Do you want the Bad News, the Good News, or the Really Good News first?
Let’s start with the Good News:
I neither burned down my apartment nor poisoned my husband!
The Bad News:
I have to find a new stuffing recipe. (More on that in a minute.)
And finally, the Really Good News:
Gravy is AWESOME.
I may have mentioned it a time or two thousand before, but I had never eaten gravy until a few weeks ago in an IKEA cafeteria.
I had never eaten gravy before. Not even during the graviest of gravy days, Thanksgiving.
Now, I know your first impulse is to blame my parents.
How could they allow such a thing to happen? Someone call child services!
In fact, they had nothing to do with the lack of gravy in my life.
My mother, bless her heart, made gravy each and every Thanksgiving. And each and every Thanksgiving, I ignored it.
Now, I can’t 100% remember what my mom used to make the gravy… But I suspect it may have included giblets. Even if it did not, in fact, have anything to do with giblets, I may have thought it did. Perhaps this is why I eschewed gravy for so long.
Also, gravy looks a little like mucus.
YES I WENT THERE.
Anyway, I made gravy last night. Per the instructions from America’s Test Kitchen. And it was AH-MAY-ZING.
Also, super easy.
But, you know, mucus-like.
The other things I made for Fakesgiving were cranberry sauce, stuffing, and turkey.
Now, several people seemed quite miffed that I made the cranberry sauce from scratch rather than simply use the jarred stuff.
I understand their miffed-ness. After all, it can’t get much easier than opening a can.
But as much as I like to take the easy route, I like to take the difficult route.
For one thing, I like to appear “fancy” and “gourmet” and “like I know what I’m doing.”
For another, I like to know what’s in the thing that I’m eating. And there’s really no better way to know exactly what you’re putting in your mouth than to make it yourself.
This is the same principle behind the elaborate stuffing recipe I made.
I have never eaten stuffing, either. Well, maybe one or two bites. And that’s precisely because it looks like a big goopy mess of unidentifiable stuff. (This is just the nature of stuffing – I am not criticizing stuffing.)
If there’s anything I can’t stomach, it’s unidentifiable goop.
So when I saw the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, and noticed that it had all sorts of deliciousness – like Italian sausage and roasted mushrooms and apples – in it… well, I thought that I might be able to get past the goopyness in order to enjoy all of those things.
Turns out I was wrong.
All of the ingredients, separately, tasted amazing. (And, by the way, I figured out that this recipe is extra awesome because you can prepare all the separate parts – mushrooms, apple/onion mixture, sausage, bread crumbs – in advance and simply combine them right before you pop them in the oven.) (Of course, I did not discover this pleasant aspect of the recipe until after I’d made the stuffing the first time.)
But, once combined, the stuffing predictably turned into mush. So I tried one piece of the soggy bread and then proceeded to pick out the mushrooms and sausage from my helping and eat only those.
Stuffing is NOT very photogenic.
But that’s not the Big Problem with the stuffing.
My sweet husband assured me 10,000 times that he liked the stuffing… Good flavors, yada yada.
But it’s not traditional stuffing, apparently. It doesn’t have the same consistency (the bread chunks are too big) or flavors of the stuffing he’s always eaten. So he’s afraid that it will be too different for Thanksgiving.
Part of me wants to have some sort of stand-out signature dish… And I think this stuffing could be it.
But… I am a huge traditionalist. Especially when it comes to food. And even MORE especially when it comes to holiday food.
So I completely understand that having “special” stuffing might throw off the whole meal. I mean, if you wait all year to eat something… and you have a specific something in mind, something you eat every year that always tastes the same… Well, having a “special” version, no matter how tasty, might ruin the whole day.
As long as we’re talking about my husband killing my Thanksgiving dreams, let’s mention that he did not like the cranberry sauce.
I AM JUST JOKING. My feelings weren’t even a little bit hurt. I wanted his honest opinion on the food, seeing as a) he actually LIKES things like stuffing and gravy and b) it is his family that I’ll be feeding on Thanksgiving Day.
Husband noted that he has never liked cranberry sauce and never eats it anyway. Plus, I liked the cranberry sauce. It was easy to make and I will make it again so there.
Now, onto the turkey.
