Homefront: How to ruin a turkey without even trying
Have you eaten enough leftover turkey yet? Since today is the last day of November, I’m going to serve up some turkey stories as my own version of a leftover Thanksgiving column.
Last year, I served the ugliest turkey dinner in our family’s history. It was, however, a tasty bird and not at all dry, like some turkeys of Thanksgivings past.
I followed the same recipe my mother uses, but of course, her birds come out looking as good as they taste.
When mine came out of the oven, it fell apart and was in no shape to be carved. Similarly, my pies often ooze around on their pans and are best eaten with a spoon. I like to blame it on my ovens, but it is a problem that hasn’t improved as we move from house to house!
Like last year’s turkey, the pies are always edible and tasty, but they would never make it into the pages of Good Housekeeping magazine.
The story of my first attempt at cooking a turkey has become a legend in our family. Ron enjoys retelling it year after year and enhancing the story a bit each time.
We weren’t yet married when I decided to try my wings at cooking a big bird.
Before going any further, I want to point out a major difference in the southern-style Thanksgiving meal of my childhood and the "Yankee-style" meal I attempted to make for my then-boyfriend.
Although I had watched my mother make "dressing" year after year, I decided to cook turkey the way he was used to it, with "stuffing."
They are both the same thing, with one big difference; dressing is cooked in a pan, and stuffing is cooked inside the turkey.
Since I bought the turkey in Pennsylvania, I assumed it was a "Yankeebird," with stuffing already inside it. But the "stuff" inside was the usual neck, liver and other slimy parts that are crammed inside the turkey.
I didn’t bother taking it out and instead, cooked the bird just like I bought it.
As a newlywed the next year, I thought I had the whole stuffing thing figured out and bought a package of Pepperidge Farm stuffing at the commissary.
Having learned from experience, I took all the gross stuff out of the inside and filled it up with stuffing.
The only problem was that I took the dry stuffing straight from the bag and didn’t mix it with anything. It was as moist and flavorful as cardboard.
For the next several years, we wisely celebrated Thanksgiving with our families.
By the time it was my turn to cook again, I had decided to try my luck with preparing southern-style dressing.
It took several long-distance conversations with my mother and more than a few attempts before I got it right … or as close to right as I will ever have it.
I hope I have learned a thing or two over the 19 years that have passed since I first tried to cook a turkey.
That still doesn’t guarantee next year’s bird will be edible, but if it isn’t, I will at least have a good story to tell. And the boys and Ron will just have to fill their stomachs with runny pie.
A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at email@example.com or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.