Monday, November 30, 2009

Comfort Food

Only five people attended our Thanksgiving dinner, but that didn’t dissuade me from roasting a 21-pound tom. We didn’t finish even half the bird, but the food didn’t go to waste (I will spare you a feeble clichéd pun--I’m too tired to come up with something witty). We had plenty of leftover turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables, and pie to comfort us through the cold weekend.

A good roast turkey is dependent on preparation. I cleaned a new plastic $3 bucket from Home Depot and mixed two gallons of brine on Tuesday. Some brining formulas can be complicated, but mine was simple: boil one gallon of water containing carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and whatever spices I had in the cabinet (e.g., tarragon, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, pepper) for several hours, then let cool and discard the vegetables. I did the same with a second gallon of water that contained one cup of sugar and one cup of table salt. The combined solution was cooled overnight, and the volume was just enough to immerse the turkey for 24 hours beginning Wednesday morning.

A good roast turkey is dependent on knowing your equipment. The recipe books recommended heating the oven to 325 degrees F. But at that temperature the skin started browning after just 40 minutes, so I dialed the convection oven down to 250 degrees. Tenting it with foil (during the Eighties I used wet paper bags) would keep the bird moist but ran the risk of steaming the brine-soaked meat, so I roasted the turkey old school, i.e., uncovered.

A good roast turkey is dependent on paying attention. I checked on it every hour, basting the bird with pan juices. After four hours the turkey was pulled from the oven, its skin a golden brown. The meat was slightly moist, not too dry and not too wet.

The proof was in the eating. The critics whom I live with willingly dined on leftovers throughout the weekend. May your Thanksgiving, dear reader, have been as comforting and filling.

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