Yes, I remember my first time very well. I can’t remember what I had for dinner yesterday but I can remember Saturday night. No, not Saturday night 10 years ago or even last Saturday night because that would have been Thanksgiving and who cooks turkey on Thanksgiving? I was talking about this past Saturday night. Several weekends after Canadian Thanksgiving. That’s when you cook a turkey. Given our Christmas traditions, are you really that surprised?
Truth be told, I’ve never cooked a turkey before because I thought that it was so difficult. I mean, I don’t cook so how could I ever bake a turkey!? Turns out that I can. Make that I did. And, that it’s really easy. Like one step easy.
Read on if you, a) think that you can’t do it, b) want to find out how you can or c) want a good laugh.
When buying a turkey, apparently you can get ones to cook from frozen (Butterball I believe) but I just bought the one that was on sale (that darned sale that started it all) and it had to be thawed before cooking. I gave it 5 days in the fridge and it was (almost) totally thawed. I tried to get the smallest one possible and it ended up being 15lbs (7kg). It ended up being a good size, although smaller would have been okay too. Turns out that it was also a “utility turkey”. If it was labelled as such, I didn’t see it and/or wouldn’t have known what it meant. Turns out it was short a wing. What’s an appendage amongst friends.
Getting it ready was easy. Really easy. So easy that it was only one step. One step, well besides removing the plastic wrapping (never can tell with beginners like me) and putting it into a 17″ x 13″ and 4″ deep roasting pan. All I did was sprinkle it liberally with salt inside and out. When I say liberally, I mean LIBERALLY. Technically, I’m not sure that sprinkling would even apply because I poured salt all over it. Looks like I’ll finally have to buy another box of Windsor Salt. Once every 10 years isn’t so bad.
Then, I put it into a (preheated oven) at 325. Note that I used the “Roast Convection” setting on my oven so I set mine to 300. The roasting pan fit no problem. I was kind of worried because I didn’t measure before hand and thought WHAT IF IT DOESN’T FIT!? It did. Then, I went and read a book for four hours. Well, I didn’t read for the entire time but I didn’t do another thing to the turkey until I removed it from the oven. Yes, it was that easy.
When the timer went off, I took the Turkey out of the oven, covered it with tin foil and then put a heavy towel (doubled) over it. I had a top for the roaster and will just use it next time instead of the tin foil (so as not to waste) and still use the towel. It ended up “sitting” for an hour but 30 minutes is the minimum. Now for the fixins…
I didn’t do any food prep until after the turkey was out of the oven. Not because I didn’t have time but because I wanted things to be ready at the same time and hot. A short order cook I will never be. Looking back now, I could have done the stuffing, gravy and beets beforehand leaving just the potatoes and carrots for the end. Once all was said and done, it took me one hour from start to finish for the fixins. Which is fine because the turkey needed to sit anyways.
I had Uncle Eric peel six medium sized potatoes (I used yellow flesh ones) and then I cut them in thirds. I then boiled them until I could easily pierce them with a fork. That took about 10 minutes and then I drained them and removed a few for me (I don’t like mashed potatoes). I don’t know what Uncle Eric then did to them but I think he added some milk, butter and salt and pepper.
As for the stuffing, I cooked it in the oven. I didn’t stuff the turkey. Who knew? Apparently it cuts down on the turkey cooking time, minimizes the chance of the meat drying out and a little something called salmonella.
I started out by finely chopping up two celery stalks and ½ a red onion (I’m sure that any kind would do) and a slice of peameal bacon* and sauteed them in a big pat of butter. As for the amount of butter, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t use too much. In the end, I added another pat (of equal size). I didn’t add any salt (because of the peameal) and a bunch of poultry seasoning. I fried everything until it was a dark brown (around 10 minutes).
(Pretend there’s a picture of stuffing here)
Then, I transferred the contents to a large bowl and added ½ a loaf of Italian Bread, a handful of finely chopped apricots (my creative addition) and about a cup of store bought, low sodium chicken stock. I mixed it all around and made sure that everything was coated and a bit damp. If you like your stuffing soggier than add more stock.
After the turkey came out of the oven, I put the stuffing in the oven, uncovered for about 30 minutes. Since everything is already cooked, you just need to warm it up. The stuffing was crusty (but not burnt) on the top and perfect as far as I was concerned.
For gravy, I bought a package of Clubhouse Turkey Gravy (it was even on sale!). The instructions said to add 1 cup of water but I used 1.5 cup of chicken stock instead. Then, I removed all the oil from the roasting pan and added the remaining turkey goop. It didn’t amount to much, maybe 4 Tbsp but it was so rich in taste. I simmered everything in a small pot on the stove for about 5 minutes and then turned it off and put a lid on it. It stayed hot until we were ready to eat. When it’s time to put it on the table, put it in a gravy boat or mug (if you don’t have one) and add a spoon.
As for the cranberry sauce, I bought a can of jellied or whole berries which I transferred into a pretty bowl.
For dessert, we had an already cooked pumpkin pie served with stored bought whipped cream and ice cream.
Setting the Table
With all the spare time you have while the turkey is cooking, head outside and pick some pinecones and coloured leaves. Put them in a bowl or vase on the table. Pull out any holiday themed paper napkins (you’ll have enough dishes, might as well save on laundry) and voila! Or, do what I did and have The Kids set the table. It made for an interesting set-up but they loved being involved and learned which side the fork and knife go on.
And there you have it. All along, I thought that the Turkey was the toughest part but it turned out to be the easiest. Remember that cooking a dinner doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s all about having fun, enjoying the company and in the case of Thanksgiving, giving thanks.
Have any Tips for Cooking a Turkey Dinner?
* My friend recommended I add pork sausage to the stuffing but I didn’t have any. I was going to use ground beef but then I realized that I had peameal. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to add it for some reason other than taste but Uncle Eric asked me what meat I’d put in the stuffing (he didn’t know that I had added anything) so it was noticed.
P.S. Always have a calculator handy for times when online conversion tools are not available.
Note that I hardly had time to take any pictures because I was too busy cooking so you’ll need to pretend. Some pictures may have even been taken days later but I’ll never tell…