25 November 2007

Mourning for the Turkey

When a couple of old friends came together to throw me a surprise birthday party at a cool flower-themed cafe, I was elated and thoroughly touched. At that very dinner, we made a date to celebrate Thanksgiving together just because. It was a convenient excuse to massacre a turkey, subject it to long periods of gentle heat, drown it with huge scoops of gravy and stuff ourselves with big forkfuls of the white/red meat as well as the accompanying stuffing, green bean casserole and salad.

Of course, one cannot forget the Pecan (Pee-ken, Per-con, Pee-kan) and Pumpkin Pies. To show how grateful I was for the surprise birthday dinner, I volunteered my home and to prepare the turkey, which would be the gargantuan task for the dinner.

Believe me, I was apprehensive right from the moment the words 'I'll do the turkey!' (which sounds really iffy in fact) left my lips. I was more apprehensive when I saw the big frozen Butterball Turkeys sitting in the freezer in Cold Storage. I was even MORE apprehensive when I plonked the defrosted, dripping turkey on my Mario Batali Pizza mat (a gift from my colleagues, and convenient for anything from dough to turkey!) and realised the real enormity of the bird.

But I kept my faith. All throughout slathering the bacon and sage butter in between the skin and the flesh of the turkey, I kept my faith. While fumbling with the twine that came with the turkey, to keep the thigh and wings in place, I kept my faith. While basting the bird with my big 'eye-dropper', I did so with tender loving care, believing that the more effort I put into the bird, the more it would reward me with a beautifully golden sheen.

Thankfully, all the hardwork paid off. As did the diligent flipping of the potatoes and parsnips that sat in all the terribly, sinfully, delicious drippings. It was a huge challenge, moving the turkey from the oven to the biggest plate I had. And thankfully, I had friends who knew how to carve the turkey efficiently while I fussed around the wines and water.

I was really worried that the turkey would end up dry, which it is notorious for. While being one of the healthiest meats, with the lowest calorie and fat count, the side effect for all that is usually tasteless meat. Brining the turkey from about 24-48 hours is known to resolve the dry-turkey, but I did not have the luxury of time for that, being too busy for the entire week before.

So the recipe I adapted from Epicurious (and no less), was one which also promised moist meat from the savoury butter sandwiched between the skin and the flesh of the turkey. I guess from all the rave reviews of the recipe, I was pretty confident that it wouldn't turn out half bad.

It certainly didn't turn out half bad, and was in fact really really good. This of course, has piqued greater interest in the entire brining process that supposedly yields even better turkey! With such a huge turkey, just a salad, a green bean casserole and a stuffing was all that was necessary to satiate everyone's hunger and palates.
I repeated this a couple of times throughout the night, and I'm going to state it here again: It felt so surreal discussing politics, Myanmar and the Shia Crescent in front of an exposed turkey bone. And perhaps I was getting high from all the white shiraz, beaujolais nouveau and chardonnay, but the more I looked at the naked carcass especially surrounded by the beautiful purple flowers, the more it resembled a funeral!

Of course, I brushed all those thoughts aside once the pumpkin and pecan pies emerged. The recipe for the pumpkin pie was also gotten from Epicurious. And despite a failed attempt, my friend admirably perservered! He was a little late, but I was truly touched. Faced with that situation, I believe I would have just copped out and run to the nearby bakery for a ready-made pie or cake. He kept to his word and didn't arrive without a homemade pumpkin pie in tow.

As the night wore on and the laughter got considerably louder, possibly from all the freely flowing wine, and as we debated about the proper pronunciation of PECAN, I couldn't help glowing with joy. It was a wonderful feeling of contentment. That very moment epitomised my motivation for hosting dinner parties. Admittedly, these can be tiring, depending on how challenging the menu is, and whether it is a potluck or entirely cooked from scratch.
But listening to concurrent conversations over the dinner table and watching plates of food get passed around, knowing that people are comfortable and happily full - few other occasions can beat this.


Mandy said...

great post! very entertaining indeed. I made my turkey from that same issue of Gourmet too, but different recipe of course. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mandy, thanks! I trust it turned out just as well. =)

gabriel said...

Poor turkey!!! (Eh... don't suppose you gonna slaughter another one for our next gathering =) )

Anonymous said...

Gabe! Well if by slaughter you meant defrost, then of course I'd be glad to!