Yuletide philosophizing with one hand inside a turkey
If there’s one thing that cooking your first turkey will do for you, it’s give you plenty of time to reflect. I mean, when you’ve got one hand shoved up inside a turkey’s butt groping for a plastic bag full of neck and assorted viscera, you kind of have to get introspective. Or get majorly grossed out.
In any case, this is the first Christmas I’ve spent without my family, and it’s the first time J and I have ever attempted to roast a whole bird. So it’s only natural that my thoughts wandered to growing up while I manually hunted for giblets in a body cavity.
Jason got this turkey as a Thanksgiving gift from work. We did go to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, so the turkey languished in our freezer for a month before we sprung it from its frozen prison on Sunday to thaw.
Upon unwrapping it this afternoon, we discovered that a) the turkey was still mostly frozen, and b) we probably should have done a little more turkey research before brazenly sallying forth into this uncharted territory.
Both of us stared uncomprehendingly at this thing that should have been defrosted and ready to go.
Seriously, roasting anything whole should probably be one of those things they teach in high school soc classes, like how to file your taxes or write a check. I thought I was so smart because I knew there’d be a baggie of guts to remove pre-oven, but when we denuded the thing, I had the self-assured home-cooking soup-queen smirk wiped right off my face.
How are you supposed to get the bag out if it’s frozen solid inside? Am I supposed to cut off that flap of what I’m pretty sure is solid fat? Am I supposed to truss it, and if so, will minted dental floss work? And what the crap is this little red thing in the side that looks like a thumb tack?
I look at this simultaneously pitiful and threatening lump of flesh and bone and have to physically restrain myself from running to my cell phone to get my parents’ advice.
After all, this is 2011. I’m 25 years old. If I haven’t learned these life lessons by now, well, by gum, I should hide the fact that I’m woefully unprepared for adulthood and Google it. (Never mind that I’d trust my dad to know what to do with a turkey far more than any food blogger. He is, after all, the man who removed the bones from our Thanksgiving turkey in order to roll the dark meat inside the white. And it wasdelicious.)
After an hour of running the frozen carcass under cold water, Jason and I alternated reaching our hands inside the turkey to try to work out the neck and giblet bag.
The things were stuck inside like Excalibur in the stone.
“You can pick out chunks of ice,” I said, finally able to jiggle the neck to and fro a bit. I could wrap my fingers around the long, curved neck, but it refused to relinquish its place inside the bird. Plus, feeling around a block of ice while cold water runs on your hand kind of doesn’t help your dexterity.
“We are totally screwed,” Jason remarked conversationally. He took over trying to worry the neck free from the cavity, and seemed to be losing the battle.
But then, with an anticlimactic sucking sound, the neck finally popped free from the cavity.
I plunged back inside the frozen hand-torture chamber. “Where’s the rest of it?” I wondered, feeling about for the telltale crinkle of a plastic baggie.
“From what I read online, there should be a neck and a bag,” J said.
Peering anxiously into that pink cavern, I couldn’t see much of anything. All my fingertips met seemed to be frozen meat and bone. No bag to be seen or felt. “I guess… there’s no bag,” I said, entertaining visions of finding one amongst the onions and carrots after the turkey would be fully roasted.
Our eyes met over the puckered flesh. Jason shrugged.
We decided to proceed. A spice rub, a chopped onion, and a few fingers of whiskey later, I poured melted butter all over the thing.
Jason shoved the pan in the oven.
And then, we waited.
But I guess somewhere between peeling the plastic off of that hunk of flesh and ice and smelling the tantalizing onion aroma that’s wafting from the kitchen, I realized we grew up a little, with one hand rubbing paprika and salt onto a tender bird.
And even if we didn’t know exactly what we were getting ourselves into, with perseverance, cold tolerance, and the miracle of search engines, we got that turkey in the oven. If the holidays are about family, but Mom, Dad, and my brother aren’t here… our little family is.
So maybe our Christmas tradition will be getting way over our heads in the kitchen.
Oh, and we found the giblet bag when we were carving up the leftovers. It was in the neck cavity. Figures.