Internet, I opened up the turkey breast packets with great trepidation. In fact, the ENTIRE TIME I was dealing with the turkey, my face looked like this.
(You are in awe of my Paint Shop Skillz.)
I was terrified that I would have to touch the turkey. And then probably barf on the turkey.
See how scary it looks?
BLECH. Why does the skin have to have a TEXTURE?
BUT! I managed not to touch it at all! I used a paper-towel-and-fork combination to dry off both breasts and move them onto the roasting rack.
(This reinforces my desire to cook only breasts at my Thanksgiving dinner. Because no way would a fork and a paper towel be sufficient to deal with a whole bird.)
I was very suspicious of making the turkey. I’ve read all sorts of wonderful-sounding recipes that involve brining or rubs. But then I asked my mom what she does, she said something like “salt and pepper, put some carrots and celery and onions and garlic in the turkey cavity and you’re good to go.”
(She actually told me step-by-step how to make her Thanksgiving dinner, which I LOVE, and I immediately forgot everything. Which is why I turned to Pioneer Woman, who has not only detailed recipes, but photos of each step.)
(But you can bet I am going to call my mom again and ask her to recite – slowly – her recipe for goat-cheese-and-garlic mashed potatoes. Because those are my favorite part of any Thanksgiving.)
(I may need to buy a tape recorder so I don’t forget anything.)
Anyway. Back to the turkey.
The America’s Test Kitchen recipe was not only for turkey pieces, it was also wildly similar to my shard of a memory of my mom’s recipe. Wow, that sentence had too many prepositions. Blech.
The recipe was easy and didn’t involve brining bags or spice mixtures or putting things under the skin of the turkey. So I thought, what the hell! Let’s skip the fancy stuff and stick with old-fashioned tried-and-true!
So I poured my pre-cut onions, carrots, celery, and garlic (pre-cut by me, mind you) into the bottom of our roasting pan.
Covered them with a cup of low-sodium chicken stock. Paper-towel-and-forked the turkey onto the roasting rack. And prepared to slather the turkey with melted butter, salt, and pepper.
First of all, I don’t know how to melt butter.
I just put the butter in a dish and put it in the microwave and hit 30 seconds and hope for the best.
The first 30 seconds didn’t seem to faze the butter. The second 30 seconds caused it to explode all over the microwave.
I did managed to baste the turkey with the exploded butter (I mean, the stuff remaining in the dish. GAH. I just had a ghastly vision of swiping the inside of the microwave with my basting brush and using that to baste the turkey. GROSS.) but I also managed to get my hands all buttery.
Then I managed to transfer the butter to both the salt grinder and the pepper grinder.
Note: It is nearly impossible to grind salt or pepper when the grinders are slippery with butter.
Here is the turkey, nicely buttered.
I think the turkey was still a little cold, so the butter congealed a little. No, let’s say solidified. That sounds less throw-uppy.
Then I shoved the roasting pan into the oven.
Internet, it took 2 hours and 40 minutes of roasting – at 275 – to get the two 2.5-pound turkey breasts up to 160 degrees. On top of that, the turkey required TWO 30-minute “resting” periods… Plus 15 minutes of broiling to crisp up the skin.
That is a lot of waiting.
Fortunately, I was cooking the separate parts of the stuffing during this time. But even that only took an hour.
But when the turkey was done, it was awesome! I did not photograph the AFTER, although I did take a poorly-lit photo of my husband’s plate.
It tasted – and looked – a lot better than the photo would have you believe.
It was moist. It was cooked through. The crust was crispy and golden. Wait. Do turkeys have crusts, or is that just pies?
It tasted SUPER with the gravy.
My husband liked the meal enough that he delightedly made himself a turkey and stuffing and gravy sandwich to take with him to work today.
(I do not like Thanksgiving leftovers, and I ESPECIALLY do not like cold food.)
Let’s do a quick recap, since this post is so long:
* Gravy is awesome.
* Stuffing is gross.
* Turkey takes a long time to cook.
Overall, this Fakesgiving was a success. I feel MUCH more confident about feeding my in-laws.
Although, knowing me, the actual Opening Night will be a monstrous failure.
Stay tuned for the next installment, when I make mashed potatoes and/or sweet potato casserole and/or “traditional” stuffing.