I have never, in my life, produced a dry turkey and I was tasked with the T-Day Turkey when I turned 15 or 16. By that point, my Nana and Great Grandmother were more than content to turn over the responsibility.
I was always taught that the most important part about food was that it should taste good; that you should never sacrifice flavor and pleasure for the sake of saving some calories. I took that sage advice to heart and never once looked back.
If you partake in the spread that I have prepared, I will freely admit that any diet you are on will be blown, and that you will probably be diagnosed with clogged arteries at a later date, but I promise you that it’s worth it.
I don’t have a set recipe as I am one of those types of cooks who prepares food by the seat of her pants. Sometimes, ask my husband, it hasn’t ended well. However, I’ve had more disasters when I’ve followed a recipe versus just following my gut.
A dry turkey is something that I’ve never really understood. I’ve experienced it, for sure, but I have never suffered the preparation of one. I remember one year we had Thanksgiving with my Mother-in-law, a close friend of ours Gregor Sampsa, and even my husband Xannatos’ father drove up for the event. Hubby’s mother was in charge of the cooking, and it was the worst meal I think I’d ever eaten; particularly the turkey. It wasn’t a Griswold Family style turkey in the sense of it being sliced open and a huge puff of smoke billows forth, but do you remember how everyone was gnawing on their meat because it was so dry it had moved beyond jerky? Well, my mother-in-laws turkey that year was almost that bad. The white meat was so dry it practically crumbled, and she even managed to dry out the dark meat. Usually, that’s the meat on any turkey that will be edible. Not so that year. We won’t even go into the rest of the meal, and I don’t remember much of it anyways. However, I do remember talking with everyone later in the day after we had left and we all remarked on how… interesting dinner had been.
MIL has never been known for her cooking; I mean, BBQ to her is just throwing some chicken on the grill without any skin or sauce and letting it char completely. That year, though, we decided to give her some semblance of control as I had taken over once I stole her son away. I swore I’d never, ever, relinquish T-Day Dinner to anyone again.
Now, fast-forward a few years and I now share the kitchen with my new Chinese Mother-In-Law, and my much younger Chinese Brother-in-law (who is an aspiring chef, by the way). For the most part, I still handle the bulk of it, but every year there are more and more ethnic dishes to be had, and last year I even allowed my BIL to cook the turkey. After several years of eating it, he wanted to know how I cooked it. He’d been helping me prep the ingredients, but had never partaken in the actual cooking process. It was a success, even if it did have more of an Asian flavor to it, but what else would you expect? All I told him was to pick spices and herbs out of the drawer, smell them, and then we’d decide which would work well together.
All in all, the key to a good turkey isn’t so much the flavorings, but in how moist the turkey is. If your white meat is juicy, then you have succeeded. Once you’ve figured out how accomplish that, the flavor will follow.
One of the things I learned early on was that a digital meat thermometer that could be poked into the turkey and then put into the oven and read from the outside was the key thing. After that, slap some foil on that baby and leave it alone until your temperature alert goes off! I also use obscene amounts of butter, fresh garlic, and fresh ginger under the skin. The herbs and spices I use are completely dependent up on what I have stocked in my spice drawer. I’ve been known to use everything from Cayenne to Cinnamon – it’s all fair game in my kitchen!