Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Turkey Now Speaks...

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I promise not to bore you with a detailed story of our wonderful day. Something did occur, or more accurately, occurred to me, worthy of reporting especially considering this blogs mission statement: Life lessons and food.
A Christmas Story [Blu-ray]
The task of cooking the turkey fell to me this year. Like Sylvia, I love to cook and look forward to tough challenges. Roasting turkeys, not so much. Why? Because the turkey is the center piece of the meal and if you have an epic fail, as depicted in the movie "A Christmas Story," there is nowhere to punt. For example, if we have invited friends or family over for a regular Saturday night dinner and there is a massive failure, we can load up the car and go out for sushi or a goose if you want to stick with the movie plot. But Thanksgiving? The expectation is turkey!

The Tuesday night before the big event, Sylvia and I reviewed an Alton Brown (of "Good Eats" fame) episode dedicated to cooking the perfect turkey. Basically, soak the bird in a brine, stick the turkey into a 500F oven for 30 minutes to brown, reduce to 350F and cover the breast with a triangle of foil as to not dry out the meat, cook until meat thermometer says 161F, rest the bird and eat. That is the highly condensed version.

So, there I was, after 30 minutes at 500F with a bird that is perfectly browned. Just ten minutes later the digital meat thermometer starts beeping -- it says the meat is 161F! Done if I'm to follow Alton's instructions. I had been careful to place the probe exactly where he told me to. You and I both know, this bird is nowhere near done after 40 minutes. Now what?

I decided to rely on my gut instinct and throw out most of the rest of instructions I had planned to follow. And throw out the digital thermometer -- I was going old-school on this turkey! Covering the bird completely with foil (based on a grilled whole chicken I have cooked that is stunningly moist when done) and pouring a 1/2 bottle of beer in the bottom of the roast pan. Mostly because I had already drank the other 1/2. Then I waited. When the bird "looked" done and a test pull on the wings felt about right, we pulled it out of the oven and let it rest. When it came time to slice it up, I was able to grab the drumstick and free it from the joint with just an easy twist and pull. No electric knife needed.

Ah, yes. The life lesson.

When I cook, I seem to have a sixth sense about when an item is cooked as I want it. Especially beef. Either on the grill, stove top or oven. When grilling, I can be in the house, chatting with friends, drinking wine and having lots of laughs when suddenly, a "virtual" timer bell will go off in my head and sure enough, the meat will be cooked to perfection, in my humble opinion. Also in my humble opinion, I am not the only one with this "skill."

I mentioned this to Sylvia the next day and started to think about the thousands of years humans have cooked over open fires and how it might be possible this "skill" has been passed down to me. I never knew my grandparents so the thought of having some connection to unknown ancestors going back thousands of years -- whether one believes it's possible or not -- is a nice little diversion. Trying not to get to "new age" on you, but maybe even a connection to the animal that has given their life to sustain mine?

And what about trusting my instinct? When I have suffered most in life is when I haven't trusted my instincts. Thanksgiving Day was a nice little test to confirm the software is working as expected.

Happy Holidays,



  1. It's Nick. You two write exceedingly well. Love this site.

  2. Love this post! I'd like to think that the ancestor thing was really true - but if it was, wouldn't I be better at math? Maybe it's part instinct and a lot of experience that gave you the courage to toss out the recipe. Bravo!

  3. Clark MitchellDecember 02, 2010

    Well, slap my face and call me Shirley...BOTH of them are talented in the literary arena. A pleasure to read each and every post!

  4. Fire and meat are primal instinct. Deliciously put old friend. Happy Thanksgiving.


  5. Great to hear from the other side of the family - and I love your writing!
    Man. Fire. Meat. Is there a problem?

    I have no idea who Clark Mitchell is, but I LOVE his comment!!!

  6. I don't know how you do it. My belief in myself falls short. Good on ya!

    - Barbara


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