Blessings on your family and friends!!
A Thanksgiving blog is hard. I’ve looked at other blogs and they are loaded with recipes on green bean casseroles, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, everything for your Turkey Day dinner. There is really not much else that I can tell you that you can’t get elsewhere. In my blog I like to tell stories because my food is all about who I am and what’s going on in my life. The recipes that you see posted are the foods that I prepared each night for my family. Well, Thanksgiving is all about tradition and here is a little tradition with some truth thrown in. I do not prepare or cook the turkey. My husband has that dubious honor backed by, I my opinion, an honorable heartfelt tradition… and this is as far as I will take it. I am going to turn this blog over to my husband and let him tell you the story of Wayward Turkey Day … and how he prepares a simply but the best tasting turkey a family could ever encounter.
Hi, Chef Shay’s husband here! I’m excited to tell my Wayward Turkey Day story. Yes, it is true I prepare and cook the turkey. I have been doing it for over 38 years. It has been a long trial and error process but I’ve got it down tighter than a gnat’s ass (Okay Hubby … be nice, it’s Thanksgiving). Wayward Turkey Day got started way back in 1977. I started my college career at Southwest Texas State College, now Texas State. Wanting to be a professional in my chosen path (I was a drama geek) I filled out an application to get into one of the hardest Theatre Department in this country. Low and behold UCLA accepted me. I got my degree in Theatre Arts. I graduated, started working and slowly I found out that several of my Texas State colleagues made their way out to LA to work in the “biz.” We hung out a lot. Needless to say we were poor – very poor. None of us could afford to go home for the holiday – any holidays for that fact . A bunch of us (and some read this blog), being alone and depressed, got together and had our own “away from home” Thanksgiving. We kept doing it year after year, as years were lean. As time passed life went on and the original group began to drift away. As they went away, others found their way in. Thus the name “Wayward Turkey Day.”
After a while we stopped but about 15 years ago I started it up again. The word was, if you don’t have family or no place to go – you were wayward -come to you place. Fortunately Chef Shay embraced the idea.
Somehow along the way I became the Turkey Guy.
Each year the guest list changes but I always feel it is a blessing to see people in the house, sharing food, and talking. This year I feel even more blessed with our Ward and her sister. My family grows and I love sharing it.
Okay let’s get this turkey started.
My Wayward Turkey Thanksgiving
Well, the first thing you got to do is get the Turkey. You don’t need to get a fancy one that self-bastes or has that pop up “I’m done” button (Ugh!). Using them you get a dried out bird. Just get a plane ‘ole turkey. I like Butterballs. But Chef Shay usually brings one home from Trader Joe’s. You know, employee discount and all. The size of the turkey depends on the number of people you want to feed. Usual 1/2 to 3/4 lbs. per person. I always get 20 -22 lbs. Turkey no matter how many people are coming for dinner. Who cares if you have a lot left over, Thanksgiving is all about the leftovers anyway. Those turkey sandwiches and all. Chef Shay will be blogging about the left overs.
Preheat oven 350.
Remove bird from its packing. Don’t forget to remove all those gross organ thingies. “All right Chef – Giblets,” (she keeps reading over my shoulder) from the neck and the cavity in the chest. You would be surprised how many forget. My first turkey – I didn’t even know they were there.
Rinse thoroughly. There’s a story about a call coming into the Butterball Hotline asking how to keep the turkey from suds-ing up. … secret here is don’t use dish soap!
Anyhow, you should already have your stuffing prepared. My stuffing is simple I use Mrs. Cubbisions cornbread stuffing. Plain and simple. But people just go Gaga over it – go figure! I prepare it according to the instruction on the box and only add in diced walnuts or pecans, diced white onion, dried cherries and NO CELERY. I HATE celery.
Place turkey on a cutting board and with twine create a cradle to be able to pick up the bird. I coat the entire inner cavities with Lawry’s Seasonings Salt. Put the stuffing into the two cavities; abdomen and neck. Fill the cavities 3/4 full. The stuffing will expand. Brush vegetable oil over the entire turkey. Place turkey in roasting pan, but do not cover it with the lid. Cover with a foil tent. I do this so the turkey will get a nice and golden brown.
I always get the questions on how long should you cook the turkey. The time chart thingy in the cookbooks say 15 minutes for every pound. So, technically a 20 lbs. turkey should be cooked four hours (ARGHHH!). Want a dried turkey, cook it for four hours! You don’t cook a turkey by time! You cook it by TEMPERATURE! Place a meat thermometer in the breast meat just in front of the thigh. Don’t let the probe touch the bone. You will get a false temperature reading.
Place turkey in the oven and let cook for a couple of hours, undisturbed.
After the temperature gets to about 120 degrees and the juices begin to emerge start basting every 20 minutes. When the turkey reaches about 150 degrees remove the foil tent so the top of the bird can brown. Cook until the temperature reaches 165 degrees. I know, I know many say to cook to 170 – 175. Again if you want dried meat (jerky) that’s what you cook it to. Remove from oven at 165 degrees, and let rest for at least 20 minutes. The turkey will continue cooking and will reach 170 on its own. Remove the stuffing.
What is really cool here is as it rest the temperature peaks and begins to cool and as it cools the juices re-absorb back into the turkey. That is the secret to the juicy turkey.
After it rests you are ready to start carving. You will see juices coming from the white meat – that is what you want to see. A big smile will come over you face, your family will praise you and then you can go watch the Dallas Cowboys lose again.