandwich, accompanied by sharp mustard, gouda, and bread & butter pickles, then I’m not interested.

“My mother’s turkey was always usually good,” my own mother said, trying to convince me that the oversized poultry really is delicious. “Except for that time she put all the cayenne pepper in the stuffing. She was a lot like you — always experimenting in the kitchen.”

I never knew my grandmother, but clearly, she and I were a lot alike. She understood what I understand — turkey is bland and needs all the help it can get. She may have been heavy-handed with the cayenne, but she meant well.

The one good thing about turkey? Being able to drink wine in front of the fire while it roasts... and roasts.

Butterball.

Organic.

Free range.

Wild.

Organic Free Range.

28 pounders.

12 pounders.

There isn’t a bird on the market at any weight we haven’t tried and tried again. Some have more “turkey taste” than others, but even after tons of culinary TLC, all have proven a disappointment.

There have been test turkeys in October and re-test turkeys in early November. Sometimes, we walk away hopeful. Most of the time, we end up with a lot of unsavory leftovers (thank goodness “turkey is bad for dogs” is an urban legend.)

We've produced many a turkeys worthy of a Rockwell painting, few worth remembering as an entree

We’ve bounced from method to method, hoping something would finally produce a succulent dinner centerpiece.

For years, we clung to the “tent and baste” system in which my father slathers butter all over the bird, creates a tin-foil tent to shield it, and we all take turns basting it on the hour. But after several rubber-like final products, we began to experiment.

  • There was the brining experiment gone terribly wrong. The garbage bag leaked in the fridge, spreading salmonella-laden water over all the vegetables and side dishes. There was only turkey that year. And far too much of it.
  • We then tried the cheese-cloth soaked in wine and butter method. Wine and butter are flammable when not properly watched. Luckily, we keep a compact fire extinguisher in the kitchen for just such incidents.

Over the years, some of these approaches undoubtedly produced a bird worthy of a Norman Rockwell illustration, but all resulted in an entrée better left forgotten.

I'm good at homemade ravioli. Can't we just have those for Thanksgiving?

The best turkey we ever made was the result of an extended hospital stay – my mother broke her rib while vacuuming. The whole family rushed off to the hospital where we passed the next 7 hours. Luckily, before we left the house, we turned the oven down and quietly forgot about the turkey.

“Mum, can’t we just have a chicken this year?” I asked as we stood at the holiday order counter at Whole Foods.

“No. You want stuffing don’t you?”

To this I could of no retort. Thank goodness I’ve at least mastered the art of a delicious gravy.

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2 thoughts on “Please Pass the Gravy, or: Please Mum, I Know it’s Thanksgiving, But Not Another Turkey!

  1. 0. Thanksgiving is about family and/or friends and/or football. It does not matter what you eat as long as you share it with someone you care about (or your pet).
    1. Stuffing can be made in a pan. It’s not as “authentic” and called something else (dressing, I think), but still quite good.
    2. Chicken is a perfectly legitimate Thanksgiving meal. This year we had two turkeys and two hams (40 people). Two years ago we had a big chicken and ate it in the middle of the woods (best done in CA and not NY).
    3. If you must do a turkey, brined is the best way to go, and (as I found out this year), you can get them pre-brined from the butcher. It might be a bit late for that now, but ask anyway.
    4. If you must get a huge turkey (mine was 19lbs), feel free to jokingly ask the butcher’s cute assistant to carry it for you. Sometimes he will. 🙂
    5. Feel free to make ravioli for me any time.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Kathleen

      Agreed.
      I am happy to report that this year’s beer marinade produced a reasonably tasty and moist bird… the source of this year’s oven fire was instead the cheese biscuits. And I’d going to blame Christopher and his “there’s no such thing as too much cheese” approach

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